Original Article

Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change

, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 193-206

First online:

Methane Emissions from Large Dams as Renewable Energy Resources: A Developing Nation Perspective

  • Ivan B. T. LimaAffiliated withNational Institute for Space Research (INPE) Email author 
  • , Fernando M. RamosAffiliated withNational Institute for Space Research (INPE)
  • , Luis A. W. BambaceAffiliated withNational Institute for Space Research (INPE)
  • , Reinaldo R. RosaAffiliated withNational Institute for Space Research (INPE)

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By means of a theoretical model, bootstrap resampling and data provided by the International Commission On Large Dams (ICOLD (2003) World register of dams. http://www.icold-cigb.org) we found that global large dams might annually release about 104 ± 7.2 Tg CH4 to the atmosphere through reservoir surfaces, turbines and spillways. Engineering technologies can be implemented to avoid these emissions, and to recover the non-emitted CH4 for power generation. The immediate benefit of recovering non-emitted CH4 from large dams for renewable energy production is the mitigation of anthropogenic impacts like the construction of new large dams, the actual CH4 emissions from large dams, and the use of unsustainable fossil fuels and natural gas reserves. Under the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol, such technologies can be recognized as promising alternatives for human adaptations to climate change concerning sustainable power generation, particularly in developing nations owning a considerable number of large dams. In view of novel technologies to extract CH4 from large dams, we estimate that roughly 23 ± 2.6, 2.6 ± 0.2 and 32 ± 5.1 Tg CH4 could be used as an environmentally sound option for power generation in Brazil, China and India, respectively. For the whole world this number may increase to around 100 ± 6.9 Tg CH4.


Emission mitigation MDL Methane recovery Renewable energy Reservoir Spillway Turbine