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Stalks Could Replace Manure to Make Methane
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China's agro-technicians have invented a method of producing methane from the stocks of crops that is more efficient at producing the gas than manure.

A pilot program in operation since 2005 in more than 100 counties in ten provinces and cities, has already helped millions of farmers to better heat, cook and light their homes.

The technology using fermented wheat and corn stocks is 30 percent more efficient than previous methods of producing methane from straw and 6.8 percent more efficient than manure.

The new method can also produce methane from a single batch of ingredients for up to a year longer than the old method.

Kou Jianping, an official with the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) who organized the pilot project, said farmers do not have to rebuild their methane tanks. "Just replace manure with straw stems. It's easier and more efficient," he said.

Nearly 20 million rural households have benefited from the project which was supervised by the Energy and Ecology Section of Science and Education Department of MOA. The government has already invested 2.5 billion yuan into the program and hopes to expand it further.

During pilot operation, villagers could choose to share a large methane tank or build their own in their backyards. The cost ranged from one million yuan and 1,000 yuan, which was covered by the governments.

Sun Zhengcai, minister of Agriculture, said that China's countryside has a huge potential for energy conservation and pollutant reduction.

"We need to make full use of agricultural wastes and develop crops that can be used as energy," he said.

China produces 700 million tons of straw, three billion tons of poultry and animal manure and 360 million tons of household waste every year.

In the past straw was either burned, used as an industrial material, or fermented into fertilizer and feedstuff, with the utilization ratio of about 30 percent.

Methane is a very clean substitute burning coal and can be used for lighting, cooking and heating.

(Xinhua News Agency May 26, 2007)

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