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Online AgSTAR Digest: Spring 2010

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USDA and EPA Announce Collaboration to Advance Anaerobic Digester Deployment

On May 3, 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) signed an interagency agreement to advance the implementation of anaerobic digester systems at livestock facilities across the United States. This agreement will use each agency's expertise and resources to increase farm-based renewable energy generation by advancing the deployment of commercially available anaerobic digestion and biogas use technologies. More information about the agreement can be found in AgSTAR's fact sheet (PDF) (3 pp, 64K).

Fifth AgSTAR National Conference

Another Successful Conference

The Fifth AgSTAR National Conference was held on April 27—28, 2010, in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Nearly 300 people from the private and public sectors, including 46 exhibitors, attended the event. AgSTAR thanks the speakers, exhibitors, and attendees for contributing to a successful conference. In particular, AgSTAR would like to thank its conference sponsors:

GE Energy, Jenbacher gas engines logo GHD, Inc. logo Bioprocess Control logo Entec Biogas USA logo
Environmental Fabrics, Inc. logo Martin Machinery logo Lookout Ridge Consulting logo  

The conference sessions began with an opening address from Kurt Roos, EPA's Director of Agricultural Methane Programs, during which he discussed the current status, opportunities, and barriers in the U.S. agricultural digester market. Keynote speaker Doug McKalip from USDA's Office of the Secretary outlined USDA initiatives to accelerate the adoption of anaerobic digestion of livestock manures. He discussed how encouraging anaerobic digestion is important to the overall goals of USDA because it supports renewable energy, improves water quality, and helps to develop ecosystem service markets. He also mentioned the U.S. dairy industry's pledge to decrease emissions by 25 percent no later than 2020 and listed some of the steps they are taking to reach that goal. Mr. McKalip also announced that USDA would be providing additional funding for farm energy audits, grants, and loan guarantees, as well as additional funding to support AgSTAR activities to promote the development of anaerobic digestion projects.

Other conference presentations included:

Presentations are available on the AgSTAR conference Web page.

Green Valley Dairy tour participants viewing the complete mix digester systems.

Green Valley Dairy tour participants viewing the complete mix digester systems.

Sold-Out Anaerobic Digester Tours

Conference participants had the opportunity to visit Green Valley Dairy and Pagel's Ponderosa Dairy and learn about two different types of anaerobic digestion systems.

Guy Selsmeyer, Northern Biogas, and Joel Close, Green Valley Dairy's Operator, led the tour at the 4,200-head Green Valley Dairy farm, which operates two complete mix digesters. Biogas currently fuels an engine-generator set that provides power to the farm and the local electric grid. The farm separates solids from digester effluent to recover approximately 120 tons of stabilized solids per week. About half of the stabilized solids are used for on-farm bedding and the rest is sold to neighboring dairies. Green Valley Dairy plans to expand and add a third digester and second generator in the future.

Owner John Pagel, Digester Manager Bryan Pagel, and GHD representative Melissa Van Ornum led the tour of Pagel's Ponderosa Dairy. The dairy is a 4,000-head operation using a mixed plug flow digester. The farm captures biogas to generate up to 800 kilowatts (kW) of electricity each year. They plan to purchase a new engine to burn additional gas that is currently being flared. Separated solids are recovered for on-site use and for sale.

The mixed plug flow digester at Pagel's Ponderosa Dairy.

The mixed plug flow digester at Pagel's Ponderosa Dairy.

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State Partner Ceremony

AgSTAR has initiated a new State Partner program to establish stronger relationships with our allies at the state level. During a luncheon ceremony at the Fifth AgSTAR National Conference, AgSTAR congratulated its current State Partners:

AgSTAR (Allison Hogge, center, and Chris Voell, far right) honored its current State Partners (left to right): Robert Burns (Iowa State University), Dave Dingman (Nebraska Methane Working Group), Amanda Green (Oregon State University, Oregon Dairy Farmers Association), Joe Kramer (Energy Center of Wisconsin), and Allan Goldberg (Iowa Department of Natural Resources). Representatives from the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets; and Sustainable Conservation are not pictured.

AgSTAR (Allison Hogge, center, and Chris Voell, far right) honored its current State Partners (left to right): Robert Burns (Iowa State University), Dave Dingman (Nebraska Methane Working Group), Amanda Green (Oregon State University, Oregon Dairy Farmers Association), Joe Kramer (Energy Center of Wisconsin), and Allan Goldberg (Iowa Department of Natural Resources). Representatives from the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets; and Sustainable Conservation are not pictured.

Through the State Partner program, AgSTAR collaborates with state agencies, agricultural extension offices, universities, and non-governmental organizations to promote the planning, deployment, and long-term success of anaerobic digester projects. The partnership allows AgSTAR and participating organizations to leverage their resources in accomplishing this goal. AgSTAR provides technical, marketing, and networking assistance in return for the partners' commitments to help identify and overcome barriers for anaerobic digester projects, facilitate information-sharing, and provide education and outreach to farms in their area.

For more information, or to join the State Partner program, please contact Chris Voell (voell.christopher@epa.gov) at 202-343-9406.

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Continued Growth in Digester Projects

During the conference, AgSTAR presented the latest information available regarding the 151 operating manure anaerobic digestion systems at U.S. livestock facilities. Of the operational projects, 130 are combined heat and power projects that generate about 340,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) annually. The 21 remaining boiler, pipeline injection, and other energy projects generate an additional 52,000 MWh equivalent per year. An additional 23 systems are under construction and over 70 more anaerobic digester projects are planned. Most digestion systems (82 percent) operate at dairy farms and are predominately located in the Midwest, West, and Northeast.

Map of United States with the number of operating digesters and estimated energy production provided in state.

The majority of commercially operating digesters (73 percent) are plug flow and complete mix systems operating at mesophilic temperatures (95—105°F). More information about the 151 systems is posted in AgSTAR's Anaerobic Digester Database.

Although the majority of systems are still owned and operated by farms, with livestock manure as the only feedstock, other approaches are emerging. These include co-digestion of high-strength organic wastes (e.g., food processing wastes) to increase gas production, third-party owned and operated systems, systems handling manure from multiple farms, and systems that sell gas directly to customers or gas utilities.

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USDA Issues Call for Applications for REAP Funding

Application materials can be obtained by contacting a USDA Rural Development Energy Coordinator (DOC) (10 pp, 89.5KB, Download Word Viewer)

On April 26, 2010, USDA announced that it is accepting applications for Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grants and loan guarantees as part of its continued effort to fund anaerobic digestion systems at livestock operations. REAP (Section 9007 of the 2008 Farm Bill) provides incentives for the development and construction of rural renewable energy projects, such as anaerobic digestion projects. REAP renewable energy grants can provide up to 25 percent of eligible project construction costs, up to $500,000. Loan guarantees or grant and loan guarantee combinations are capped at 75 percent of eligible project costs. More details are available in the April 26, 2010, Federal Register or on the USDA website. Applications are due on June 30, 2010. Applicants are encouraged to submit early to improve their chances of success.

A month later, USDA announced a related REAP funding opportunity for energy audits and renewable energy development assistance. This grant program was developed in the 2008 Farm Bill and provides financial assistance for identifying cost-effective opportunities for energy efficiency and renewable energy measures by agricultural producers and rural small businesses. A total of $2.4 million is available under this program for 2010 and the maximum grant is $100,000. Eligible organizations include state, tribal, or local governments; land-grant universities and other certain institutions of higher education; rural electric cooperatives; and public power entities. Applications are due on July 26, 2010. More details are available in the May 27, 2010, Federal Register or on the USDA website.

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American Biogas Council

In the fall of 2009, several meetings were held to gauge the level of interest in the formation of a biogas industry coalition. Response was positive, and over the past six months, a group of volunteers joined together to transform a perceived need into an industry association—the American Biogas Council. The Council is an association of manufacturers, engineers, project developers, owners and operators of anaerobic digestion technology and systems, agricultural producers, and feedstock suppliers that promotes the advancement of anaerobic digestion technology in the United States. Council members view biogas energy as a sustainable and environmentally responsible pathway to meet America's goals of domestic renewable energy and job creation.

The Council facilitates networking with stakeholders involved in the successful development and operation of anaerobic digestion facilities. Additionally, they provide members with outreach and educational materials, as well as news updates related to regulations and policies at the federal and state level, funding/grant opportunities, and project developments. More information is available on the American Biogas Council website.

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Methane to Markets Update

For more information, see the Partnership's April 2010 newsletter, Methane International.

2010 Partnership Expo Held in March 2010

The Methane to Markets Partnership held its second Partnership Expo in March 2010 in New Delhi, India. The Partnership Expo promoted methane recovery and use project opportunities and technologies in four sectors, including agriculture. Attendees had the opportunity to visit an anaerobic digester at the Shri Krishna Gaushala in Ghaziabad, India. A gaushala is a sanctuary for old, sick, and abandoned cows. At Shri Krishna Gaushala, there are 1,000 cows whose manure is stabilized in three onsite anaerobic digesters. Some of the biogas produced by the digesters provides electricity for the site; the rest is processed and bottled for off-site use.

Agriculture technical sessions addressed financial and political barriers to implementing anaerobic digestion as well as opportunities to use anaerobic digestion across the food and agriculture sector. Presentations from the sessions are available on the Methane to Markets website.

The Agriculture Subcommittee also met at the Expo and discussed activities for 2010, such as the development of international guidance to characterize the environmental performance of anaerobic digestion systems and the potential expansion of the Partnership's mission to include other forms of agricultural methane emissions abatement (e.g., enteric fermentation and rice cultivation).

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New Anaerobic Digestion Projects


In January 2010, the anaerobic digestion system at Bach Farms, a 1,200-cow dairy farm located in Clark County, Wisconsin, became operational. The cow manure is collected and heated in a mixed plug flow digestion system to produce methane gas, which then is used to fuel a 300 kW engine. The Dairyland Power Cooperative, based in La Crosse, Wisconsin, has signed an agreement to purchase the electricity. Bach's digester is being funded in part through grants and loans provided by the USDA-Rural Development.


In March 2010, Cargill, Inc. announced the opening of its second Idaho dairy farm digester, located at the 6,000-cow Bettencourt Dairy B6 Farm in Jerome, Idaho. Built and operated by Cargill, the anaerobic digester produces biogas that is generating 1 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per month. The electricity is sold to the local electrical grid and carbon credits will be generated from the reduced methane emissions.

Source: Cargill, “Waste to Energy—Cargill's 2nd Idaho Dairy Farm Digester to Produce Enough Electricity for Approximately 1,100 Homes,” March 24, 2010.

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USDA Announces New On-Farm Energy Production Survey

As a follow-up to the 2007 Census of Agriculture, the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service is conducting a first-ever survey focused on renewable energy. The On-Farm Energy Production Survey will gather information about energy production on America's farms and ranches, including the use of anaerobic digestion, wind turbines, solar panels, and other alternative energy sources. The survey is being conducted in response to an increase in on-farm energy production practices. USDA expects to release the results in 2011. AgSTAR will provide more information and analysis of the data when they become available.

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Grants for Small Digester Research

In April 2007, EPA announced a People, Prosperity, and the Planet award for sustainability to a Clarkson University (New York) team for its project “Farm Waste to Energy: A Sustainable Solution for Small-Scale Farms.” The students are developing and optimizing anaerobic digester technology for dairy farms with 50 or fewer cows that are located in cold climates. The digesters would use dairy manure and other co-substrates on small farms to create biogas for energy production. The team, which is advised by professors Stefan J. Grimberg, Shane Rogers, and Rick Welsh, also won a P3 Student Choice Award. The team recently received a $75,000 grant from EPA to continue their work.

Source: Clarkson University, “Two Clarkson University Teams Win Awards From EPA for Environmental Innovation,” April 27, 2010.

In May 2010, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) granted EMG International a grant to demonstrate a small (90- to 100-head) dairy farm anaerobic fluidized-bed digester that will convert manure to biogas for generating electricity. The NYSERDA funding is from the proceeds of the cap and trade auctions of carbon dioxide allowances under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and the state's systems benefit charge on electricity sales.

Source: NYSERDA, “NYSERDA Awards $11.3 Million for 25 Innovative Renewable Energy and Energy Storage Projects,” May 3, 2010.

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Policy Updates

State and Utility Net Metering Rules for Distributed Generation

Earlier this year, the Interstate Renewable Energy Council released updated Net Metering and Interconnection tables. The tables present eligible renewable technologies, applicable sectors, participating utilities, limits on system and aggregate capacity, and discuss policies on net excess generation, renewable energy credit ownership, and meter aggregation.


Senate Bill SB848 has been approved by the Missouri Senate, allowing for methane gas produced from farm animal waste to count toward the state's renewable energy standard for electricity utilities. The bill is sponsored by Senator Frank Barnitz (D—Lake Spring), who says that adding animal waste to the acceptable list provides another method for utility providers to meet the percentage requirements. Missouri has a renewable portfolio standard that requires investor-owned utilities to obtain 15 percent of their electricity from renewable energy by 2021. The bill is being considered in the House.

Source: Sarah D. Wire, “Missouri Considers Animal Waste Gas as Renewable Energy,” The Associated Press, March 30, 2010.

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Online Resources

Digester Case Studies

The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy highlights case studies of dairy farmers who have installed anaerobic digesters. Featured farms include:

Oklahoma State University Creates Video on Waste Management System

In March 2010, Oklahoma State University's Waste Management Channel posted an informational video discussing the waste management system at Cargill's Sandy River Farm in Morrilton, Arkansas. The video highlights a covered lagoon capturing methane at a 4,200-head farrow-to-finish operation. Todd Risius, Environmental Health and Safety Manager at Cargill Pork, and Karl VanDevender, Professor and Extension Engineer at the University of Arkansas, talk about the day-to-day operations at the swine farm. Cargill initially set out to look at alternative technologies to reduce odor from the farm. While most of the methane captured by the covered lagoon is flared, a portion is used to incinerate mortalities. Cargill plans to analyze the trends in methane gas production with a future goal of co-generation.

Pennsylvania State University Holds Webinar on Anaerobic Digestion

On March 11, 2010, Pennsylvania State University's Agriculture and Environment Center presented a webinar entitled Follow the Nutrients: Farm Scale Treatment (including digesters) and Regional Facilities (PDF) (50 pp, 2.8MB). The webinar focuses on the management of nutrients from manure using anaerobic digesters by discussing the composition of manure and its potential to create biogas, describing how anaerobic digesters work, and explaining uses for the biogas that is produced. The webinar is part of the, “Manure Du Jour: Serving Pennsylvania's Best Practices on Animal Agriculture, Water Quality and Air Quality” series.

Introductory Anaerobic Digestion Document Released

In March 2010, eXtension, an educational partnership of 74 universities in the United States, posted a document entitled Introduction to Biogas and Anaerobic Digestion. The document introduces anaerobic digestion and its potential role as a manure management tool. Specifically, the document describes what biogas is, what a digester is, and how a digester works, as well as provides information on how the biogas can be used. The document also mentions possible problems one may encounter when using an anaerobic digester as well as ways to avoid or solve some of these problems. Twelve additional articles on anaerobic digestion will be published over the course of the summer.

National Geographic Features Anaerobic Digester at Minnesota Dairy

In September 2009, National Geographic wrote an article, “Cow Manure, Other Homegrown Energy Powering U.S. Farms,” highlighting Minnesota's Haubenschild Dairy for demonstrating the possibilities of farm-energy production. In 1999, the Haubenschild family installed an anaerobic digestion system that cost about $460,000, with the help of several government grants. The biogas produced from the dairy's cow manure runs an engine-generator set, which produces electricity for the farm. Excess electricity is purchased by a local utility. Less than seven years after installation of the digester, the Haubenschilds had recovered their personal investment.

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Funding Opportunities

International Methane Recovery Projects, Extended Deadline: July 29, 2010

The Methane to Markets Partnership has extended its deadline for its request for proposals to fund international projects and activities that advance methane recovery and use as a clean energy source under RFP #EPA-OAR-CCD-10-02-03. EPA expects to award up to 35 cooperative agreements through this announcement, at $100,000 to $750,000 per award. Successful proposals will support the Partnership's Action Plans and advance project development in the following Methane to Markets Partner Countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Georgia, India, Kazakhstan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Mongolia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Russia, Thailand, Ukraine, and Vietnam. Additionally, proposals will be accepted for projects in developing countries or countries with economies in transition that are applying to join the Partnership.

Section 1603 Renewable Energy Grants, Deadline: October 1, 2011

Under Section 1603 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the U.S. Department of the Treasury can reimburse a taxpayer eligible for the business energy investment tax credit with a cash payment of up to 30 percent of the construction and installation costs of the facility, as long as the facility is depreciable or amortizable. By receiving payments under Section 1603, applicants are electing to forego renewable energy production tax credits and investment tax credits. Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of the Treasury issued guidance to establish the procedures for applying for payments under the Section 1603 program and to clarify the eligibility requirements under the program. To be eligible, the facility must be placed in service in 2009 or 2010, or construction must have begun in either of those years and be completed prior to the end of 2013. ARRA established an October 1, 2011, application deadline for the grant. Companies interested in applying for the program can visit the U.S. Department of the Treasury website for more information.

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Upcoming Events

FPPC Midwest Summit
June 14-16, 2010
Des Moines, Iowa
Farm Pilot Project Coordination, Inc. (FPPC) is hosting this regional summit to discuss nutrient load from the agricultural community in the Mississippi River watershed as well as create sustainability in agriculture. FPPC will also update participants on results of their technology projects. If you wish to meet with AgSTAR during the event, please contact Chris Voell (voell.christopher@epa.gov) at 202-343-9406.

Biogas Europe
June 22-23, 2010
Milan, Italy
Green Power Conferences is organizing a networking event for the European biogas industry, policymakers, and potential investors to examine growth strategies and technological advances in biogas production. Attendees will learn about cutting-edge anaerobic digester technologies and biogas production policies.

6th National 25 x '25 Summit
June 29-July 1, 2010
Arlington, Virginia
Join the Energy Future Coalition; key national policymakers; farm, ranch, livestock, and forestry leaders; state alliance leaders; congressional staff; and federal agency representatives interested in maximizing renewable resources, to achieve a clean energy future and address the vulnerability created by America's dependence on foreign oil. If you wish to meet with AgSTAR during the event, please contact Chris Voell (voell.christopher@epa.gov) at 202-343-9406.

Greenhouse Gases and Animal Agriculture Conference
Call for papers deadline: July 1, 2010
Call for abstracts for poster presentations: August 1, 2010
October 3-8, 2010
Banff, Alberta, Canada
This fourth annual international conference will present the latest scientific advances in the area of greenhouse gas research in animal agriculture and provide information about achieving cost-effective greenhouse gas mitigation outcomes. Several exhibits will focus on capturing biogas and using it to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

Joint Annual Meeting 2010
July 11-15, 2010
Denver, Colorado
The American Dairy Science Association, the Poultry Science Association, the Asociación Mexicana de Producción Animal, the Canadian Society of Animal Science, the American Society of Animal Science, and the Western Section of the American Society of Animal Science will hold this year's Joint Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado. The meeting will feature symposia discussing how federal energy legislation could benefit the agriculture sector and how the sector can reduce its environmental impact.

2010 Manure Expo
July 15, 2010
Rock Springs, Pennsylvania
The sixth Manure Expo's theme is balancing conservation and production. Exhibits at the event will demonstrate how modern equipment and techniques can help achieve cost-effective use of manure and maximize revenues while minimizing environmental risk. If you wish to meet with AgSTAR during the event, please contact Chris Voell (voell.christopher@epa.gov) at 202-343-9406.

Annual Biocycle Conference on Renewable Energy from Organics Recycling
Call for papers deadline: July 15, 2010
October 18-20, 2010
Des Moines, Iowa
BioCycle's 10th annual conference plans to include topics related to anaerobic digestion of manure, biogas production, co-digestion, sustainable biofuels, project financing, permitting, and more.

Biomass '10: Renewable Power, Fuels, and Chemicals Workshop
July 20-21, 2010
Grand Forks, North Dakota
At the Biomass '10 Workshop, hosted by the Energy and Environmental Research Center, join community developers, government and regulatory officials, researchers, rural land owners, media officials, and industry leaders to discuss the challenges, opportunities, and new technologies behind biomass utilization.

International Symposium on Energy From Biomass
Call for papers deadline: July 31, 2010
November 8-11, 2010
Venice, Italy
Organized by the International Waste Working Group, this third international symposium will focus on advances in the application of technologies for energy recovery from biomass and waste. Anaerobic digestion will be a main topic at the symposium, with discussions on appropriate technologies for different organic substrates, processes, operation, residues, gas cleaning and quality upgrading, handling and treatment of residues, and analytical and monitoring parameters.

Southeast Bioenergy Conference
August 3-5, 2010
Tifton, Georgia
The 5th Annual Southeast Bioenergy Conference will bring together industry leaders, bioenergy researchers, and government officials to discuss the current state and future possibilities of bioenergy in the Southeast. The Conference will feature numerous discussions about bioenergy technology, extension agencies' success with bioenergy, and project financing. Also, a case study on the poultry litter digester at Brinson Farms (Mississippi) will be presented.

2010 National Poultry and Animal Waste Management Symposium
Call for posters deadline: August 6, 2010
October 26-28, 2010
Greensboro, North Carolina
The National Poultry Waste Management Symposium, in cooperation with the North Carolina Animal and Poultry Waste Management Center and the National Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center, is an important event that will communicate the latest technology and research on poultry and animal waste management. Additional topics to be discussed include state and federal environmental regulations and carbon markets.

2010 Farm to Fuel Summit
August 11-13, 2010
Orlando, Florida
Hosted by Florida's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, this event will feature leaders from agriculture, government, academic, technology, and financial communities who will gather to report on their activities, consider the next steps, and share their progress in reaching the commercial production of biofuels and renewable energy in Florida.

International Symposium on Air Quality and Manure Management for Agriculture
September 13-16, 2010
Dallas, Texas
The event, hosted by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, may include presentations on digesters, manure management, and farm-based alternative energy.

World Dairy Expo
September 28-October 2, 2010
Madison, Wisconsin
The 2010 World Dairy Expo offers manure management seminars and technical expertise to help attendees stay knowledgeable, competitive, and profitable.

Biogas USA
October 13-14, 2010
San Francisco, California
Green Power Conference's Sixth Biogas Conference will discuss regulatory and technological issues related to the biogas industry, including the latest developments in biogas generation from waste sources. Attendees will gain a multi-faceted understanding of the biogas industry through collaboration with project developers, policymakers, investors, farmers, waste management specialists, and utility officials. The conference agenda includes discussions of anaerobic digestion technology and financing, as well as a site visit to a working co-digestion facility.

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