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Anaerobic Digestion and Related Best Management Practices: Utilizing Life Cycle Assessment

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  2010 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, June 20 - June 23, 2010  1009112.(doi:10.13031/2013.29892)
Authors:   Mark Z Venczel, Susan E Powers
Keywords:   Anaerobic digester, fugitive emissions, LCA, climate change

Manure management practices are regulated or promoted in the interest of preventing environmental pollution. Even when there are clear benefits, some management practices can result in unintended consequences. In this paper, a life cycle assessment approach was used to assess the role of manure storage and/or anaerobic digestion in changing the potential environmental impacts on a medium sized dairy farm in northern New York State. Anaerobic digestion (AD) is effective for reducing fossil fuel consumption, but reductions in GHG emissions are small compared to the large range of uncertainty. Nitrous oxide emissions were found to make up >50% of the climate change impact, and fugitive emissions of methane from the digester system counteracted benefits obtained by limiting lagoon emissions of methane and reducing fossil CO2 emissions. Long term manure storage was found to reduce the potential for water quality impacts while simultaneously increasing the potential for impacts related to air pollution. Results show clear benefits of AD in terms of reduced fossil fuel use, but more research and development of carbon-credit calculations is required before GHG benefits of AD can be accurately accounted.

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