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Online AgSTAR Digest: Fall 2008

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Did you know?

In the United States, manure management systems account for 7 percent of total anthropogenic methane emissions.

EPA, Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2006, April 2008.

Overwhelming Response to AgSTAR Workshops

Methane Capture Program

In 2007, the North Carolina General Assembly created the Methane Capture Pilot Program. The program authorizes the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources in partnership with the North Carolina Utilities Commission to select up to 50 registered swine farms to capture methane gas generated by their waste systems—either by full or partial lagoon covers—and to convert the gas to electricity through biogas generators. Each farm's public power supplier (i.e., Duke Energy, Progress Energy, and Dominion) will then purchase the generated electricity for a period of seven years at a negotiated price not to exceed 18 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh). These methane conversion systems must be operational with electricity available for purchase on or before Sept. 1, 2010. For more information on this program visit North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources and North Carolina Public Utilities Commission websites.

North Carolina Swine Manure Workshop

AgSTAR, EPA Region 4, and the Environmental Credit Corporation (ECC) (through a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Conservation Innovation Grant) hosted Environmental and Economic Benefits of Capturing Swine Manure Methane—a free workshop on September 18, 2008, in Clinton, North Carolina. With North Carolina's recent policy incentives to reduce methane emissions, this event served to provide pork producers with critical information about the economics and environmental benefits of on-farm anaerobic digesters. More than 200 people attended, about half of them pork producers. Morning presentations by leading experts in the field provided information on anaerobic digestion of swine manure. A wide range of topics were covered including the benefits of anaerobic digestion for controlling odor, nutrient management issues, interconnection and net metering, and an overview of the carbon credit market to name just a few. A highlight of the event was the talk given by Danny Kluthe, owner and operator of OLean Energy, Nebraska’s first anaerobic digester. His presentation provided participants with a start to finish view of how he got his successful project up and running. All the presentations are posted on the AgSTAR website.

After the workshop, the participants visited Butler Farms in Lillington, North Carolina to see a manure lagoon cover system for more than 8,200 finishing hogs in 10 onsite barns. ECC financed and constructed the lagoon cover system with cost sharing provided by a USDA Conservation Innovation Grant. The grant is enabling ECC to invest in several hog farm projects in North Carolina. Attendees saw how the covered lagoon and biogas flare reduce greenhouse gas emissions and odor, while generating additional revenue through the sale of carbon credits.

Scott Tudman of ECC led workshop attendees on a tour of the Butler Farms covered lagoon. Photo courtesy of ECC

Scott Tudman of ECC led workshop attendees on a tour of the Butler Farms covered lagoon. Photo courtesy of ECC

Northwest Dairy Digester Workshop

On November 18, 2008, AgSTAR, Washington State Department of Agriculture, and Washington State University Center for Sustaining Agriculture & Natural Resources sponsored a dairy digester workshop for 130 people in Sunnyside, Washington. Attendees were from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho and interested in anaerobic digesters and opportunities to create clean energy from animal waste. Speakers from U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, EPA, Washington State University, and several private project developers discussed technical, operational, financial, and research issues associated with the development of anaerobic digester systems in the Northwest. The presentations from the event are posted on the AgSTAR website.

After the classroom instruction, more than 100 people attended a tour of the DeRuyter Dairy, where 4,500 dairy cows feed a digester system that has been operational since 2006. The system is a two-stage mixed-plug flow system with a 1.2 megawatt (MW) capacity combined heat and power electricity generation set. The project also provides manure solids for bedding. Increasing desire for renewable energy and greater environmental protection, and the growth of the livestock industry, have created the atmosphere for the viability and growth of anaerobic digester systems in the Northwest.

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Join Us for 2009 AgSTAR Conference

AgSTAR is pleased to announce that our National Conference will be held on February 24–25, 2009, in Baltimore, Maryland. At the last AgSTAR Conference in Sacramento, California, more than 340 attendees discussed new technologies, identified potential projects, and networked with others in the industry. Interest in anaerobic digestion of livestock manures and associated energy production is expanding rapidly and we expect an even greater turn out for this meeting. The conference will highlight the latest projects, technologies, and financial incentives, and will once again include technical presentations, a conference luncheon, and exhibits.

Conference details and on-line registration is available on the AgSTAR Conference Web page. For more information regarding exhibitor and sponsor opportunities, please contact Katherine Moore (meetings@erg.com), ERG (AgSTAR Contractor), at 781-674-7272.

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USDA Awards Farm Bill Grants and Loans

In the summer of 2008, the USDA awarded a total of $41.9 million to individuals and businesses across the nation under the Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements Program. This program, authorized under Section 9006 of the 2002 Farm Bill, offered loans, loan guarantees, and grants to farmers, ranchers, and rural small businesses to purchase renewable energy systems and implement energy efficiency projects. Among these winners were ten anaerobic digestion projects that received almost $4.4 million in grants and $5 million in loans. The winners included:

2008 Awardee Type Location
Bach Digester, LLC Dairy Dorchester, WI
Chaput Family Farms Dairy North Troy, VT
Farm Power Rexville, LLC Dairy Mount Vernon, WA
Greenwood Dairy Farm, LLC Dairy Canton, NY
Grotegut Dairy Farm, Inc. Dairy Newton, WI
Mapleleaf Dairy, Inc. Dairy Cleveland, WI
Schmack BioEnergy, LLC Centralized Zanesville, OH
Thomas Roach Dairy Scipio Center, NY
Westminster Energy Group, LLC Dairy Putney, VT
Zuber Farms, LLC Dairy Byron, NY

Earlier this year, the 2008 Farm Bill was passed. This bill provides funding for the Section 9007: Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) which replaced the Section 9006 program from the 2002 Farm Bill with some changes. Under REAP, in addition to livestock producers and rural small businesses that were eligible under Section 9006, the new program expands the offering to local and state governments, educational institutions, and rural electricity cooperatives. Also new to REAP is that applicants can apply for grants to cover 25 percent of the costs for conducting feasibility studies.

USDA anticipates multiple REAP grant application periods during the 2009 fiscal year. For more information on loan specifications, program benefits, and eligibility requirements of REAP visit the USDA Rural Development website. Livestock producers interested in learning more are also encouraged to contact their local USDA Rural Development office.

Sources: USDA, "USDA Awards $6.9 Million for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Projects," July 22, 2008; USDA, "USDA Awards $35 Million for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Projects," August 27, 2008; and Gary Smith, USDA Rural Development, "Kansas Wind and Renewable Energy Conference 2008 (PPT) (47 pp, 4MB, Download PowerPoint Viewer)," September 23-24, 2008.

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Two New Anaerobic Projects Become Operational

Bridgewater Dairy (Ohio)

In August 2008, Bridgewater Dairy in Columbus, Ohio, became the first digester project in the state to convert captured methane from animal waste into electricity. The farm is currently using 400 kilowatts of a potential 1.2 MW when operating at full capacity. USDA's Rural Development awarded the farm $500,000 under the 2002 Farm Bill's Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements Program (i.e., Section 9006 grant). Altogether, the project cost an estimated $2 million. GHD designed the underground horizontal plug flow digester, which processes manure from approximately 3,900 cows. All the electricity generated on the farm is sold to Buckeye Power, Inc., a generation and distribution cooperative established by Ohio's rural electric cooperatives. Additional benefits of the anaerobic digester include utilization of the digester effluent for crop fertilization and animal bedding, reduced odor, and fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

Sources: Buckeye Power, "Green Power Generated from Cow Manure Flows on Ohio Electric Cooperative Lines," PRNewswire, September 11, 2008; and
Heather Baughman, "Steaming with Energy: Williams County Dairy Turns Manure into Electricity," Crescent-news.com, September 23, 2008.

Cal-Denier Dairy (California)

At the Cal-Denier Dairy manure is processed through a covered lagoon anaerobic digester after the solids are separated. Photo courtesy of RCM International, LLC.

At the Cal-Denier Dairy manure is processed through a covered lagoon anaerobic digester after the solids are separated. Photo courtesy of RCM International, LLC.

In July 2008, the Cal-Denier Dairy in Galt, California, began producing biogas in their new anaerobic digester designed by RCM International, LLC. Manure from 500 dairy cows at the facility is flushed into a covered lagoon digester, where biogas accumulates before it is transferred to a 65-kilowatt engine generator set. USDA Rural Development under Farm Bill Section 9006 provided a 25 percent grant for the $700,000 digester system. Sacramento Municipal Utility District's (SMUD's) Dairy Digester Incentive program contributed a 13 percent capital cost share.

The SMUD also provided 50 percent of the cost of preparing the initial USDA grant application and assisted in permitting and interconnection. Additional funding for the project was supplied by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the California Energy Commission through the Western United Resource Development's administration of the California Dairy Power Production Program. Generated electricity is used on site to meet the needs of the farm and the rest is sold to the utility district under a net metering agreement. Digester effluent is used to fertilize crops.

Source: SMUD, "Local Dairy Latest to Make Renewable Energy for Sacramento (PDF) (4 pp, 241K)," SMUD News Media Services, July 28, 2008.

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Anaerobic Digesters Receiving Media Attention

Renewable energy from anaerobic digesters continues to receive more and more media attention. Below are just a few pieces that have highlighted anaerobic digesters from major news outlets.

NBC's Today Show (April 2008)

NBC's Today Show ran a series on green power and anaerobic digesters were featured as a source of renewable energy. Joseph Farms in California was highlighted as one of the many farms throughout the country using anaerobic digesters to supply energy. The farm has 5,000 cows, which produce almost 450,000 pounds of manure a day that is fed to the anaerobic digester. According to the interview, manure supplies 700 kWh of energy a day for its cheese plant—saving the company almost $1,000 per day. Sustainable Conservation, a nonprofit promoting anaerobic digesters, was also interviewed and has posted the NBC video clip on its website.

Voice of America (August 2008)

Voice of America, a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government, interviewed Larry Castelanelli about his anaerobic digestion system on the Castelanelli Brothers Dairy in Lodi, California. A video of the interview is available on the Voice of America website. The farm uses a covered anaerobic lagoon for the stabilization of manure collected by flushing the free-stall alleys. Stored covered lagoon effluent is used for flush water. Before entering the covered lagoon, the flushed manure flows through a gravity-settling basin to remove sand and then into a lift station sump before screening to remove coarse solids. The methane is then harnessed and transferred to a generator to create the electricity. In June 2008, AgSTAR completed a performance evaluation of this digester system (PDF, 46 pp., 140 KB, About PDF).

The New York Times (September 2008)

The New York Times featured a story about anaerobic digesters highlighting farms like Green Mountain Dairy that are part of a growing alternative energy program that converts methane gas from cow manure into electricity sold to utilities as green power. The Dairy participates in Central Vermont Public Service's Cow Power Program, which was one of the first utilities in the country to purchase electricity generated from anaerobic digestion. Utility customers enrolled in the program pay a premium of 4 cents per kWh. That money goes to participating farm-producers, to purchase renewable energy credits, or to the utility's Renewable Development Fund. The fund provides grants to farm owners to develop on-farm generation. In addition to the 4 cents per kWh, participating farms are paid 95 percent of the market price for all of the energy sold to the utility.

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Methane to Markets Partnership Update

The Methane to Markets Partnership is a voluntary, non-binding framework for international cooperation to advance the recovery and use of methane as a valuable clean energy source. The Partnership now has 27 Partner Countries and more than 800 Project Network members which include private sector entities, financial institutions, and non-governmental organizations who are involved in promoting methane capture and use projects.

The next Methane to Markets Partnership-wide meetings will be held on January 27–29, 2009, in Monterrey, Mexico. The event will include site tours, sector-specific workshops, and networking opportunities. The agriculture workshop in Mexico will focus on anaerobic digestion of commingled wastes (including agro-industrial wastes such as food and slaughterhouse wastes). Those with an interest in promoting the use of anaerobic digesters internationally are encouraged to attend this meeting and participate in the agriculture subcommittee meeting. Event details are available on the Methane to Markets website.

In this reporting year, the U.S. government spent more than $1.5 million in support of activities through the Methane to Markets Partnership to help advance the recovery and use of methane at livestock manure management operations. These activities include reducing methane from swine farms in Thailand, partnering with the World Bank to improve livestock waste management in Southeast Asia, bringing anaerobic digesters to rural China, transforming distillery and winery wastes in India, and expanding demonstration programs in Mexico. For more information, please see EPA's report, U.S. Government Accomplishments in Support of the Methane to Markets Partnership.

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New and Updated Online Resources

Updated Wisconsin Agricultural Biogas Casebook

In July 2008, Focus on Energy published a new edition of Wisconsin Agricultural Biogas Casebook (PDF) (67 pp, 2.3MB), which describes the history and daily operations of 17 Wisconsin farms operating anaerobic digester systems. Written by Joe Kramer of the Energy Center of Wisconsin, the report is designed as an educational tool for those interested in evaluating similar technologies for use at their farm. The document was developed using interviews with digester owners about their experiences, ideas, and innovations that could support the development of other digesters.

Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center Webcast

The nonprofit Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center provides public access to research on environmental issues and public policy in the animal agriculture field. Its September 19, 2008, webcast was "Hydrogen Sulfide: How Serious an Outdoor Air Quality Concern?" The webcast provided insight on hydrogen sulfide emissions from animal feeding operations and discussed the degree to which hydrogen sulfide is an outdoor air quality concern. The presenters included Larry Jacobson, University of Minnesota; Jim Sullivan, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency; and Saqib Mukhtar, Texas AgriLife Extension.

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Highlighted Funding Opportunities

Updated AgSTAR Funding Guide

AgSTAR is pleased to offer an updated version of its Funding On-Farm Biogas Recovery Systems: A Guide to Federal and State Resources. Designed in a database format, this tool is now Web-based and searchable allowing users to identify funding opportunities that match their specifications. With more than 80 state, federal, and private financial incentives, the database includes a wide range of strategies, such as low-interest loans, grants, tax credits, and production incentives. The new format allows AgSTAR to more frequently update the information. If you know of an option or resource that should be added, or if you have suggestions about how to make this database more useful, please e-mail agstar@erg.com.

Sacramento Municipal Utility District (California), Deadline: December 12, 2008

Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) issued a request for offers for 45,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent offsets to be delivered annually beginning in 2010 and used to meet customer demand for SMUD's voluntary carbon offset program. Local projects meeting the rigorous standards of the California Climate Action Registry (CCAR) offset protocols are preferred. One of the CCAR protocols is the capture and destruction of methane emissions from livestock operations through the installation of anaerobic digesters. SMUD will also consider projects that meet the Voluntary Carbon Standard. In either case, projects must undergo third-party verification and be located in California.

Wisconsin Dairy Farm Anaerobic Digester Grant, Deadline: December 31, 2008

Focus on Energy's grant provides financial support for the installation of a commercially available anaerobic digester system at eligible Wisconsin dairy farms to produce any of the following forms of energy: electricity, thermal energy, and biogas. On a competitive basis, a maximum grant of $250,000 will be available to provide financial support. Grants cannot exceed 25 percent of the cost of the digester system. The actual grant award is based on an estimate of the quantity of energy produced in one year. The renewable energy system must be installed on a site owned by a customer of a utility participating with Focus on Energy. For more information, please review the grant requirements provided on the Focus on Energy website.

New York State Agricultural Nonpoint Source Abatement and Control Program, Deadline: January 5, 2009

The New York State Soil and Water Conservation Committee invites Soil and Water Conservation Districts or groups of Districts acting jointly to submit proposals for funding under the Agricultural Nonpoint Source Abatement and Control Program. Program funds are available for nonpoint source abatement and control projects that implement agricultural water quality best management practices to protect natural resources while maintaining the economic viability of New York State's diverse agricultural community. During the last funding round, Washington County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded more than $122,000 to install an anaerobic digester on a farm in the Halfway Creek Watershed.

Minnesota Sustainable Agriculture Demonstration Grant, Deadline: January 16, 2009

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture will award up to $150,000 for the 2009 Sustainable Agriculture Demonstration Grant Program. Competitive grants for up to $25,000 are awarded to individuals or groups for on-farm sustainable agriculture research or demonstration projects in Minnesota. The purpose of the Grant Program is to fund practices that promote environmental stewardship and conservation of resources as well as improve profitability and quality of life on farms and in rural areas. Energy production from anaerobic digesters is an eligible project. Applicants may be Minnesota farmers, individuals at Minnesota educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, and local natural resource agencies.

NYSERDA PON 1146, Deadline: May 30, 2009

To expand the supply of clean energy, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has issued Program Opportunity Notice (PON) 1146 to offer $11 million in incentives for electricity generation using biogas produced from manure, food wastes, municipal wastewater treatment residuals, and other biomass feedstocks. Incentives will be offered based on electrical generation capacity and the kWh actually generated each year for three years. The program is part of the Customer-Sited Tier of the state's renewable portfolio standard. Details regarding PON 1146, including eligibility and application requirements, are posted on NYSERDA's funding opportunities Web page.

The Climate Trust, No Deadline

The Climate Trust is interested in purchasing the carbon credits from anaerobic digesters from dairy farms in the Pacific Northwest. The Climate Trust is purchasing greenhouse gas offsets on behalf of Northwest Natural Gas Company’s Smart Energy program, which allows customers to offset the greenhouse gas emissions associated with their natural gas use. Interested dairy farms or project developers should contact Peter Weisberg (pweisberg@climatetrust.org), 503-238-1915 x 207, for more information. More information on Smart Energy and the project solicitation is available on the Climate Trust website.

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Upcoming Events

More events related to livestock and manure management are posted on AgSTAR's workshop and conference Web page, which is updated monthly.

Midwest Ag Energy Network Summit
December 15–16, 2008
Rosemont, Illinois
The 3rd Annual Energy Summit, "Policies to Prosper in the New Carbon Economy," is bringing together 200–250 Midwestern agriculture leaders to network, collaborate, and learn how regional networks are shaping and will continue to shape agriculture and energy policies that affect the development of the carbon economy and the energy future. AgSTAR will be exhibiting at this event. If you wish to meet a representative of AgSTAR, please contact Erin Birgfeld (birgfeld.erin@epa.gov) at 202-343-9079.

11th Annual Midwest Value Added Agriculture Conference
January 22–23, 2009
Rochester, Minnesota
Organized by the Hiawatha Valley and River County Resource Conservation and Development Councils, this event will address real life issues such as farm business management, marketing your products, and on-farm bioenergy options. Jerry Jennissen of Jer-Lindy Farms will discuss his methane digester project, which was recently installed, with the assistance of the Minnesota Project.

Harvesting Clean Energy Conference IX
January 25–27, 2009
Billings, Montana
This event is designed for Northwest farmers and agriculture leaders, tribes, rural utilities and economic development officials, lenders, elected officials and public agencies, as well as energy developers and consultants. Discussions focus on the steps to successful project development, including financing. Technologies covered include biofuels, biopower, wind, geothermal, solar, and energy efficiency. AgSTAR will be attending this event. If you wish to meet with an AgSTAR representative, please contact Chris Voell (voell.christopher@epa.gov) at 202-343-9406.

Methane to Markets Meetings and Workshops
January 27–29, 2009
Monterrey, Mexico
Hosting the upcoming Partnership-wide and Steering Committee Meeting is Mexico's Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (SEMARNAT) and the State Government of Nuevo Leon. On January 27, attendees will have the opportunity to tour an agriculture project. Technical workshops, to which the public is invited, will be held on January 28. The agriculture workshop will focus on anaerobic digestion of commingled wastes (including agro-industrial wastes such as food and slaughterhouse wastes). The Partnership encourages the attendance of project developers, financial institutions, researchers, and others interested in promoting the advancement of anaerobic digesters.

Iowa Pork Congress
January 28–29, 2009
Des Moines, Iowa
Sponsored by the Iowa Pork Producers Association, this 37th annual event offers producers the latest information on production concepts, technology, equipment, and services. Billed as the nation's largest winter swine trade show, it is expected to feature hundreds of exhibitors, along with other educational opportunities and activities.

Manure $ense: Making the Most of Your Manure
February 3, 2009
St. Johns, Michigan

February 17, 2009
Bad Axe, Michigan

February 25, 2009
Zeeland, Michigan
Michigan State University Extension is hosting an event in three locations around the state that will discuss how farmers can find multiple ways to get more value from manure. Topics include composting, making energy on the farm (e.g., anaerobic digestion), future opportunities in the carbon market, conserving nutrients in livestock diets, conserving manure nutrients during storage, and optimizing fertilizer and manure applications.

Harnessing Resources and Teamwork for Minnesota's Energy Future
February 10–11, 2009
St. Cloud, Minnesota
The Clean Energy Resource Teams project is a public-private partnership consisting of individuals; small business owners; farmers; members of environmental groups; local utility representatives; local, state, and federal government staff and elected leaders; and academics who share the goal of promoting clean energy and energy efficiency. Biogas production is a session topic at this year's conference.

World Ag Expo
February 10–12, 2009
Tulare, California
The World Ag Expo brings buyers and sellers of farm equipment together. Anaerobic digesters are one of the many products available to farmers that will be shown at this event. Many of AgSTAR's partner companies have been in attendance at this event in the past–Avatar Alternative Energy, BioEnergy Solutions, Biothane, Environmental Credit Corp., Firestone Specialty Products, GHD, Microgy, and RCM International.

Methane Recovery from Livestock Operations Workshop: The Economic and Environmental Benefits of Anaerobic Digestion
February 19, 2009
York, Nebraska
The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, the Nebraska Public Power District, USDA–Rural Development, and AgSTAR are coordinating a one-day workshop to provide swine and dairy producers with information about the costs and benefits of anaerobic digestion systems. Other topics include producers' experience with these systems, potential sources of funding, feasibility studies, interconnection issues, and much more. For more information contact Peggy Berlowitz (peggy.berlowitz@nebraska.gov) at (402) 471-6974.

AgSTAR Conference
February 24–25, 2009
Baltimore, Maryland
Building on the success of the last conference, AgSTAR is developing another great event with technical presentations, poster sessions, exhibits, and networking opportunities. The event is a must for livestock producers, project developers, regulators, energy professionals, financiers, and others interested in manure digesters and energy projects.

Midwest Rural Energy Council Conference
February 25–27, 2009
St. Paul, Minnesota
The Midwest Rural Energy Council and its member energy providers and land grant universities in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and South Dakota support outreach, education, and research on rural energy issues. Topics from last year's conference included electric distribution technology, distributed generation and interconnection, stray voltage issues, energy efficiency in agriculture, and meeting the needs of the expanding bio-energy market.

2009 Agricultural Outlook Forum
February 26–27, 2009
Arlington, Virginia
The USDA is hosting its 85th annual forum under the theme of Global Agriculture and Rural America in Transition. The purpose of the event is to give government, farm, and industry leaders the opportunity to discuss the future of American agriculture. The agenda includes transportation, energy, carbon credit markets, and more. If you wish to meet with an AgSTAR representative, please contact Chris Voell (voell.christopher@epa.gov) at 202-343-9406.

Fifth International Symposium on Non-CO2 Greenhouse Gases: Science, Reduction Policy and Implementation
June 30–July 3, 2009
Wageningen, The Netherlands
The symposium aims to remove barriers between policy, industry, and science and foster the dialogue between scientists, engineers, and officials in industry and government involved in non- carbon dioxide greenhouse gas issues.

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