Conversion to a symmetrical or parallel system for our world’s electricity generation will require a combination of small, locally-generated power supplies, coupled with individual home generation, in addition to the regular power grid supply. Conversion to a new world, not in geography, but in power generation will need to be developed as a hybrid of generation sources comprised of: Concentrating Solar Power (CSP), Hydroelectric, Geothermal, Wind, PV Panel, Tidal Current and Magnetic Linear Generator Buoys, plus Bio-Mass and Biogas in addition to coal and natural gas.
A new world is emerging that will require the recycling of waste that has not previously been recycled - on a massive worldwide scale. Not plastic or glass, but our waste: animal waste and food waste, turning it into a high end useable commodity.
The topic of using fecal matter as an energy source ranges from taboo in some societies to wide acceptance and utilisation in others. Let’s see what China’s National Development & Reform Commission has on the books in the next few years for biogas.
In China alone there are a 1.3 billion people with just as many livestock, poultry and garbage dumps all providing methane feedstock daily. It’s hard for China to sidestep the idea of turning something that was once discarded into a commodity for sale, and more importantly into electricity. China plans to have an installed capacity of bio-energy projects reaching 5.5 million kW by 2010, but jumping to 30 million kW by 2020, a 600 per cent increase in the next 11 years.
Biogas is a combustible mixture of gases produced by micro-organisms when livestock manure and other biological wastes are allowed to ferment in the absence of air in closed containers.
The major constituents of biogas are methane (CH4, 60 per cent), carbon dioxide (CO2, 35 per cent), small amounts of water vapour, hydrogen sulphide (H2S), carbon monoxide (CO), and nitrogen (N2).
Biogas is mainly used as fuel, like natural gas, while the digested mixture of liquids and solids “bio-slurry” and “bio-sludge” are mainly used as organic fertiliser for crops. Chinese companies are now finding numerous other uses for biogas, bio-slurry and bio-sludge in China. Which touches on an important aspect of Peak Oil: the reduction in fertiliser production along with rising farming costs, due to increased fertiliser prices, that must be passed along as higher food prices.
You could open Pandora’s Box when explaining how oil dependant the farming, transport and processed food production industries are. Increased transportation costs to move food stuffs from field, to factory to your plate. Fertiliser and pesticide rely on natural gas and oil based chemicals for production, and farm machinery is run on liquid fossil fuels. The simplest equation is: higher crude oil prices = higher food costs.
China began using biogas digesters in earnest in 1958 in a campaign to exploit the multiple functions of biogas production, which solved the problem of the disposal of manure and improved hygiene.
During the late 1970s and early 1980s the Chinese government realised the value of this natural resource in rural areas and this was the first important step in the modernisation of its agriculture. Six million digesters were set up in China, which became the biogas capitol of the world incorporating the “China Dome” digester which is still used to the present day, especially for small-scale domestic use.
China’s 2003-2010 National Rural Biogas Construction Plan is to increase biogas-using households by a further 31 million to a total of 50 million, so the rate of use would reach 20 per cent of total rural households.
By the end of 2006, the total number of families that use biogas reached 22 million, with a total annual biogas production of about 8.5 billion cubic meters. There were biogas pits built for 22 million households in rural areas, and more than 5,200 large and mid-sized biogas projects based around livestock and poultry farms. The typical eight cubic meter biogas pits are able to provide 80 per cent of the cooking energy for a four-member family according to The Energy and Zoology Division inside the Ministry of Agriculture. By 2020, about 300 million rural people will use biogas as their main fuel.
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