Gas companies want to recycle your manure

John Fialka, E&E News reporter 

Anaerobic Digestor

A methane processing facility at a hog farm in Kenansville, N.C. The black bubble tops on the left process hog manure and store the methane. After that, the methane is purified and compressed to natural gas pipeline standards. Courtesy of Align RNG

Second in a two-part series. Read the first story here.

Companies in the U.S. natural gas industry have begun to scale up a program to sell methane that’s recycled from sources like hog-feeding farms and sewage plants as a replacement for natural gas drawn from wells.

It offers an opportunity to reduce a potent greenhouse gas while creating a source of revenue for the growing number of companies, cities and farmers becoming engaged in the budding process.

A “methane tracker” report released in January by the International Energy Agency calculated that the warming power of the invisible and hard-to-detect gas can be as high as 87 times more powerful than carbon dioxide during its first 20 years of life. The amount of methane circulating in the atmosphere is 2.5 times bigger than it was in the preindustrial age, the report said.

Because natural gas, which chemically can amount to roughly 98% methane, is likely to remain a major energy source internationally, reducing methane emissions is a “pivotal element” in whether the world can avoid more serious global warming, the IEA noted.

The report came with some ominous math: Human-caused methane emissions account for 60% of the gas circulating in the atmosphere. The largest source is agriculture, which is “closely followed” by the energy sector, where natural gas production and leaky pipelines are big contributors.

So what’s the main source of recycled methane that gas companies are beginning to cash in on? It boils down to manure, from humans and animals.

“Poop is gold today,” Randy Jordan, owner of a Massachusetts dairy farm, recently explained to a Boston television reporter.

Read More…