Posts Tagged ‘methane’
Here at one of the largest dairy farms in the country, electricity generated using an endless supply of manure runs the equipment to milk around 30,000 cows three times a day.
For years, the farm has used livestock waste to create enough natural gas to power 10 barns, a cheese factory, a cafe, a gift shop and a maze of child-friendly exhibits about the world of dairy, including a 3D movie theater.
All that, and Fair Oaks Farms was still using only about half of the five million pounds of cow manure it vacuumed up from its barn floors on a daily basis. It burned off the excess methane, wasted energy sacrificed to the sky.
But not anymore.
The farm is now turning the extra manure into fuel for its delivery trucks, powering 42 tractor-trailers that make daily runs to raw milk processing plants in Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee. Officials from the federal Department of Energy called the endeavor a “pacesetter” for the dairy industry, and said it was the largest natural gas fleet using agricultural waste to drive this nation’s roads.
“As long as we keep milking cows, we never run out of gas,” said Gary Corbett, chief executive of Fair Oaks, which held a ribbon-cutting event for the project this month and opened two fueling stations to the public…
The American Gas Association estimates there are about 1,200 natural gas fueling stations operating across the country, the vast majority of which are supplied by the same pipelines that heat houses.
But the growing market is also drawing interest from livestock farmers, landfill management companies and other industries handling methane-rich material that, if harnessed, could create a nearly endless supply of cleaner, safer, sustainable “biogas,” while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
To be sure, no one is pretending that waste-to-energy projects will become a major part of the larger natural gas vehicle market. But supporters say it could provide additional incentive to make biogas systems, which have lagged behind other sustainable energy solutions, more commercially viable.
RTFA. Partnerships are growing between dairy farmers and NatGas industry providers. They say we’ll be surprised how much they will grow over the next five years.
I’m ready to be surprised. In fact, I’m looking forward to it.
Some scientific findings are just too good to leave alone, even if you don’t know if they can ever be confirmed: Such is the case for a study saying that plant-eating dinosaurs could have emitted enough digestive methane to warm Earth’s climate 150 million years ago.
“It is known that the time of these dinosaurs was warmer than now,” said David Wilkinson…lead author of a paper on the subject appearing in the journal Current Biology. “This is explained usually by an enhanced greenhouse effect, mainly carbon dioxide. If we are correct, then methane from sauropods may have been a contributor to this greenhouse effect.”
Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and modern-day livestock are thought to be responsible for about a quarter of the methane released in the United States. Some say that the belches and flatulence of cattle, pigs and sheep are a significant contributor to the warming effect caused by greenhouse-gas emissions. So why wouldn’t it have been the same in the age of giant plant-eating dinosaurs, when global biomass density was at least several times what it is today..?
He and his colleagues ran the numbers, using what they saw as conservative estimates for the total amount of dinosaur biomass and methane production rates per kilogram of body mass. They came up with a figure of 520 million tons of methane emitted per year, which is more than total modern-day methane emissions from all sources, natural and industrial. The current estimate for total methane emission is around 500 million tons a year, with 50 to 100 million tons of that coming from ruminant animals such as cows and goats, Wilkinson said…
Biologists have found that most of the modern-day methane emissions from livestock come from belching rather than flatulence. Was it the same for dinosaurs? “We have no particular view which end of the sauropod the methane came out,” Wilkinson told me. “Could be either or both…”
“What our simple calculations show is that, yes, it could. It’s a real possibility. But we don’t show that it did happen,” he said. “That would require much more work, and indeed it may be impossible to completely prove this without a time machine.”
Perhaps we might send some sort of device back through — eventually. It needn’t have a human pilot. Just a sensor-sniffer of sorts.
After more than a century ripping out its insides to supply coal to the rest of the country, the heavily mined and polluted province of Shanxi in northern China is in the midst of a gas boom.
Under the spray of the Yellow River near the city of Jincheng, “nodding donkeys” bob in lines that stretch to the horizon, hitched up amidst precious farmland to feed on the gas streaming through the coal seams below. Gleaming white storage tanks tower over the highways and dozens of drilling rigs dot the cliffs and valleys, some near the famed ancient cave settlements of Shanxi.
Gas output from the coal seams is rising fast and is set to hit 8 billion cubic meters this year, up a half from 2011 – emerging from nowhere just six years ago to provide China with a cleaner, home-grown alternative fuel for the future.
China is investing $16 billion to double output again by 2015. Beijing wants coal seam gas output as high as 30 bcm by 2020, which would be 15 percent of China’s total gas production, up from 5 percent of the total last year.
Beijing plans to double the share of natural gas in its energy mix by 2015 and reduce coal’s role in a drive to ease pollution and slow greenhouse gas emissions. China will import more gas, but it also aims to boost output from domestic natural gas fields as well as unconventional sources such as coalbeds and shale…
CBM could easily supply 15 percent of China’s total gas requirements within a decade, Randeep Grewal said. Last year, CBM output was 5.3 bcm, just over 5 percent of China’s total gas output of 102.5 bcm…
The increased domestic supply is a boon to China’s government as it will help temper imports. Beijing is facing a rising gas bill as it builds pipelines from central Asia or liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals along the coast to help meet its ambitious targets to increase the role of gas in fuelling China’s economy…
With China’s increasingly safety-conscious coal companies obliged to remove gas from their mines, exploiting CBM is also better for the environment than letting the methane – a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide – enter the atmosphere.
“It means somebody else will pay for degassing coal and will profit from it – it is a symbiotic process,” said David Creedy, coal expert with Sindicatum Sustainable Resources in Beijing…
CBM’s biggest unconventional competitor is potentially shale gas. If it were to develop quickly, China’s shale gas output could price some CBM out of the market.
But for now that looks unlikely, giving CBM developers a window of opportunity. Unlike CBM, developers have yet to adapt shale gas production techniques to China’s geology and there is to date no commercial shale gas production in China, even though the U.S. government estimates China sits on the world’s biggest shale gas reserves.
Nat Gas remains the cheapest and easiest conversion technology for a technology built on fossil fuel. I’ve pointed this out in a demonstration post within the last week.
Since China is in early days of sorting out their next 5-year plan, right now – it seems likely this wil be one more technology they will be able to implement for both cleaning up their environment and lowering costs. Two motivations which obviously don’t concern American politicians at all.
Katey M. Walter Anthony investigating a plume of methane
A bubble rose through a hole in the surface of a frozen lake. It popped, followed by another, and another, as if a pot were somehow boiling in the icy depths.
Every bursting bubble sent up a puff of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas generated beneath the lake from the decay of plant debris. These plants last saw the light of day 30,000 years ago and have been locked in a deep freeze — until now.
“That’s a hot spot,” declared Katey M. Walter Anthony, a leading scientist in studying the escape of methane. A few minutes later, she leaned perilously over the edge of the ice, plunging a bottle into the water to grab a gas sample.
It was another small clue for scientists struggling to understand one of the biggest looming mysteries about the future of the earth.
What to do with 12,000 tonnes of pig poo? That’s the question farmers James Hart and Jeremy Iles found themselves asking two years ago when contemplating how best to supplement their dwindling incomes.
Thanks to the buying power of the major supermarkets, pig farming is no longer as profitable as it once was, and Mr Hart in particular was looking at ways to make the most of the resources at his disposal.
The solution they came up with was beautifully simple; turn the huge amount of pig faeces generated on the farm – not to mention cow dung and chicken droppings – into hard cash…
Glebe Farm near the sleepy village of Hatherop in Gloucestershire is an unlikely place to stumble across a state-of-the-art, million pound biogas station of which there are just a handful in the UK.
The plant itself is wholly unremarkable to look at, but what goes on inside could help to revolutionise not just this farm, but hundreds of others just like it across the country.
In fact, the technology is proven and, given the government subsidies available, profitable. It’s just that, like with most renewable energies, the UK has been painstakingly slow on the uptake. In Germany, for example, there are thousands of similar plants.
In essence, vast quantities of animal waste are mixed with lots of grass in a cylindrical tower – “basically a 3,000 tonne cow’s stomach,” says Mr Hart.
Bacteria then break down the mixture, producing methane, which is siphoned off, cleaned and filtered.
This gas is then used to power what is effectively a £200,000 Mercedes truck engine, which in turn powers a generator, electricity from which is fed into the National Grid.
A by-product of the process is large quantities of fertiliser that remain in the tower once the bacteria have worked their magic.
The heat generated by the process is also captured and used for central heating at the farm house. It is, then, in renewable-energy speak, an efficient ‘closed-loop’ system.
No doubt the inevitable whine will burp from the blowhole of conservative critics – exclaiming over there being any sort of subsidy for new technology. Conveniently forgetting all the established “old” technology has always managed a government subsidy for the good of the people.
RTFA for lots of interesting detail.
Cow belches, a major source of greenhouse gases, could be decreased by an unusual feed supplement developed by a Penn State dairy scientist.
In a series of laboratory experiments and a live animal test, an oregano-based supplement not only decreased methane emissions in dairy cows by 40 percent, but also improved milk production, according to Alexander Hristov, an associate professor of dairy nutrition…
“Cattle are actually a major producer of methane gas and methane is a significant greenhouse gas,” Hristov said. “In fact, worldwide, livestock emits 37 percent of anthropogenic methane.”
Anthropegenic methane is methane produced by human activities, such as agriculture…
Methane production is a natural part of the digestive process of cows and other ruminants, such as bison, sheep and goats. When the cow digests food, bacteria in the rumen, the largest of the four-chambered stomach, break the material down intro nutrients in a fermentation process. Two of the byproducts of this fermentation are carbon dioxide and methane.
“Any cut in the methane emissions would be beneficial,” Hristov said.
Experiments revealed another benefit of the gas-reducing supplement. It increased daily milk production by nearly three pounds of milk for each cow during the trials. The researcher anticipated the higher milk productivity from the herd.
“Since methane production is an energy loss for the animal, this isn’t really a surprise,” Hristov said. “If you decrease energy loss, the cows can use that energy for other processes, such as making milk.”
My Italian grandmother always said everything smelled better around the cows she grew up with in the Italian Tyrol. Guess it was the wild oregano in their pastures, eh?
Methane as a source of automotive propulsion isn’t exactly a new concept, but it’s taken manufacturers a long time to figure out how to clean it up enough to let it power an engine long-term. GENeco thinks they have figured it out and has presented this Volkswagen Beetle as proof of concept. Dubbed the “Bio-Bug,” it basically runs on human excrement – seriously.
This Beetle’s 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine has been converted to run on methane gas produced by human excrement and can still top 183 kilometers per hour (about 114 miles per hour). We’ll try to avoid any fährt jokes. Methane is essentially similar to compressed natural gas, but has some unique challenges. “Previously the gas hasn’t been clean enough to fuel motor vehicles without it affecting performance,” said Mohammed Saddiq, the head of GENeco.
He added: “However, through using the latest technology our Bio-Bug drives like any conventional car and what’s more it uses sustainable fuel. If you were to drive the car you wouldn’t know it was powered by biogas as it performs just like any conventional car.”
The Bio-Bug actually uses regular unleaded gas on start-up, but switches over to methane automatically once it’s running. It was built by England’s The Greenfuel Company for GENeco, a division of one of Bristol’s largest sewage treatment plant. That plant, Wessex Water, claims that it will take but 70 toilets to power the Bio-Bug for a year.
Bravo! I won’t even include a smartass remark about Congress and crap.
That steaming pile ain’t topsoil
U.S. scientists say they are starting a study to determine greenhouse gas emissions from feed yard operations.
Texas A&M University scientists at AgriLife Research in Amarillo, Texas, said they will measure three greenhouse gases: nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide and methane.
Assistant Professor Ken Casey and research chemist Al Caramanica said they will use a Varian gas chromatograph with three detectors set up for automatic injection of gas samples from gas-tight vials. That, they said, will allow simultaneous detection of all three gases from samples taken at feed yards.
“This work will focus primarily on nitrous oxide,” Casey said, noting the gas has approximately 310 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.
“We are part of a larger effort to quantify what emissions of greenhouse gas are from feed yards,” he said. “We want to understand the variability and circumstances that create the greatest emissions and determine methodologies that identify the right numbers. Then we want to help identify management practices that can keep them at the lowest possible levels.”
Sorry, I can’t help it. I don’t go out of my way to offend Texas readers of this blog – unless they’re some kind of reactionary git – which can happen anywhere. BUT -
Amarillo is the ultimo place on Earth to run these tests. If you’ve ever overnighted in Amarillo, say, during a nice hot July – you know the odors wafting from the feed lots scattered strategically in and around Amarillo can match any stench on the planet. My clients there used to joke that their biggest fear during a line storm wasn’t tornados; but, a lightning strike setting fire to the atmosphere!
Argentine researchers are studying means of capturing cow methane
Grazing by cows or sheep can cut emissions of nitrous oxide — a powerful greenhouse gas — in grasslands from China to the United States, according to a study that overturns past belief that farm animals stoke releases.
Adding to understanding of links between agriculture and global warming, the report in…the journal Nature said livestock can help to limit microbes in the soil that generate the gas, also known as laughing gas.
“It’s been generally assumed that if you increase livestock numbers you get a rise in emissions of nitrous oxide. This is not the case,” said Klaus Butterbach-Bahl of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany who was among the authors.
Laughing gas is one of several heat-trapping gases linked to farm animals and the scientists said there was a need for more study to see how far their findings would affect agriculture’s total impact on climate change.
Emissions of the gas account for 6-8 percent of global warming from human activities, making it the third most important greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide and methane, he said. Estimated nitrous oxide emissions from temperate grasslands account for 1-2 percent of the total…
Grasslands subject to winter frosts where such gas emissions may have been overestimated make up an area the size of India, or about a third of the world’s temperate grasslands that cover about 10 million square kms (3.9 million sq miles).
But the study did not look, for instance, at other damaging climate impacts of livestock. Goats, buffalo, cows and sheep also release heat-trapping methane as they digest food.
Ah-hah! They didn’t allow for methane which some researchers think could be collected for commercial use. No matter which end it comes from.