How it works
- When microorganisms (e.g.bacteria) break down organic matter like manure and food waste anaerobically (without oxygen), biogas is released. Bio gas consists primarily of carbon dioxide and methane - one of the primary components of natural gas.
- Farmers place animal manure, food waste and agricultural waste in an anaerobic digester with a pipe to extract the gas.
- The solid byproduct is used as livestock bedding, soil amendments or in biodegradable planting pots, and the liquid byproduct is a nutrient-rich fertilizer.
Benefits of Biogas-based Energy
- Reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Biodigesters divert carbon dioxide and methane that would normally be released into the atmosphere. Greenhouse gas emissions from a dairy farm can be reduced by 35% when biogas-based electricity replaces grid-based electricity.
- Cost savings. On-site biodigesters help farmers save on electricity bills and fertilizer. A farmer told The Washington Post that he saved anywhere from $75,000 to $100,000 a year on electricity, heating, fertilizer, and animal bedding with a biodigester.
- Renewable. Biogas is generally considered renewable as it is produced by animal and plant waste and the source is not limited in quantity like coal or natural gas.
- Biogas generation is becoming increasingly popular. From 2000 to 2020, the number of operational anaerobic digesters in the United States has grown from 24 to 255.
- Biogas is a popular mode of energy production in India and China, which have 4.54 million and 27 million biogas plants respectively.
- As the world divests from fossil fuels, new and varied energy sources will be necessary to satisfy the energy needs of the world and biogas can help. Biogas just goes to show you that not all waste is useless. One cow’s waste is another man’s treasure.
Dig deeper → 4 min
The scoop The price of crude oil plummeted following the outbreak of the novel COVID-19. As 2020 began, Brent crude oil - the global oil benchmark - cost $64/barrel. By April 21st, 2020, the price had dropped to $17/barrel. What happened?
Future of Oil
- The volatility and steep decline in oil prices may lead some producers to shut down operations. Shale oil extraction pioneer Chesapeake Energy recently declared bankruptcy. Many oil giants are delaying expansion projects.
- Investors are now less inclined to invest in oil & gas -- lower prices = greater risk, less profit. Energy was the worst performing sector in the S&P 500 index for four out of the last six years.
Environmental impact Climate awareness already poses a threat to Big Oil. With this economic crisis, investors might turn to renewable energy. Renewables are more price stable, cheap, and cost-competitive, even during low prices of oil.
Bottom Line It’s impossible to predict the future. Big Oil will certainly survive the pandemic, but its century-long domination of energy may soon end. One thing’s for sure -- clean technology has a strong outlook, and can certainly give oil and gas companies a run for their money. Not only from its greenness, but also in its economics.
Dig deeper → 6 min
What happened On the evening of April 20th 2010, a blowout occurred on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. High-pressure methane gas had risen into the drilling rig, quickly igniting and exploding.
Visible from 40 miles away, the flames overwhelmed first responders.
Two days later, the platform sank, leaving oil gushing at the seabed...until July, 87 days later. Containment started immediately, stopping the fires and oil burst. Clean up continued and ended...TBA.
Big picture Deepwater is not the first major spill, nor it seems, likely the last, and each disaster results in another human and environmental catastrophe.
- Deepwater killed 11 people, injured dozens of others, left vast swaths of ocean fatally contaminated, thousands of miles of beach polluted, killed over one million birds and continues to destroy pristine habitat and wildlife
- There are 175 offshore rigs in the Gulf of Mexico with the global total growing to 497 by 2017
Why it matters Deepwater displayed the frailties of our petroleum addiction as clear as day. In 2010, the year of the disaster, the planet used about 86 million gallons of Black Gold every day. Now, we use 100 million gallons every day. Black Gold is unsustainable, damaging to the environment, and could be replaced with sustainable alternatives.
We need a global intervention, a massive mobilization focused on powering our planet with the bountiful clean energy nature so gracefully provides. And we must develop an economic model that hastens the long overdue demise of Black Gold.
Dig deeper → 5 min