Navigation Links
Methane leaks from palm oil wastewater are a climate concern, CU-Boulder study says
Date:2/27/2014

In recent years, palm oil production has come under fire from environmentalists concerned about the deforestation of land in the tropics to make way for new palm plantations. Now there is a new reason to be concerned about palm oil's environmental impact, according to researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder.

An analysis published Feb. 26 in the journal Nature Climate Change shows that the wastewater produced during the processing of palm oil is a significant source of heat-trapping methane in the atmosphere. But the researchers also present a possible solution: capturing the methane and using it as a renewable energy source.

The methane bubbling up from a single palm oil wastewater lagoon during a year is roughly equivalent to the emissions from 22,000 passenger vehicles in the United States, the analysis found. This year, global methane emissions from palm oil wastewater are expected to equal 30 percent of all fossil fuel emissions from Indonesia, where widespread deforestation for palm oil production has endangered orangutans.

"This is a largely overlooked dimension of palm oil's environmental problems," said lead author Philip Taylor, a postdoctoral researcher at CU-Boulder's Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR). "The industry has become a poster child for agriculture's downsides, but capturing wastewater methane leaks for energy would be a step in the right direction."

The global demand for palm oil has spiked in recent years as processed food manufacturers have sought an alternative to trans fats.

For now, the carbon footprint of cutting down forests to make way for palm plantations dwarfs the greenhouse gases coming from the wastewater lagoons. But while deforestation is expected to slow as the focus shifts to more intensive agriculture on existing plantations, the emissions from wastewater lagoons will continue unabated as long as palm oil is produced, the researchers said.

However, the climate impact of the leaking methane could be mitigated by capturing the gas and using it to fuel power plants. Biogas technology has been used successfully for decades and it can produce renewable electricity at a cost that's competitive with traditional fuels, the authors said.

The amount of methane biogas that went uncollected from palm oil wastewater lagoons last year alone could have met a quarter of Malaysia's electricity needs. Tapping into that unused fuel supply could yield both financial and environmental benefits, the authors said.

Capturing methane at wastewater lagoons could be encouraged by making it a requirement before palm oil products can be certified as sustainable, the authors said. Current sustainability certifications do not address wastewater emissions.

Taylor, whose research typically focuses on carbon cycling in old-growth tropical forests, was inspired to do the analysis by undergraduate researcher Hana Fancher, who also is a co-author of the journal article. Fancher and Taylor were doing research in Costa Rica, where palm oil production is spreading, when Fancher became curious about how the oil was being processed.

"She has a wastewater background," Taylor said. "She ended up doing an honors thesis on palm oil agriculture and wastewater emissions. This paper is an extension of that thinking."


'/>"/>

Contact: Philip Taylor
philipgrahamtaylor@gmail.com
303-905-7612
University of Colorado at Boulder
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Substance in photosynthesis was at work in ancient, methane-producing microbes
2. Berkeley Lab-led project aims to produce liquid transportation fuel from methane
3. Tailored methane measurement services are to be developed for shale gas extraction, municipal waste
4. Microbiologists reveal unexpected properties of methane-producing microbe
5. U.Va. researcher: Methane out, carbon dioxide in?
6. Study finds novel worm community affecting methane release in ocean
7. Tom Bowmans Climate Report delves into Arctic methane controversy
8. Methane emissions from natural gas local distribution focus of new study
9. NREL to help convert methane to liquid diesel
10. Scientists unravel the mystery of marine methane oxidation
11. Strange diet for methane consuming microorganisms
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:4/28/2016)... First quarter 2016:   , ... the first quarter of 2015 The gross margin was ... 18.8) and the operating margin was 40% (-13) Earnings ... flow from operations was SEK 249.9 M (21.2) , ... SEK 7,000-8,500 M. The operating margin for 2016 is ...
(Date:4/15/2016)... 2016 Research and Markets has ... Market 2016-2020,"  report to their offering.  , ... ,The global gait biometrics market is expected to ... period 2016-2020. Gait analysis generates multiple ... used to compute factors that are not or ...
(Date:3/29/2016)... , March 29, 2016 LegacyXChange, ... LegacyXChange "LEGX" and SelectaDNA/CSI Protect are pleased to announce ... used in a variety of writing instruments, ensuring athletes ... originally created collectibles from athletes on LegacyXChange will be ... of the DNA. Bill Bollander , ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) is pleased to announce 24 new Young Investigator ... Members of the Class of 2016 were selected from a pool of 128 ... About the Class of 2016 PCF Young Investigators ... ... ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... --  EpiBiome , a precision microbiome engineering company, today ... from Silicon Valley Bank (SVB). The financing will allow ... drug development efforts, as well as purchase additional lab ... been an incredible strategic partner to us – one ... provide," said Dr. Aeron Tynes Hammack , EpiBiome,s ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... ... STACS DNA Inc., the sample tracking software company, today announced that Dr. ... STACS DNA as a Field Application Specialist. , “I am thrilled that Dr. ... STACS DNA. “In further expanding our capacity as a scientific integrator, Hays brings a ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... 23, 2016 Apellis Pharmaceuticals, Inc. today ... trials of its complement C3 inhibitor, APL-2. The ... ascending dose studies designed to assess the safety, ... injection in healthy adult volunteers. Forty ... a single dose (ranging from 45 to 1,440mg) ...
Breaking Biology Technology: