Pig power a game changer for pork producers

May 13, 2019

Pig farms in Australia are turning their waste product into an energy source by capturing and burning the methane from pig manure.

Pork CRC

Blantyre farms, where pork producers create biogas from the effluent from their piggeries.

The Bioenergy Support Program (BSP), an initiative by the Pork CRC, supported pork producers to plan, design and implement on-farm biogas systems. There are now over 20 piggeries with operating
biogas systems, which is 15% of the national pig herd.

A biogas system typically consists of a covered effluent treatment pond where the methane is captured then used to generate electricity and heating. This also provides a way to reduce the farm’s carbon emissions, as methane is 25 times stronger than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.

Alan Skerman, program leader of the BSP and Principal Environmental Engineer at The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries in Queensland, said they would run calculations to figure out how farmers could get the most out of a biogas system. “We’d estimate what volume of gas they’d get,
and how they might best be able to use that gas to offset their existing energy bill,” he said.

“We were one of the first people to install one of the systems,” said Edwina Beveridge, a pork farmer from Young in New South Wales. “It’s magical: it’s great for the environment, it reduces our odour, and it has really good economic impacts as well.”

She said the BSP was invaluable to the industry in providing the scientific knowledge to fully utilise the resource. “We’re all farmers: we’re used to looking after our animals. Making bioenergy and electricity is a whole new world for us. So having clever people who really know the ins and outs of it has been a wonderful help.”

Skerman said, “We were also able to give some advice on programs like the carbon farming initiative and emissions reduction fund. So a lot of the producers were able to generate Australian carbon credit units which they were able to auction and produce further income.”

Biogas systems could also be a game changer for pork sales. “It may be that in the future the industry could market pork for its low carbon emission qualities,” Skerman said. The Pork CRC concludes June 30, 2019, with programs rolling into the industry supported body, Australasian Pork Research Institute Ltd.

Cherese Sonkkila


By the numbers – The Pork CRC

3.6 kg: The drop in CO2 equivalents by 2020–2021 (from 2010 levels) from greenhouse gas emissions of the Australian pork industry, according to a Life Cycle Assessment by Dr Stephen Wiedemann of Integrity Ag Services.

16% of the manure effluent from the Australian pig herd is now directed to biogas systems, compared to 2% prior to the Bioenergy Support Program starting.

80% of Australian producers have reduced the confinement of sows by 77–82%, contributing to the term High Integrity Australian Pork, developed by the Pork CRC.

This article was published in KnowHow Issue 9.

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