China’s 700 Million Pigs Mean A Biogas Goldmine

The Chinese love of pork might result in very tasty dumplings but it has also leads to a sizable amount of waste.

According to an Australian research body, the 700 million pigs needed to service China‘s burgeoning pork industry produce an estimated 1.4 million tons of manure and a further 7 million tons of urine.

china pig manure power biogas

image via Shutterstock

Australia’s CRC for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment (CRC CARE) says this mass of waste represents a potential goldmine and it has developed a technology to extract not only biogas, but also fertiliser and other valuable products from nutrient-rich waste.

CRC CARE researchers worked with Chinese pig farms to produce the technology, a two-step underground anaerobic bioreactor. The researchers identified a particular combination of anaerobic treatments that can recover the nutrients and produce clean biogas energy as well.

China’s 1.8 million pig farms supply two thirds of the country’s meat consumption. Yet at present only a tenth of the waste produced is currently treated. Much of the rest is simply thrown away, resulting in large amounts of nitrogen, phosphorous and other contaminants being discharged into the environment where they risk damaging ecosystems as well as human health.

CRC CARE is a part of the Australian Government’s Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) Program, which was set up to connect cutting edge scientific research with business.

Although the government body provided scientific expertise to China, including a supervision program of six PhD students at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan Province, the project is being managed on the ground by Chinese firm HLM Ltd.

In a statement, CRC CARE managing director Professor Ravi Naidu said: “It’s a perfect partnership between Australian science and Chinese technical expertise.”

According to Prof Naidu, the bioreactor – which is still being trialled – could be used throughout Asia, wherever intensive farming of animals is common.

“The market for a successfully packaged solution to this suite of problems is clearly very large – both in Asia and around the world. Besides handling livestock wastes, similar bioreactor technology can be used to manage and cleanse the runoff from urban landfills and organic waste streams from other industries,” the professor added.

Paul Willis has been journalist for a decade. Starting out in Northern England, from where he hails, he worked as a reporter on regional papers before graduating to the cut-throat world of London print media. On the way he spent a year as a correspondent in East Africa, writing about election fraud, drought and an Ethiopian version of American Idol. Since moving to America three years ago he has worked as a freelancer, working for CNN.com and major newspapers in Britain, Australia and North America. He writes on subjects as diverse as travel, media ethics and human evolution. He lives in New York where, in spite of the car fumes and the sometimes eccentric driving habits of the yellow cabs, he rides his bike everywhere.

  • Mike

    I don’t understand the arithmetic: 700 million pigs produce 1.4million metric tonnes of manure per year? Taking the millions out of the puzzle, therefore 700 pigs produce 1.4 tonnes (1400 kg) of manure per year. Therefore one pig produces 2kg of manure per year? What?? 

    Other web-based references mention figures like a 200lb pig producing around 13lb of manure per day. Doing the metric conversion, that’s about 5.9kg. And in a year that’s 2152kg , or 2 metric tonnes per pig. Now bearing in mind that the figures stated in the above article yield 2kg instead of 2000kg, I presume this means 700 million pigs produce 1.4 billion metric tonnes of manure per year.

    I hope the Aussie machines can keep up with the flow….