Poultry sludge is sometimes turned into fertilizer, but recent trends in industrialized chicken farming have led to an increase in waste mismanagement and negative environmental impacts, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
Droppings can contain nutrients, hormones, antibiotics and heavy metals and can wash into the soil and surface water. To deal with this problem, scientists have been working on ways to convert the waste into fuel. But alone, poultry droppings don’t transform well into biogas, so it’s mixed with plant materials such as switch grass.
Samuel O. Dahunsi, Solomon U. Oranusi and colleagues wanted to see if they could combine the chicken waste with Tithonia diversifolia (Mexican sunflower), which was introduced to Africa as an ornamental plant decades ago and has become a major weed threatening agricultural production on the continent.
The researchers developed a process to pre-treat chicken droppings, and then have anaerobic microbes digest the waste and Mexican sunflowers together. Eight kilograms of poultry waste and sunflowers produced more than 3 kg of biogas — more than enough fuel to drive the reaction and have some leftover for other uses such as powering a generator. Also, the researchers say that the residual solids from the process could be applied as fertilizer or soil conditioner.
The authors acknowledge funding from Landmark University (Nigeria).
Aug. 27, 2015, Herefordshire, UK – Cargill’s European poultry business has signed a 20-year agreement to convert poultry manure to energy with technology from BHSL.
It has long been known that the yeasty broth left over after bioethanol production is nutritious, but it has taken a collaboration between Nottingham Trent University and AB Agri, the agricultural division of Associated British Foods, to prove that Yeast Protein Concentrate (YPC) can be separated from the fibrous cereal matter.
The researchers have also shown that YPC may be a cost-competitive substitute for imported soya-based and similar high-value protein feeds currently used in the diets of chickens bred for meat production.
The project was born out of the vision of biofuels pioneer Dr. Pete Williams of AB Agri, who was convinced valuable material was being overlooked when cereals were fermented to make bioethanol.
With Dr. Emily Burton of Nottingham Trent University, he was able to secure funding from the EPSRC for a CASE (Cooperation Awards in Science and Engineering) studentship that allowed them to develop and analyse the process.
To establish the nutritional value of the concentrate, EPSRC CASE student Dawn Scholey examined the composition of the newly isolated, patented YPC in a series of experiments, which showed that it can be readily digested by chickens. A paper outlining this research is published in this month's issue of the journal 'Food and Energy Security' (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/fes3.30/abstract.)
Project supervisor, Burton says the work is only just beginning: "Bioethanol is already a 60-billion-litre per year global market but this project shows the fuel itself is only half the story – immense value lies within other co-product streams too. As well as the proteins, the yeast content provides important vitamins and other micronutrients."
Produced by distilling and fermenting wheat and other agricultural feedstocks, bioethanol has particular potential for use as a petrol substitute. Currently, the dried distiller's grains with solubles (DDGS) generated as a co-product are sold to the cattle-feed market but this is not big enough to absorb all material that would be generated if bioethanol production ramps up significantly in future.
Burton believes the project helps address an issue often raised in connection with cereal-based biofuels: "One concern with bioethanol is the perception it will compete with food crops for limited farmland. Our new work shows how the two can live side by side."
The new, patented process separates DDGS into three fractions – fibre, a watery syrup and YPC, allowing global production of almost 3 million tonnes of supplementary high-quality protein per annum alongside current levels of bioethanol produced. A project at a US bioethanol facility is now up and running, demonstrating the performance of the process at factory scale.
Every year, 800 million chickens are reared for meat production in the UK and 48 billion worldwide. As well as helping to feed these birds, YPC could partially replace the fish meal used on commercial fish farms.
Dr. Pete Williams of AB Agri, the industrial sponsor of the work, says: "We couldn't have got this development started without the EPSRC CASE studentship that allowed us to establish the proof of concept, and to confirm the value-creation potential of our innovative separation process. By helping us to move to the next key stage of development, it has brought closer the prospect of full-scale industrial use that could deliver major benefits to the emerging 'green' fuel sector."
Jan. 23, 2013 - Eggs are an important source of protein and a staple breakfast food, but with every egg eaten, a potentially useful source of energy storage is thrown away in the garbage – the shells.
David Miltlin's research group at the University of Alberta and the National Research Council's National Institute of nanotechnology have devised a way to create high performance electrochemical energy storage (known as supercapacitors) using low cost biowaste, such as eggshells.
According to Zhi Li, the postdoctoral researcher leading the project, the idea stemmed from reading about the structure and chemistry of eggshell membranes. Upon further investigation, the eggshell membranes obtained from the biowaste were found to be more efficient than the activated charcoal used in traditional supercapacitors.
"The eggshell membrane has a 3D network structure which allows fast electron transfer and therefore the carbonized eggshell membrane can work at much higher current than traditional activated carbons," he explained. In addition, the membranes have much more nitrogen functionalities compared to normal carbon materials, which allows the to store a much larger charge.
The process of creating the carbonized eggshell membrane is simple and scalable says Li: the first step is to carbonize the eggshell through a pyrolysis process at a temperature of 800 C. Then, it is activated in air at 300 C to generate micropores on the surface, which increase the surface area available to hold an electric charge.
A procedure is currently in development to produce the eggshell material at a more industrial scale. Beyond that, the next step is to commercialize the technology, as well as to find further application for the new material.
"We have demonstrated its application as electrode materials for a supercapacitor," said Li. "However, it is also a very interesting material for Lithium-ion batteries and electrochemical catalysis."
Jan. 14, 2013 - With energy costs increasing, alternative energy options are quickly becoming more lucrative. The use of renewable fuels and/or pellets is an industry that is noticing significant growth in Canada, and the 2013 Canadian Wood Pellet Heating Conference is the perfect place to gather information.
This conference is the first event strictly dedicated to wood pellet heating in Canada. Organized by the Wood Pellet Association of Canada and the Quebec Wood Export Bureau, this event will allow you to learn, share and discuss issues and opportunities regarding the wood pellets heating sector. The goal is to introduce the concept and the benefits of modern pellet-based heating systems to a wider audience, from consumers and small businesses to heating specialists and installers, agricultural professionals and more.
The conference will treat a wide range of topics: the Canadian heating market, international development, environmental aspects, installation and innovation in heating systems, the regulatory framework, distribution network, and more.
Who Should Attend?
The conference and trade show is aimed at anyone lookng for a way to put Canad's heating mix on a more sustainable footing. This includes:
- Professionals of the wood pellet industry: pellets producers, distributors, manufacturers or distributors of stoves or pellet boilers, retailers, heating supplies installers, etc.
- HPAC professionals looking to diversify their offerings.
- Agricultural professionlas, especially those looking for alternatives to oil, coal or propane.
- Building professionals: architects, engineers, operators of heating systems, etc.
- Economic development officers
- Environmental organizations
- Professionals of the insurance business
- Remote communities
- Potential clients
Conference fees are $200 (taxes not included) for all the activities of the conference and the trade show. An online registration form for the participant is available here.
We also advise you to make your hotel reservation as soon as possible, either on line or by calling the Hilton Quebec City at 1 800 447-2411 or 418 646-6500 and mentioning Wood Pellet Conference to get access to the conference rate of $159/night +TX.
Wednesday, February 27th 2013
SITE VISITS (Event starts at 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM)
Thursdays, February 28th 2013 (Event starts at 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM)
SESSION 1 MARKETS AND TRENDS
The Canadian and international wood pellet situation
SESSION 2 PELLETS HEATING APPLIANCES
Great potential, vast possibilities!
SESSION 3 ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES AND SUSTAINABILITY
How pellet heating systems are sustainable for the environment?
SESSION 4 PANEL SESSION
Challenges related to wood pellets heating in Canada: how to set this energy option as a fuel of the future?
Friday, March 1st 2013 (Event starts at 8:00 AM – 12:00 PM)
SESSION 5 CASE STUDIES: RESIDENTIAL HEATING
Experiences and testimonials: examples of projects that work!
SESSION 6 CASE STUDIES: COMMERCIAL AND INSTITUTIONNAL
Experiences and testimonials: examples of projects that work!
The Pellet Industry Trade Show will run February 28 and March 1.
Sponsorship and exhibit opportunities
Like clockwork, South Carolina farmer Marc Marsh watched a manure broker cart away and market the poultry litter gleaned from cleaning out his 12 barns after his pullets matured or egg layers reached the end of their productive lives.
While it didn’t cost him a dime to dispose of the litter, he didn’t make any money on the transaction either.
He got to thinking that maybe there was some way that the farm could benefit from the litter, and that led him down the road to poultry litter gasification to produce the fuel to generate power.
With financial support from the United States government’s Farm Pilot Project Coordination (FPPC) program and mentoring from FPPC engineer Preston Burnette, the nearly $1 million poultry litter gasification demonstration project – intended to generate 20 to 30 kilowatts of power – is essentially in place.
While the project has proven that gasification of poultry litter to produce fuel to generate power is technically possible, Marsh sees greater potential in his farm operation to use the system to convert the poultry litter into a product called biochar that he can use in his turf business. Biochar contains many of the same beneficial chemicals as commercial fertilizer except for the nitrogen, but conversely, contains more carbon.
Marsh and his wife, Melanie, own M. Marsh Farms near Cheraw, S.C., about 70 miles southeast of Charlotte. It is a combination high-security, poultry breeding operation and turf business. The eggs produced on the farm are used by other poultry farmers to raise their egg-laying flocks and the high-quality turf grass grown on the 185-acre farm is used on golf courses, sports fields, lawns and commercial applications.
In 1990, Marsh graduated with a bachelor’s degree in poultry science from North Carolina State University, which led to a job with Tyson Foods. In 2001, the couple purchased its own farm.
The poultry operation generates more than 1,200 tons of litter annually, consisting of a combination of kiln-dried wood fiber bedding and scratching material mixed with chicken droppings. That bedding material is commonly used in South Carolina’s poultry industry because it doesn’t contain fungus, spores and moulds that could harm the flock. The farm houses about 100,000 chickens at a time, consisting of 50,000 laying hens and 50,000 pullets that are grown to become egg layers. It takes the pullets up to 21 weeks to reach maturity. It takes up to 45 weeks for the egg layers to complete their productive cycle. In the past, a contractor and farm employees would take between six and eight weeks to remove the poultry litter using a Bobcat and then sterilize the barns for the next batch of chickens at the end of each cycle. Prior to installation of the gasifier, a litter broker typically sold the poultry litter to other farms for use in corn and soybean crops as organic fertilizer.
Now, with the farm’s poultry litter gasifier in place, the barn cleaning is handled internally, the manure is stored securely on site, and conveyed, as needed, to the gasifier as fuel.
Burnette designed the overall M. Marsh Farms gasification system, finding off-the-shelf components to fit each step of the design specification.
“The problem with using poultry litter as a fuel has not been the energy content but how to actually gasify it and convert it into energy,” says Burnette. “A lot of people have tried in the past 20 to 30 years and really haven’t gotten anywhere because of material handling problems.”
He says that poultry litter isn’t a consistent product; it can be sticky and has moisture problems.
“Everything that coal is, poultry litter is not,” he says.
Proper material handling of the litter from moving it from the barns to the storage sheds to feeding it into the gasifier was evaluated extensively as part of this demonstration project to find an effective solution.
With installation of the gasification system, M. Marsh Farms has purchased equipment to handle the barn cleaning in house. The poultry litter is now stored in two sheds with financial support from the United States Department of Agriculture’s EQIP program, consisting of about 10,000 square feet of storage. Farm employees fill a hopper located in the manure shed twice a day and it augers the manure into the gasifier at the prescribed rate of 200 pounds per hour.
The gasification process is a two-stage process called the Brookes Gasification Process (BGP) provided by a Canadian company called BGP Inc. Propane is used to heat the primary and secondary chambers initially to reach their operating temperatures. The heat cooks the poultry litter that enters the primary chamber, which creates off-gases. Some of these off-gases are used to substitute for the propane, at which point it can be turned off. A chimney draft propels the remainder of the off-gases to a secondary chamber where it ignites in a controlled, high heat environment. The heat from that ignition passes around a Cain heat exchanger to heat water to about 220 F. A pump circulates the heated water from the heat exchanger through an ElectraTherm-brand Organic Rankin Cycle, where it boils a refrigerant that drives a turbine to create power.
“You can sustain gasification of poultry litter theoretically all year long,” says Burnette. However, because the M. Marsh Farms installation is a demonstration project, it has run continuously for just three to four days at a time. Burnette says that this gasification technology applied to poultry litter is at its very early stages.
He adds the M. Marsh Farms project fulfils FPPC’s mandate, which is to demonstrate technology that finds alternative uses for nutrients, in this case, an alternative to spreading poultry litter on soil. Gasification produces energy and an ash byproduct, which has much less volume and weight, can be used as a soil amendment and is easier to store.
“We’re still not sure if these systems will work out economically,” says Burnette. The system components themselves are a bit expensive because so few are commercially available.
“Is this type of technology viable?” Burnette asks. “Yes. We know that we can generate electricity from poultry litter. This project in South Carolina served as a steppingstone and learning curve for us.”
One lesson learned is that farmers need to be able to use the equipment to generate more than electricity to achieve a return on investment. Because of the unique nature of this farm as a breeding operation, the energy is only used to produce electricity but poultry litter gasification demonstrates that it can also potentially generate heat for commercial poultry operations. This concept is being studied extensively by FPPC in other projects in the Chesapeake Bay
Marsh says installation of the gasifier provides the farm with a number of benefits. It allows them to dispose of the litter on the farm, eliminates the biosecurity risk of the manure broker coming to the farm, and will also produce a new revenue stream, “which at the end of the day is our main goal.” In addition to sale of power, the process produces ash, which is sold as a soil amendment.
On-farm disposal helps the overall operation because they can now store and dispose of the manure when it is generated, which was a problem dealing with brokers because the manure sometimes became available when it was not optimal timing to land apply the product.
“There is not always a dependable market at a dependable price,” says Marsh. “We wanted to try to increase the value of the return of the product back to the farm.”
It took seven years for the poultry manure gasification concept to evolve from idea to reality. Marsh began talking about it in 2005 as he was working on his animal waste management plan. He says Burnette has been on the farm nearly every day of the week helping to inch the project forward. Other organizations such as the State of South Carolina, the federal Agriculture Department, and the Chesterfield Soil and Water Conservation District have also recognized the potential for poultry litter gasification and have provided financial support for the project. The Marshes have invested about 20 percent of the cost of the project themselves.
When Marsh and Burnette teamed up, Burnette was in the process of investigating the potential of a BGP brand gasifier in farm applications at North Carolina State University. The timing for launching the demonstration project was also good because the South Carolina’s Department of Agriculture had issued a request for grant proposals for alternative energy from biomass, which yielded a $200,000 grant.
So far, the project has produced power for sale to the local Lynches River Power cooperative intermittently and Marsh says he has yet to receive any large checks from the coop because of the small amount of power that the system has been able to generate consistently so far. However, he says that he has absolutely no regrets about becoming involved in the project, keeping in mind that it is a demonstration project aimed at investigating the technology, evaluating its potential, and discovering where there needs to be improvements. Burnette says that he is confident with potentially upgrading the capacity of the gasifier and a bit of tweaking, that the M. Marsh Farms poultry litter gasification system will be able to produce between 20 and 30 kilowatts of power consistently.
As a result of this project and the lessons learned, and with encouragement from FPPC, the State of South Carolina has submitted a proposal to develop a model to help guide the design performance characteristics of these gasification systems.
Nov. 16, 2012 - While Americans prepare to heat up millions of turkeys in their ovens on Thanksgiving, a geothermal energy system developed by a University of Missouri engineer will be keeping live turkeys toasty during the chilly autumn weather. In a prototype facility, environmentally and economically friendly geothermal energy is now keeping turkeys comfortable during both cold and hot weather. The geothermal system reduces utilities costs for the farmer, which could bring down the price of turkey meat and keep America as the world’s top turkey exporter. Using geothermal also improves the bird’s air quality.
“This is the first application of geothermal energy in a commercial livestock operation,” said Yun-Sheng Xu. “Our first set of performance data suggests that farmers could halve their heating and cooling costs. We have five units installed at the test farm. Other farmers could begin installing units on their turkey farms as soon as next year, for use next winter.”
Heating and cooling is important in turkey operations because the temperature in their enclosure must be kept at 90 degrees Fahrenheit while the birds are young, but lowered to 70 degrees F for older birds. Propane fuel for temperature control units can cost farmers tens of thousands of dollars per year. Propane burners in livestock barns produce humidity and carbon dioxide, which can smother the birds. Humidity in the bird barns moistens the foul waste from the fowl and leads to ammonia contamination of the air the birds breathe.
“Similar systems could be installed in other livestock operations,” said Xu. “It may work even better in a chicken coop, since they use solid walls as opposed to the curtains used to enclose turkey barns. Pig and cattle rearing facilities could benefit from the inexpensive hot water produced using a geothermal system. The system could even be scaled down to keep a doghouse comfortable in the backyard.”
Once a geothermal unit is installed, the operation and maintenance are much lower than operating a fossil fuel powered system. Geothermal systems use the constant 55 to 65 degrees F of the soil a few feet beneath the surface to regulate the temperature of a liquid flowing through buried tubing. Xu’s design is cheaper to install than other geothermal units. In his system, the tubing is buried horizontally, as opposed to other systems that rely on vertically placed tubes, which require expensive deep digging.
Using Xu’s system, a turkey farm can be both more economical and better for the environment than a farm run on fossil fuels. Geothermal energy produces no greenhouse gases and isn’t dependent on wind or sunlight. In addition to this, the system uses an artificial wetland above the buried tubes to further insulate them. The wetland provides critical habitat to amphibians, migratory birds and other wildlife.
For more information, please see this article in the MU Engineering magazine: http://engineering.missouri.edu/2012/06/laying-the-groundwork-for-agricultural-use-of-groundsource-energy/
Oct. 12, 2012. Dunboyne, Ireland - Speaking in Rome at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, Alltech vice president Aidan Connolly presented the results of the 2011 Alltech Feed Tonnage Survey along with results from previous surveys, showing a steady increase in feed production year on year.
The 2011 survey, covering 128 countries, put the total feed at 873 million tonnes. The 2012 survey, due to be published soon and covering more than 130 countries, is expected to show a further increase. For 2013, however, Connolly, presenting at the IFIF-FAO joint meeting, predicted a contraction in the region of 3 – 5%, driven by the following three factors:
- Continued global recession affecting protein consumption.
- The conversion of large amounts of feed stocks and materials into biofuels.
- Reduced feed supply due to a global drought, specifically in the US.
In addition, a mycotoxin survey, also carried out by Alltech, indicates that the surviving US harvest will be highly contaminated with up to 37 different mycotoxins, due to crop vulnerability from adverse weather conditions. The resulting percentage contraction in feed production will then be determined by the ability of integrated food producers, farmers and food companies to pass on the increased feed material cost to consumers without any loss in overall consumption levels.
“We are facing a completely new era for the agriculture industry where, for the first time in history, feed production for 2013 will be lower than for 2012, and it is clear that efficiency in converting feed into food will be more critical to food companies than ever,” said Connolly.
Two Prince Edward Island brothers, Ian and Doug Simmons, have a very distinctive, attention-getting style of managing their egg production facility.
They have adopted farming practices that decreased their light, carbon and land management footprints, and in doing so have garnered national recognition as leaders in environmental farm practices.
As an example, they are using the manure from their 14,000-bird layer operation to fertilize their acres to grow corn.
The Simmonses also have entered the Alternative Land Use Services program and built berms and channels to control water runoff from their farms, which produce a diverse range of commodities, from eggs to sweet corn.
They consider the constant wind on their Island home to be one of Prince Edward Island’s most valuable resources. Therefore, they bought a wind turbine in 2008 to provide green energy to the egg farm, garden centre, greenhouses and houses for their families.
Red Bridge Farms for egg production and Kool Breeze Farms for the garden centre and greenhouses, as well as their homes, were almost entirely self-sufficient in hydro during winter in the first few years, says Ian.
They needed only 720 kilowatts of purchased electricity from Dec. 15 to Jan. 14, and just 240 kilowatts from mid-November to Dec. 15 in 2008 and 2009, he says. Ian calculates that their first wind turbine should pay for itself within seven years, remarking, “since we now have a couple of years data collected; we can now see an approximate saving of $25 per day from our energy costs.”
He believes: “It is the cleanest energy you can produce. We have a lot of wind in P.E.I. and we should use our natural resources to the best of our ability.”
He hopes to add a second wind turbine to their farm later this year. “Hopefully, by December of 2012, we should be self-sufficient for power, or at least that is the goal,” he says. “We have expanded our operation over the past few years and need more power to meet our needs.”
A family affair
Ian and Doug are the third generation on the farmstead founded by their grandfather in 1900. They joined back in 1990 with their late father, Eldred, in a company they called Kool Breeze Farms. Their father was a mixed farmer with beef cattle, a few hens, hogs and crops.
They replaced the cattle with hogs, but in 2007 they stopped production and now concentrate on egg laying through Red Bridge Farms and their greenhouse operations at Kool Breeze Farms.
Although egg production provides a big contribution to their family enterprise, Ian Simmons admits that Kool Breeze Farms, with its 15 greenhouses, anchors their business.
The garden centre grew out of a small 12 foot x 16 foot greenhouse Ian started in the summer of 1986 to grow plants as a hobby, and it has continued to grow since then. Last year, they added a 15th greenhouse.
Doug, the older brother, started working full time on the farm in 1994, while Ian, 11 years later after managing a building supplies store, joined the farm full time in 1995.
The brothers have split up the work in their businesses in accordance with their talents and tastes. Ian handles administration, financial matters and marketing, while Doug oversees the daily farm work. Commenting on their business style, Ian observes: “We have a lot of discussions. Some people call them meetings.”
Their wives also are actively engaged in the farms; Doug’s wife, Christine, helps in the garden centre, while Ian’s wife, Tammy, does the bookkeeping. In addition to the Simmons families, Red Bridge and Kool Breeze Farms employ 12 people.
For over a decade, Red Bridge Farm has gradually grown. In 1996, the brothers converted a hog barn to install their first cage row for 2,500 layers, followed by a second cage row in 2001, so that by 2005 they had 10,000 birds in their flock. In 2010 they expanded again to house more than 14,000 layers.
Ian finds the most rewarding experience about egg farming is getting a new flock in during the fall. He feels there isn’t a much more rewarding experience than cracking the flock’s first eggs. Although they are the smallest, he believes they are the best tasting, but concedes that few others believe there is any correlation between egg size and taste.
“Everybody is going to say I am crazy,” he laughs.
Supply and demand
The Simmons brothers plan to approach the future with the environment in mind. “People want a more green type of product,” says Ian.
Regarding the future of the Canadian egg industry, Ian thinks its biggest challenge could be the World trade Organization negotiations that threaten the Canadian supply management system.
“If that is lost; egg farmers will be asking the government for handouts like other non-supply managed commodities, which is something I don’t want to do.”
As members of the Prince Edward Island Federation of Agriculture and the Summerside Chamber of Commerce, Ian says that the business philosophy of Red Bridge and Kool Breeze Farms is to give back to the community on a regular basis.
Every fall, Ian, Doug, their families and their employees sponsor a free community scarecrow contest with the help of their local suppliers and the local Lions Club.
Ian estimates about 3,000 people visit Kool Breeze Farms to see the scarecrow entries, displays of equipment, walk the straw maze, visit the egg information booth, enjoy the entertainment, take away recipes and agricultural brochures, and participate in wagon rides and children’s races.
“Families want things they can do together without it costing a lot of money. The annual scarecrow contest gives them just that opportunity. They can also take part in the People’s Choice Awards and vote for their favourite scarecrow or see how a panel of judges rate the live scarecrows.”
In 2010, the Simmonses also teamed up with the Harbourfront Theatre to present a dramatic thriller in the Kool Breeze Farms cornfield as a fundraiser for the local theatre.
The brothers have been farming for decades, and show no sign of slowing down. Whatever they are doing, they are certainly setting the stage for many years of successful farming with family.
May 2, 2012, Grand Forks, ND - The Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) has announced that it will be leading a project, in partnership with DenYon Energy, LLC, and the U.S. Department of Energy, to perform testing in an advanced fixed-bed gasifier (AFBG) to convert poultry waste to energy and other value-added products. The proprietary technology has been licensed by the EERC Foundation to DenYon Energy for commercialization in the poultry industry.
The EERC will run several weeks of pilot-scale tests to determine the efficiency and performance of the system using poultry litter and other waste materials as fuel. The testing will determine what challenges need to be overcome to bring the waste-to-energy technology to the commercial marketplace.
“We are trying to achieve a complete solution for the poultry industry with this distributed energy technology,” said Nikhil Patel, Research Scientist, Project Manager, and inventor of the technology. “A distributed-scale energy and by-product recovery process is an emerging need in the poultry industry. This project can lead to environmental and economic sustainability by helping a major food processing industry eliminate waste and become more energy self-reliant. In essence, poultry farms around the globe could use their own waste to supply lower-cost energy to their operations and reduce disposal challenges.”
Poultry litter is a complex combustible mixture. The EERC’s AFBG system is capable of converting the litter into a clean and combustible mixture of gases, commonly known as synthetic gas, or syngas. The syngas can be used as a direct fuel for electricity and heat production. A farm generating 3000 tons a year of waste could produce about 280 kilowatts of electricity using an engine generator, enough to supply about 150 homes with their average annual electricity needs.
“In addition, the process can effectively recover by-products that may have unique applications within existing markets,” said Patel. “The gasification process can thus open up a new avenue to convert a potential disposal liability into an opportunity feedstock for all sizes of poultry farms.”
“One of the main strategic initiatives at the EERC is distributed generation projects like this one that provide practical, environmentally sound solutions for our client’s site-specific needs,” said EERC Director Gerald Groenewold.
About the EERC
The EERC is a research, development, demonstration, and commercialization facility recognized as one of the world’s leading developers of cleaner, more efficient energy technologies as well as environmental technologies to protect and clean our air, water, and soil. The EERC, a high-tech, nonprofit division of the University of North Dakota (UND), operates like a business and pursues an entrepreneurial, market-driven approach to research and development in order to successfully demonstrate and commercialize innovative technologies. See more at www.undeerc.org.
About DenYon Energy, LLC
DenYon Energy (www.denyon.com) is a Webster City, Iowa, company founded by turkey producer Dennis Weis to deliver an economically and environmentally sound solution to improve the handling and disposition of waste streams generated by poultry farming operations. Funded in part by a grant from the State of Iowa Power Fund, and joined in partnership with gasification technology/engineering company Frontline BioEnergy (www.frontlinebioenergy.com), DenYon Energy plans to commission its first demonstration system on the Weis family farm in 2013.
The plan by a company called EnergyWorks to build a $30 million thermal gasification plant near Gettysburg, Penn., to process manure generated by the state’s largest egg producer is one of those ideas that seems to have “can’t miss” written all over it.
The EnergyWorks plant is being built on a site adjacent to four Hillandale Farms egg-laying facilities located within the Susquehanna River basin, which is part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. It will produce syngas that will be used as a fuel source to generate steam to drive a turbine to produce just over three megawatts of electric power. The gasification process will also produce between 13,000 and 16,000 tons of ash byproduct annually that will be marketed as an animal feed supplement because of its beneficial mineral content. All told, the process will dispose of about 240 tons of poultry manure per day.
“We felt that manure land application was not the best avenue for a long-term use of manure,” says Ron Ballew, Hillandale Farms environmental manager. “Hillandale, being a progressive company, we were interested in looking at the green way of processing our manure. EnergyWorks seemed to have a plausible alternative to land application with long-term environmental benefits.”
In addition to generating marketable products and providing a long-term manure management solution for Hillandale Farms, it will also eliminate the potential nutrient runoff into the nearby Chesapeake Bay if it had been land applied as has been the conventional practice to this point.
“The water quality environmental benefits from this project are really extraordinary and I think it will demonstrate that, through technology, you can really transform animal agriculture and come up with a much more sustainable approach,” says Patrick Thompson, EnergyWorks CEO. Land-applied manure generated from the area’s agricultural operations is one of the causes of algae growth in the Chesapeake Bay, depleting oxygen in the water and creating marine “dead zones.” Since agriculture is the largest sector of Pennsylvania’s economy, the state is very interested in doing its part to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay.
However, the benefits of this manure gasifier project extend far beyond renewable energy and water quality. The project will also eliminate an attractive living environment for rodents and insects in manure storage sheds, resulting in greater food safety.
The project will reduce farm ammonia emissions by 50 percent, eliminate over 34,000 tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent greenhouse gases annually, reduce manure storage inventories by 97 percent, eliminate manure application on 23,000 acres of land, and achieve 3.5 to 4.4 percent of Pennsylvania’s 2025 goals of reducing nitrogen and phosphorus loading to Chesapeake Bay.
As yet another example of how advanced manure management technology delivers not only an environmental dividend but also a financial dividend to the farm, the gasifier simplifies farm operations. The poultry manure processing plant has been designed to process the entire amount of manure generated by the Hillandale egg-laying operation of five-million birds. The plant will provide a complete manure management solution to Hillandale Farms.
About half of the power generated by the plant will be supplied to Hillandale Farms. EnergyWorks will sell the surplus power to the public power grid through an electric distribution utility.
EnergyWorks plans to complete construction of the plant and begin operating by October 2012. The company is finalizing its financing for the project, which includes an investment by EnergyWorks, a federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grant, and repayable loans from the State of Pennsylvania.
In addition to marketing electricity and animal feed supplements, EnergyWorks is also actively marketing Nutrient Trading Credits that will be generated once the facility is operational. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has certified the facility as a nutrient credit generator with a projected annual capacity of one million nitrogen credits and 53,000 phosphorus credits, making it Pennsylvania’s largest certified credit generator.
“We are in discussions with several buyers now and there is a lot of interest in purchasing credits from a source like this because the credits that we are producing can be quantified and verified in real time,” says Thompson. “They are derived by measured amounts of nutrients that are kept out of the environment and that is very different from some of the other ways that people generate credits.”
Manure will be trucked on a just-in-time basis from storage facilities at each of Hillandale’s four egg-laying sites to the EnergyWorks plant. The live bottom trucks enter a building where they are scaled and the manure is dropped into a receiving bin below the floor.
“The manure is contained throughout the rest of the process in a closed system, generally at negative pressure to prevent any release of odors or dust to the environment,” says Thompson.
The waste material is just poultry manure, and does not include any other material used for bedding, such as wood chips or peanut husks. Other factors that work in EnergyWorks’ favor are the consistent feed regimen given to the birds by Hillandale Farms and the continuous manure collection system that allows EnergyWorks to retrieve the manure on a just-in-time basis. All these factors are important for the company to operate its gasifier as efficiently as possible and to maintain high and consistent quality in its animal feed supplement product.
From storage, the manure is conveyed into a drying system that aims for about 20 percent moisture content.
“We try to maintain a very consistent moisture level going into the gasification process,” says Thompson. “The more consistent the feedstock going into gasification, the more feasible it is to have a highly controlled gasification process.”
Once dried, the manure is fed into the thermal gasifier. Essentially what happens in the gasifier is that the remaining moisture is evaporated, the organic solids are converted into syngas, and ash containing the minerals is continuously conveyed to storage silos for regular shipments to buyers. The main physical difference with this gasifier compared to other staged combustion systems is that rather than stacking the components vertically as in a single box, the pieces are strung together horizontally to give EnergyWorks better process control.
“We have broken the process into multiple steps and in that way, we are able to use the equipment for each step of the process that is optimized for its function,” says Thompson. “We realized how important it was to control the process in order to control our mineral byproduct.”
The syngas produced by the gasifier is ducted to a thermal oxidizer, where it is ignited and burned. The heat generated from the combustion of the syngas heats water within a heat recovery boiler, providing superheated steam. It drives the power turbine. Some of the steam is also used in the drying system.
The ash is removed continually from the gasifier and placed in storage silos. Combustion gases produced by the process pass through a bag filtration system before being released into the atmosphere.
“We have an air quality permit and we expect this to be a very clean technology,” says Thompson. “The two main culprits of water pollution are nitrogen and phosphorus, and these thermal processes break down the polluting nitrogen compounds in the manure so that you are left with non-polluting nitrogen gas as the main constituent going out the stack. The phosphorus is almost entirely captured in the mineral product.”
He described the facility as more of a biorefinery than simply a renewable energy project because the most valuable commodity produced is not power but the mineral supplement. The world demand for phosphorus and potassium is increasing as the population increases and the demand for animal protein increases, which could lead to scarcity of these minerals. Through its gasification process, EnergyWorks is recovering and recycling these valuable nutrients.
EnergyWorks has more than 15 years’ experience in energy and infrastructure management, having owned and operated numerous energy facilities.
“We have worked extensively with industrial and commercial customers building, owning and operating energy infrastructure,” says Thompson. “In 2006, we began to look at taking this business model to the agricultural sector and building, owning and operating facilities using agricultural biomass as feedstock.” The pollutants are kept out of the environment, which, he adds, is a completely different approach than most manure management systems have taken in the past.
The company began in 1995 as a partnership between San Francisco-based Bechtel Corporation and a U.S. utility based in Portland, Ore., called Pacific Corporation. EnergyWorks began with the mission to build, own and operate facilities to distribute energy, working mainly in the international market. Its first project developments took place in Latin America, Brazil and Venezuela. The partnership was later involved in developments in Spain. It was purchased by a Spanish utility in 1999. What followed was considerable growth for the next two years with construction and operation of energy projects in Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Mexico and Spain. A reorganization of the company created an opportunity for a management buyout and it has been operating as a management-owned company since 2001. In 2003, EnergyWorks acquired the energy infrastructure for a large shopping complex in Pennsylvania and currently owns and operates the infrastructure to supply the energy needs of the complex. Since 2006, it has been investigating agricultural biomass and taking its energy business model to the agricultural sector in Pennsylvania.
The Hillandale project represents a template that EnergyWorks believes it can market with other major egg-laying operations.
“We are in discussions with others about similar projects, and we would like to build more of these,” says Thompson. “The market is huge. The egg-producing region mainly follows the grain belt in the United States from Iowa to Pennsylvania.”
In August 2010, British Columbia’s first biodigester began operating in Abbotsford – using, among other substrates, poultry litter. The B.C. government provided $1.5 million to assist in the development of the project (known as “Fraser Valley Biogas”) as a way to go beyond green electricity generation. “B.C.’s Clean Energy Act sets a target to ensure our electricity supply is 93 per cent renewable,” notes Sue Bonnyman, director of generation and regulation electricity policy at B.C.’s Ministry of Energy and Mines. “However, the current low electricity prices, due to B.C.’s very fine hydroelectric system, create challenges for a number of new or renewable technologies.” That’s one reason the province has made it possible for Fraser Valley Biogas to sell “biomethane” to the natural gas company Fortis, instead of using the digester’s biogas to make electricity.
Digester biogas must be “cleaned up” before it’s placed into any natural gas network (the biogas is then known as “biomethane”), and the scrubbing equipment required is costly. “Such a system thus only makes sense at larger-sized projects such as these, of at least one megawatt,” notes Matt Lensink, application manager with PlanET Biogas, the company that built Fraser Valley Biogas. (Another obvious limitation for digesters to sell biomethane is that they must also be located near a natural gas pipeline.) How many tonnes per day of dry or wet manure is required to run a one-megawatt system depends on the type of manure – and the type and amount of off-farm materials.
Fraser Valley Biogas uses liquid dairy cattle manure and solid poultry manure from four nearby farms, as well as a substantial amount of food industry byproduct. As the project is just beginning, Lensink says details are not available about things like how much poultry manure/litter is used per year, what overall percentage of digester feedstock comes from poultry litter, whether it’s placed directly in the digester after barn cleanout, and whether the farmer is compensated for the manure. However, no matter how much or how little manure is used at Fraser Valley Biogas, co-substrates are definitely needed for manure digesters to be economically viable, says CH-4 Biogas Inc. Systems Analyst Claire Allen. CH-Four has created a software program to analyze what amount of a given substrate, such as source-separated organics or fat/oil/grease, is advisable to add to what’s already present in a digester. The company has nine digester systems running in Canada, one in New York State and three more being constructed in Canada; they are all “combined heat & power” (CHP) systems, generating heat and electricity.
Unique to Canada
Fraser Valley Biogas is unique in Canada as an on-farm digester with biomethane being injected into the natural gas network. All others are at municipal sewage plants, landfills or food processing companies. Electrigaz Technologies Inc. president Eric Camirand notes that in Quebec the Ministry of Environment now subsidizes municipal biogas plants up to 66 per cent of capital costs, with the focus on injection of biomethane. Ontario is also looking at this concept; Electrigaz has done several studies for gas companies such as Union and Enbridge on scrubbing biogas and injection biomethane into their networks.
Digesters specifically for poultry litter
Biodigesters that run specifically on poultry manure are being investigated by Anna Crolla, a senior researcher at the Ontario Rural Wastewater Centre (located at the University of Guelph’s Alfred campus). The research project is being funded by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) and Natural Resources Canada-Canmet Energy. The anaerobic digestion process applicable to poultry manure is known as dry fermentation, Crolla explains. “It’s a process that can handle substrates with high solids content, greater than 25 per cent, whereas traditional digesters use wet fermentation with slurries containing solids contents lower than 15 per cent.” Dry fermentation is advantageous, Crolla notes, in that a smaller reactor is required compared to that needed for wet fermentation. The amount of effluent wastewater is lower as well, resulting in significantly reduced manure handling costs.
A dry fermentation digester usually consists of boxes into which the substrate is emptied through the use of wheel-loaders. After the boxes are sealed in an airtight fashion, the anaerobic digestion process begins. About three to four weeks later, most of the digested substrates are removed and the boxes are filled again (for higher efficiency, some of the residual fermented material with high concentrations of bacteria is left in the boxes).
However, there are a number of challenges to making dry fermentation of poultry manure work. Crolla explains that when poultry manure (which is rich in nitrogen) is anaerobically digested, the high solids content causes ammonia to accumulate, which slows the digestion down (and production of biogas) down. One way of dealing with this is co-digesting the poultry manure with carbon-rich substrates to increase the C:N ratio, so Crolla is studying how the addition of energy crops works to boost performance of a dry fermentation digester. “The energy crops that we’re studying will include corn silage, corn stover, wheat straw, switchgrass (non-leguminous) and, clover, alfalfa and soybean silages (leguminous),” Crolla notes. She began work on evaluating optimal C:N ratios, pH and moisture content, as well as studying the effects of ammonia accumulation on substrate digestibility, in September 2011.
Bench-scale digesters will be built this coming summer.
Another project in B.C.?
A major developer, builder, owner and operator of electrical power plants fuelled by poultry litter and other agricultural biomass is currently eyeing the Fraser Valley for a possible project. Pennsylvania-based Fibrowatt was founded in 2000 by the management team that built the world’s first three poultry- litter-fuelled power plants in the U.K. in the 1990s. These plants have converted more than seven million tons of poultry litter into more than four million megawatt-hours of electricity (serving about 150,000 homes) and 500,000 tons of ash fertilizer.
In 2007, Fibrowatt built the United States’ first poultry- litter-fuelled (about 50/50 chicken and turkey) power plant in Minnesota, a 55-MW facility that serves about 40,000 homes. The poultry litter is purchased from surrounding farms through long-term contracts and spot purchases, transported in tightly covered trucks and stored at negative pressure to prevent the escape of odours. Inside the power plant, the litter is burned at very high temperatures, heating water in a boiler to produce steam that drives a turbine. A large amount of ash is also produced.
“We sell 90 000 to 100 000 tons of ash a year to a fertilizer company,” says Jim Potter, president and COO of parent company Homeland Renewable Energy Inc. “The rating of the ash is 0-7-7 for NPK, as all the nitrogen in the litter is combusted into N2 gas.” (Note that by-products other than biogas that are created in Canadian digesters are also being used; the effluent is spread on fields, and the solids from the digester tank are used as cattle bedding.)
Will it work in Canada?
Although low electricity prices in B.C. pose a challenge to any Fibrowatt facility moving forward in that province, Potter says, “We hope that people will place a premium on the other services a project such as this can provide. Our plants offer an environmentally responsible and useful outlet for poultry litter in regions that produce more litter than can be utilized for land application. This enhances the sustainability of the poultry industry.” Fibrowatt is also pursuing projects in areas of the U.S. where excess nitrogen and phosphorus is being released into water sources, such as Chesapeake Bay.
March 15, 2010, Champaign, IL – “We use everything but the cackle” is an old adage that nicely captures the poultry industry’s approach to the efficient use of byproducts. That same attitude, according to the Poultry Science Association (PSA), is helping to drive recent work in converting recovered fat from poultry wastewater streams into an economically viable alternative fuel source for processors.
Participating in the effort is Dr. Brian Kiepper, Ph.D., an assistant professor and extension poultry scientist in the University of Georgia’s departments of poultry science and biological and agricultural engineering.
“Our focus has been on isolating fat from wastewater broiler processing facilities and then seeking the means to provide the integrator with the option of using the recovered fat, on-site, in whatever way yields the highest value,” said Dr. Kiepper.
One of those options is to use the recovered fat as a biofuel.
Waste fat, oil and grease (FOG) are major components of many food-processing wastewater streams, including poultry production. According to Dr. Kiepper, recaptured fat can be purified and then burned to heat water in a processing plant’s boilers. It can also be used to make biodiesel – an attractive option to have available, particularly when petroleum-based fuel prices are high.
Such uses can be very attractive economically for the processor, particularly when compared to the traditional means of disposing of offal by selling it to rendering facilities at approximately $0.03/lb, a rate which values the fat at $0.22/gal. By comparison, once purified, fat recaptured from food processing wastewater can be used instead of fuel oil, which is currently priced at around $2.00/gal, to fire a plant’s boilers. Dr. Kiepper estimates that recovering only 10% (a conservative number) of the 44.6 million gallons of fat produced in the state of Georgia each year by this method would result in an estimated annual savings of nearly $9 million on fuel-oil purchases.
Best Sources for FOG Extraction in a Processing Facility
In a recent study led by Dr. Kiepper, he and fellow researchers evaluated five poultry waste streams as potential sources of alternative fuel: float fat after primary screens, secondary screen offal, tertiary screen offal, chemical and non-chemical DAF (dissolved air flotation) skimmings. Of the five, float fat and secondary screen offal were shown to have the greatest potential for further refinement and use as biofuel, given their relative ease of extraction and recovery efficiency.
Because secondary screen offal is already collected and (often inefficiently) belt- or screw-conveyed to offal trucks, modifying the collection system to divert the offal to a FOG extraction-and-purification system should, according to the researchers, be readily feasible. On the other hand, because float fat is harder to collect because of its tendency to gather in equalization pits and transfer troughs, accommodating float-fat collection for alternative fuels processing would likely require new systems to be installed in most facilities.
“Our ultimate goal,” said Dr. Kiepper, “is to develop a self-contained, low-temperature fat extraction and purification system that can be installed on-site at food processing plants to produce, in an economically feasible way, a usable quantity of fuel-quality fat for processors. This will generate greater benefits for processors by recovering more of the valuable byproducts generated during processing that are now lost in the wastewater stream. It also has the potential to create a very green loop in the processing environment, with fat gathered from birds processed in the morning possibly being used to heat the plant’s boilers during processing that same afternoon.”
Said PSA President Dr. Sally Noll: “Dr. Kiepper’s work may help an already efficient industry do an even better job of lowering processing costs by creating new value-added products from the existing byproducts stream.”
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