Friday, September 12, 2008

Stinky or Clean City?

San Antonio, Texas is capturing methane, about 140,000 tons per year, from sewage in an effort to reduce greenhouse gases and contribute to the carbon exchange program. If you haven't realized this by now..its not new.

For starters, it's an attractive opportunity given the financial incentives and new revenue streams. For example, particular agricultural practices (yeah that's farmers) are credited with carbon offsets as they institute “methane capture” programs from livestock farms, which reduce the impact of a highly potent greenhouse gas, reduce odor and pest issues and provide a new source of income for farmers who often struggle with razor-thin margins. In short, agri-businesses both large and small can financially benefit by participating in carbon sequestration – a process of removing carbon from the atmosphere to reduce climate change. The carbon offsets credited to farmers are then sold on the voluntary market whereby companies, governments and businesses then purchase the offsets to compensate for their own carbon emissions and uses. Some believe that buying carbon offsets from agriculture as a legal atonement for their own pollution.

Now thinking about carbon and methane, they are essentially commodities within the voluntary exchange market much like trading stocks. Only in most cases of methane, you usually get more bang for your buck. Relating this back to San Antonio, the contract was approved this week to sell 900,000 cubic feet of natural gas from the sewage each day to Ameresco, a Massachusetts energy services company.

You might be wondering what exactly does one do with this much natural gas? It can be used as fuel in turbines, steam boilers, or compressed natural gas can be used as vehicle fuel. Oh and NASA is smiling as they research its potential as rocket fuel.

Meanwhile, as San Antonio’s sewage generates oodles of gas each day, say about enough to fill seven commercial blimps or 1,250 tanker trucks, they will also be pleased to receive $250,000 a year for the methane, which I hope will go towards more renewable energy efforts in the area.

Source Image: – September 2008

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