Chinese dairy fires up world's largest methane capture system

Chinese dairy fires up world's largest methane capture system

The Huishan Dairy system will process waste from 60,000 cows, enough to power thousands of homes
GE Jenbacher engine
GE's big green methane-converting machine.

With 250,000 cows spread out over 20 farms, Huishan Dairy in Shenyang, China produces a lot of smelly biogas.

Now, having installed the world's largest methane capturing system [via technologyreview.com], the biogas from at least 60,000 of those cows is being turned into usable energy, producing an estimated 5.6 megawatts of power and putting China's dairy industry on the world dairy map. 

How it works

moo cow"I've got gas. You can haz it."The system works by collecting methane from aged cow manure. 

The waste is broken down into gas by an anaerobic digester with the resulting gas put through a process to remove corrosive hydrogen sulfide before finally being burned by one of the four GE Jenbacher engines (seen above) to create electricity. 

What's to be done with the recycled energy hasn't been stated, but it can be assumed at least a fair bit of it will be used to run the massive farm, with the rest being sold off.

Smaller dairies like many in California use similar but much cheaper systems to convert methane into enough energy to run the dairy, then sell off the excess to power companies.

Environmentalists shouldn't get too excited at the prospect of a wave of methane-power plants popping up across the globe though. Those California dairies have up to 10,000 cows, with those cows spread out over a few different locations, so instituting a system on the scale of Huishan's for smaller, or even mid-sized dairies isn't practical.

What they can get excited about is what this system will do for China's green thumb. According to a Popsci.com post, "A firm called Blue Sphere Corp., which is building the system, said the plant could also generate 619,770 tons of fertilizer and reduce carbon emissions by 180,000 tons per year."

Playing catch up

This investment not only will help to pay for some of Huishan's massive costs in a farm this size (enough work force, feed, medical services, transportation) it also puts Huishan on the cutting edge of the dairy industry in China and Asia.

 

Chris Anderson is the former associate editor of CNNGo based in Hong Kong and is now senior editor at Huffington Post Media Group.

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