Slide background

The Sichuan Household Biogas Programme

Improving local lives and global environment!
Slide backgroundEach digester reduces carbon
emissions by 2 tons per year
All emission reductions are certified
by the CDM and the Gold Standard
Slide backgroundAnd they improve rural living
conditions tremendously!
Learn more!

FAQ

How does the Sichuan Household Biogas Programme reduce carbon dioxide emissions?

The reduction of CO2 emissions is based on two principles: The reduction of coal consumption and the capturing of methane generated by the rotting animal manure.

Traditionally, the animal manure is dropped into a pit where it slowly degrades to generate fertiliser. This does not only cause hygienic problems and odour nuisance, but also methane emission. Methane, or CH4, is a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. Although the number of pigs raised per household is very low, this creates a significant emission of methane. After the installation of the digester, the manure still generates methane. However, the gas is captured below the digester dome and used for cooking. Thereby, it is destroyed and warming effect is avoided.

The second principle of CO2 reduction is the coal replacement. Due to its vast availability, most households use coal for their daily cooking. The Sichuan Household Biogas Programme provides convenient gas stoves to replace the old cook stoves. The odour-free stoves are ready to use just by the flick of a valve. No long ignition process, no time-consuming collection or purchase, no smoke, soot or any other pollutant. The households are provided with a convenient, cheaper and cleaner alternative to their coal stoves and therefore use the new devices on a daily basis.

Both ways of reducing carbon emissions account for a combined 2 tons of CO2 per household and year. While this might not sound much, the programme aims to a total reduction of 20,000,000 tons of CO2 throughout its lifetime! This is half the annual carbon emission of Switzerland, one of the highest developed countries in the World!

How is the emission reduction calculated?

The calculation of emission reductions is based on the methodologies provided by the UN-backed Clean Development Mechanism. Specifically, we are applying the methodologies AMS I.R and AMS I.C. The exact application of the methodologies is outlined in the Programme Design Document and follows a simple principle:

The emission reduction of the project is equal to the so-called baseline emission (meaning the emission that would occur in a hypothetical scenario that assumes that the biogas digesters have not been installed) minus the emissions that occur due to the biogas digesters. For the reduction of coal consumption, this is equal to the household’s coal consumption before and after the digester installation. For the calculation of the avoidance of methane, this calculation is more complicated: Based on default values for temperature, type of pigs and current practice of manure storage the current gas generation is estimated following guidelines by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). For a project emission, a gas leakage of 10% of the maximum gas generation potential, based on the type of animals, is assumed to be conservative.

A more detailed explanation of the calculation methods and all applied values and parameters can be found in the Design Document that is publicly available at the UNFCCC.

How much CO2 did the Programme reduce so far?

According to the UN’s and the Gold Standard Foundation’s regulations, we are accounting for the achieved emission reduction from the time of the household’s inclusion into the programme for up to 10 years. In this framework, we have currently reduced carbon emissions of more than 3,759,743 tCO2e.

In fact, the actual reduction of CO2 emissions is even higher: As the team on the ground needs some time to collect all required data and the scrutinization of third-party auditors takes around half a year as well, a big chunk of the achieved carbon emissions is actually not included in the official calculations.

Is the Emission Reduction scrutinised by a third party?

The calculation of emission reductions is scrutinised on several levels:

Firstly, the calculation and all its input parameters have been checked during the programme’s registration at the UNFCCC. The so-called validation has been carried out by auditors of TÜV NORD CERT GmbH. Their Validation Reports can be assessed at the UNFCCC Programme Page and the Gold Standard Programme Page.

After the auditors are satisfied with the Programme and conclude that it is in line with all regulations of both, the Clean Development Mechanism and the Gold Standard, they then request both authorities to register the programme. However, before that, both will perform their own checks of the programme’s documents as well as the validation report by the auditors.

After the project has been registered, the monitoring period begins. We have to prove that the emission reduction that we predicted in the initial calculations does actually occur. After the monitoring period is over, we have to prepare a monitoring report that carries out the calculation again, but with the actually monitored values. The monitoring report is again a publicly available document that will be scrutinised by a third-party auditor. Since the UN does not allow to cooperate with the same auditors as for the validation, the first monitoring report has been verified by the experts of Germanischer Lloyd Certification GmbH (GLC)

Once the verification is finished, it will again be rechecked by the UN and the Gold Standard Foundation. Only after this has been done, can carbon credits be issued and the project can be financed.

How is the Programme financed?

The Sichuan Rural Energy Office is promoting household biogas digesters for a long time in Sichuan. The cost for the installation of a digester lies between 5,500 and 6,500 RMB (900 – 1,600 USD), depending on the size, the location and the cover material. Despite a national subsidy of 1,500 RMB, the poor households of rural Sichuan still have difficulties raising the initial investment. With an average annual income of just 6,100 RMB per capita, the investment for a digester is considered a huge burden.

Furthermore, the technical performance of household biogas digesters has been somewhat unstable in the past. As households have not been sufficiently trained in the proper operation and maintenance of the digesters and the surrounding equipment like stoves and filters, the digesters had a frustratingly high rate of failure.

This is, where the PoA tries to support the rural households. By generating carbon credits and thereby an additional income, both obstacles can be overcome: 60% of the additional revenue is directly forwarded to the households to provide an additional incentive for the construction of a digester. A further 10% are used to finance a network of technical service stations. By becoming part of the programme, the participating households become entitled for a free technical service in case of any technical difficulties. Furthermore, the technical service stations provide support with the extraction of already-digested material using small pumps to spread the effluent on local fields as fertiliser.

The remaining 30% of the income will be used to manage the programme, organise the necessary data collection and to finance third-party validations and verifications to ensure the total transparency of the programme and all its activities.

Who supports the Programme?

Generally, we do not disclose, which companies and individuals support the Sichuan Biogas Programme through the purchase of carbon credits if they do not agree. Having said that, most companies actually do agree to make their support public. Because of the high level of transparency, sustainability and support for rural families, the programme is ideal to be included in our supporter’s CSR strategies. We therefore will announce when new supporters have joined the growing ranks of our partners and contributors.

How can I become a supporter?

To support the rural households of Sichuan with the installation of household biogas digesters, we need your support. Buy generating carbon credits, we generate income to finance the technical service and the additional income for the households.

If you want to reduce your carbon footprint and at the same time support the households in Sichuan, please contact us to learn more about how you or your organisation can contribute!

Which areas are involved in the Sichuan Household Biogas Programme?

The biogas programme focuses on thirteen cities and their surrounding administrative regions in Sichuan province, China. The 13 cities are:  Yibin, Neijiang, Suining, Ziyang, Zigong, Ruzhou, Leshan, Meishan, Mianyang, Guang‘An, Ganzi, Aba and Dazhou.

What households are targeted by the programme?

The households that the programme targets are specifically the remote and low-income households. Several criteria define, what households are supported by the programme:

  • The household must be located in the administrative area of one of the thirteen cities that are involved in the programme region.
  • The annual family income is below the average for rural households in Sichuan. Currently, the average (cash) income for rural households in Sichuan is around 750 Euro per person and year.
  • The household is raising pigs and stores the manure in an open pit.
  • The household uses (among others) coal as cooking fuel.

How many digesters have been installed so far?

As of August 2013, around 660,000 digesters have been installed at low-income households in the 13 programme cities. Of these, 395,435 have been officially been registered with the UN and the CDM Gold Standard. For the remaining households, we are currently collecting data and are preparing the inclusion documents.

How many digesters will be installed in the future?

The targeted digester number for the project is 1,000,000. With currently around 660,000 digesters installed, an annual number of around 100,000 digesters will be installed over the course of the next five to six years.

How do household biogas digester generate biogas for cooking?

Household Biogas Digester
Household Biogas Digester

The technology of household biogas digesters is amazingly simple and hasn’t changed in decades. The manure is fed into the digester through the inlet pipe. Usually the digester is constructed directly beneath the animal barns, so that the manure can just be swiped into the inlet. In the main digestion chamber, the biogas is generated and collected below the dome of the digester. Through a thin gas pipe and an attached hose, the gas is routed into a cooker in the household’s kitchen, where it is combusted as fuel.

Because the biogas is collected under the digester dome, it pushes down the surface of digestate within the chamber. Therefore, the digester generates a slight gas pressure that is sufficient to press the gas through the pipe into the cooker. Once the digester is filled, the households can access the effluent through the effluent extraction chamber. From there, the manure is either manually scooped out with buckets or pumped out with a small pump.

After the biogas generation process, the fertiliser quality of the effluent is greatly improved compared to the natural animal manure. It can therefore be directly applied on the surrounding fields to close a natural cycle.

How much biogas does one digester generate?

The generation of biogas is a complex process and depends on several factors of which the amount of animal manure and other organic waste and temperature are the most important ones. As Sichuan is a very warm region and raising pigs is vastly common, the region is ideal for the decentralised generation of biogas. Depending on the number of people living in a household, the biogas is usually sufficient for three warm meals a day. However, during a short cold period in winter and the Chinese new year, when other family members visit their homes and the families usually butcher some of their pigs, some households still have to burn coal or firewood for the cooking.

Are the digesters a reliable technology for the rural households?

If the digester is operated and maintained properly, it can literally last forever with only minor replacement such as hoses, valves and the cookers. However, to ensure a stable operation and a constant supply of biogas, it needs to be emptied and cleaned every two years. To support the households with pumping the digestate out of the digester and for any other technical questions, part of the programme’s income is used to finance a network of technical service stations, that provide free technical service to the households. Thereby, the stable operation is maintained and the households can use the digester throughout the entire project’s lifetime.

What standards are used for the programme?

The two main standards that is used for the calculation of emission reduction, for the monitoring of the programme’s impact on sustainable development and the generation of carbon credits are the Clean Development Mechanism and the Gold Standard.

Do relevant stakeholders have the chance to shape the project?

During the project’s development and still ongoing, local and global stakeholder have the opportunity to submit their opinions and input on the project and its implementation. Different channels for this are available:

  1. Between 28/10/2010 and 26/11/2010, the project document was available for the public to provide comments. The one comment that has been received has been properly addressed by UPM and the auditors of TUEV NORD CERT in their validation report.
  2. Prior to the project implementation, a large number of affected households in Sichuan has been asked about their opinion on the programme and its implementation. For that purpose, three large stakeholder meetings have been organised in Sichuan at which hundreds of households have been present. During these meetings, the programme and its planned implementation has been introduced and discussed. All persons present have been very supportive towards the programme and have not raised any major concerns.
  3. In addition, several hundreds of questionnaires have been distributed to households that will construct a digester and their neighbours in rural Sichuan to request their feedback and suggestions to the project. The feedback has been received and considered in the further planning process of the programme.
  4. Every new monitoring report that is submitted to the UNFCCC prior to a verification and request for issuance of certificates is uploaded for a two-week period of public comments to the UNFCCC web servers. There, everybody can submit comments to the project anonymously.

Glossary

Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)

The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is one of the flexibility mechanisms defined in the Kyoto Protocol that provides for emissions reduction projects which generate Certified Emission Reduction units which may be traded in emissions trading schemes.

The purpose of the CDM is to promote clean development in developing countries, i.e., the “non-Annex I” countries (countries that aren’t listed in Annex I of the Framework Convention). The CDM is one of the Protocol’s “project-based” mechanisms, in that the CDM is designed to promote projects that reduce emissions.  The emissions baseline are the emissions that are predicted to occur in the absence of a particular CDM project. CDM projects are “credited” against this baseline, in the sense that developing countries gain credit for producing these emission cuts.

The economic basis for including developing countries in efforts to reduce emissions is that emission cuts are thought to be less expensive in developing countries than developed countries. For example, in developing countries, environmental regulation is generally weaker than it is in developed countries. Thus, it is widely thought that there is greater potential for developing countries to reduce their emissions than developed countries.

From the viewpoint of bringing about a global reduction in emissions, emissions from developing countries are projected to increase substantially over this century. Infrastructure decisions made in developing countries could therefore have a very large influence on future efforts to limit total global emissions. The CDM is designed to start off developing countries on a path towards less pollution, with industralized (Annex B) supporting these reductions financially.

Gold Standard

The Gold Standard is a standard for creating high-quality emission reductions projects in the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and Voluntary Carbon Market. It was designed to ensure that carbon credits are not only real and verifiable but that they make measurable contributions to sustainable development worldwide. Gold Standard projects must adhere to a stringent and transparent set of criteria developed by the Secretariat, overseen by an independent Technical Advisory Committee and verified by UN accredited independent auditors. The certification process uniquely requires the involvement of local stakeholders and NGOs.

The Gold Standard Foundation that governs the certification standard is funded in its work by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP) and the WWF.

GS_logo_project_1239 Colour

As the Sichuan Household Biogas Programme is supporting the households in many ways beyond the shier reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, we have chosen to also certify the programme under the Gold Standard. With the successful registration of the project and the inclusion of the first group of more than 240,000 households, the Gold Standard Foundation has endorsed the programme and certified that it meets their high standards and strict requirements.

Household Biogas Digesters

Household Biogas Digester
Household Biogas Digester

The technology of household biogas digesters is amazingly simple and hasn’t changed in decades. The manure is fed into the digester through the inlet pipe. Usually the digester is constructed directly beneath the animal barns, so that the manure can just be swiped into the inlet. In the main digestion chamber, the biogas is generated and collected below the dome of the digester. Through a thin gas pipe and an attached hose, the gas is routed into a cooker in the household’s kitchen, where it is combusted as fuel.

Because the biogas is collected under the digester dome, it pushes down the surface of digestate within the chamber. Therefore, the digester generates a slight gas pressure that is sufficient to press the gas through the pipe into the cooker. Once the digester is filled, the households can access the effluent through the effluent extraction chamber. From there, the manure is either manually scooped out with buckets or pumped out with a small pump.

After the biogas generation process, the fertiliser quality of the effluent is greatly improved compared to the natural animal manure. It can therefore be directly applied on the surrounding fields to close a natural cycle.

Programme of Activities (PoA)

A PoA, or Programme of Activities is the type of project that we have chosen as a framework for the Sichuan Biogas Programme. A PoA consists of a set of criteria for the households, the way of calculating the emission reduction and the monitoring procedures. As we support more and more households with the construction of a household biogas digester, we can add them to the framework and grow the programme.

Currently, we have a total number of 395,435 included in the PoA, while already around 660,000 digesters have been constructed. But this is not enough: For the next years, we plan to support 100,000 households per year until we reach a total number of 1,000,000!

Tonnes of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent (tCO2e)

Equivalent carbon dioxide (CO2e) is a measure for describing how much global warming a given type and amount of greenhouse gas may cause, using the functionally equivalent amount or concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) as the reference.

This unit is used to compare the effect on climate change from gases like methane (CH4) to the effect of carbon dioxide. Methane has a Global Warming Potential (GWP) of 25, compared to CO2 with 1. This means, that one ton of methane has the same warming effect on the climate as 25 tons of carbon dioxide.

As the emission reduction from the Sichuan Household Biogas Programme is partly achieved through the avoidance of methane and partly through the reduction of coal use, the total emission reduction is given in the unit of tCO2e.

UNFCCC

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC or FCCC) is an international environmental treaty negotiated at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), informally known as the Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro from 3 to 14 June 1992. The objective of the treaty is to “stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”.

The UNFCCC, located in Bonn, Germany, is the UN body that overlooks the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), manages the registration of new projects and the issuance of Carbon Credits.

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