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Local gas technology lines Australian farmers' pockets

Media release

March 2 2012

Local gas technology lines Australian farmers' pockets, not Kiwis'.

Australian farmers are about to earn carbon credits on the back of New Zealand research.

But New Zealand farmers can’t do the same, Carbon News ( reports today.

Australia’s pork industry association, Australian Pork Ltd, is using research developed by the New Zealand Crown Research Institute NIWA, in conjunction with the New Zealand pork industry and the governmental energy efficiency agency EECA, to produce biogas from pig effluent.

The scheme uses anaerobic digestion in covered waste ponds. The technology is already being used by some New Zealand pig farmers as an on-farm energy source, and as a way of reducing odour.

Australian farmers who use it will also be eligible for tradeable carbon credits under that country’s Carbon Farming Initiative.

But New Zealand’s Emissions Trading Scheme does not reward farmers who reduce farm emissions, says Carbon News, the country's only specialist intelligence service on the emission markets.

Pork industry chief executive Sam McIvor says that turning waste into biogas is an efficient way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, such as methane and nitrous oxide.

He believes that New Zealand farmers will adopt the technology because they want to improve their industry’s environmental record.

“We have a target of our industry being the most sustainable producer in New Zealand,” he told Carbon News.

And while farmers “don’t spent a lot of time thinking about carbon credits”, the ability to earn tradeable credits would be an added incentive, he says.

The first pond-based biogas system that NIWA designed was a purpose-built 7000m3 covered anaerobic pond for Steve Lepper’s piggery in Taranaki, where it is used for electricity generation and heating in a combined heat and power unit.

The unit provides the majority of the piggery’s electricity needs during the day, and waste heat from the generator is used in a reticulated hot water system for keeping young pigs warm.

Lepper says he expects to recoup his $120,000 investment ($30,000 of which came from an EECA grant) within three years. The Lepper biogas system won the Small-Medium Business category in EECA awards in 2010.

NIWA research engineer Stephan Heubeck, who has driven the development of the technology, says it makes good sense.

“Anaerobic digestion in covered ponds holds significant potential to reduce odour and greenhouse gas emissions from the farming sector. At farm scale, this energy resource can be used for heating and/or to generate electricity.”


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