USDA releases hBiogas Roadmaph for methane

By Sarah Gonzalez

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Aug. 1, 2014-- USDA today released a Biogas Opportunities Roadmap outlining voluntary strategies the U.S. livestock industry can use to accelerate adoption of methane digesters and other technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020.

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The Roadmap is the result of a collaboration between USDA, EPA, the Energy Department and industry leaders after President Obama released his Climate Action Plan, including an attack on methane, which accounts for 9 percent of domestic greenhouse gas emissions. More than a third of those emissions come from the

USDA said an early step will be to establish a working group that will include participation from government agencies as well as the dairy and biogas industries. The group will publish a progress report in August 2015 to identify policies and technology opportunities.

Biogas systems can capture and use gas from animal manure, as well as waste from landfills and the anaerobic digestion of wastewater biosolids. Biogas systems are currently installed primarily to manage wastes, but can also improve profitability for operations through energy and co-product sales, nutrient recovery and avoided energy costs, the authors of the roadmap noted.

The roadmap highlights economic opportunities for the products of manure digestions, including nutrient rich soil amendments, pelletized and pumpable fertilizers, and feedstock for plastics and chemicals.   munities throughout the U.S.,” according to the report.

An Agri-Pulse story in April looked at the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy's “Dairy Power” project, which showed a $3 billion market potential for the products and co-products developed by digester systems. Currently, 37 states consider biogas a renewable source of energy in their renewable energy targets.

Farmers face several obstacles to installing a digester system, not least of which is the price tag: the equipment can cost from $500,000 to $3 million. And the regulations guiding the purchase and use of digesters are often complex and inconsistent.

According to today's report, there are just 239 biogas livestock systems currently operating in the U.S. However, the USDA says these projects provide enough renewable energy to power the equivalent of almost 70,000 average American homes and reduce methane emissions by the equivalent of approximately 2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.

Other challenges include measuring feasibility as well as inputs and outputs. Anaerobic digesters vary with the size of the operation and the co-products that will be most profitable for each operation. Facilities must examine each option's potential effects on financial performance, labor requirements, the skills needed to maintain and repair the equipment, or the need for a third-party system operator, notes AgSTAR, a government outreach program intended to increase use of biogas recovery systems coordinated by EPA, USDA and DOE.

Currently, air-, solid waste- and water-permitting requirements for anaerobic digester systems can vary in each state and sometimes at the county level.

The Biogas Opportunities Roadmap released today outlines ways the government can help promote market potential for biogas products, as well as increase financial support. According to the report, USDA, DOE, and EPA plan to use existing programs to enhance the economic viability of the biogas systems and co-products. 

USDA's primary programs for funding biogas systems are the Rural Energy for America Program, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, the Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuel, the Biorefinery Assistance Program and the Conservation Innovation Grant.

To help overcome financial barriers to the widespread investment in biogas systems, USDA says it will improve analysis of industry financial and technical data needed to track the performance of anaerobic digesters.

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