Environmentally Friendly Pond Cover Being Tested

AUSTRALIA - WA pig producers will get a first hand look at a cover being used to reduce methane gas emissions from pig effluent ponds at the Department of Agriculture and Food’s Medina research station at the industry’s general meeting in June.
calendar icon 2 June 2010
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It is part of a project aimed at methane reduction from small piggeries and aims to demonstrate that by using impermeable covers, pig producers can adopt technology to lessen odour and capture methane.

The Western Australian Pig Producers Association (WAPPA) received funding from the Department of Agriculture Fisheries & Forestry through FarmReady, a part of Australia’s Farming Future, to test the New Zealand designed technology under local conditions.

While greenhouse gas emissions from the pig industry are comparatively low, 70 per cent of methane produced from piggeries comes from effluent ponds.

Earlier this year, Department of Agriculture and Food senior technical officer Hugh Payne visited New Zealand, where the polyethylene anaerobic pond cover has been researched and developed for pig producers.

Mr Payne said the joint three year research initiative would examine how the cover performed and whether it would be economic for small to medium WA piggeries.

“The cover is being tested on a 20 by 20 metre effluent point at the department’s Medina research facility,” he said.

“While we are testing a purpose built pond, covers can be retro fitted. Covers are low-tech, relatively simple to construct and have a lifespan of up to 20 years.”

Mr Payne said the project would also assess whether it was feasible to use the captured methane.

“A perimeter pipe around the pond collects the methane, which is then ignited and flared off,” he said. “We will measure methane production from the pond before assessing the cost-effectiveness of heat or electricity generation.”

While a pond cover would be a considerable investment for pig producers, Mr Payne said it could prove to be a valuable asset.

“In New Zealand I saw a 400 sow piggery that was reusing the gas which had basically paid for the cover in four years,” he said. “It was of particular benefit in New Zealand to growers in high population density areas to control odor. The cover was also being used in the dairy and abattoir industries.”

WAPPA Executive Officer Russell Cox said the local industry was most interested in the technology.

“It is important to evaluate new technology like this to ensure that it is suitable in WA conditions and can add value to the industry,” he said.

“It’s also important to evaluate the cost-benefit of such an investment and WAPPA members are looking forward to following the progress of the research.”

The WAPPA general meeting and field day will be held on Friday, 11 June from 11am at the DAFWA Medina Research Station, Abercrombie Road, Medina.

The day will include a tour and explanation of the effluent ponds. Janine Price from Australian Pork Limited will also give an address on opportunities for biogas in the pork industry.

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