Turning Poultry Manure Into Energy
By Treena Hein
By Treena Hein
In order to better dispose of manure and slaughter waste, ACA
Co-operative Ltd., a large egg and broiler producer and processor in
Kentville, N.S., has purchased a pyrolysis-gasification unit from
Advanced BioRefinery Inc. of Ottawa.
In order to better dispose of manure and slaughter waste, ACA Co-operative Ltd., a large egg and broiler producer and processor in Kentville, N.S., has purchased a pyrolysis-gasification unit from Advanced BioRefinery Inc. of Ottawa. ACA markets 45 poultry products and 13 egg products, many under the Eden Valley Farms brand.
Gerry Kennie, ACA’s Vice President-Agriculture, says the technology, which will be delivered at the end of the year, will address some long-standing environmental issues. “We initially started looking at better ways to dispose of waste products such as poultry manure and plant offal,” he says. “It is getting more difficult to put manure on some of the soils in this area as they are becoming saturated from many years of animal manure being applied to them. Environmental Farm Plans are being completed for farming operations and these identify the need for sustainable methods of disposal of livestock manure.”
He says Advanced BioRefinery’s system attracted ACA because it is designed specifically for poultry operations. “This [technology] will reduce the amount of poultry manure being applied to agricultural lands, which is a positive from an environmental aspect. It will also provide a product which can be burned in a modified furnace to provide heat for buildings.” He concludes, “Our goal is to work with this relatively new technology and further develop it to reduce our dependency on the practice of putting animal manures on farmland that cannot support it while at the same time, provide a product that can be used in a commercial application of supplying heat.”
Peter Fransham, president of Advanced BioRefinery Inc., says nutrient management concerns and providing income from a perceived waste are the major reasons why his company has researched and developed this technology. It evolved from previous work with wood-based systems. He says “There is increasing competition for Canadian farmers… Energy prices are increasing, especially for the chicken broiler industry, because the barns must be ventilated as the chickens mature, they must be kept warm in the winter, day-old chicks must be kept warm, etc.” In addition to the increasing cost of power, Fransham predicts that another competitive challenge for poultry producers may result from the possible future removal of Canadian marketing boards, which will mean Canadian broiler farmers may be forced to compete internationally with very large companies.
His company’s pyrolysis-gasification technology will therefore help poultry farmers remain competitive.
However, Fransham stresses that there is little use in new agricultural technology that requires a major ongoing time and energy investment by producers. He says “The goal of the project is to turn a perceived waste into a revenue stream with cost return achieved in five years or less with minimal work and time investment for the farmer on a permanent basis.” Fransham believes “Combined pyrolysis and gasifier systems are coming to economic feasibility for farmers.”
The pyrolysis/gasification system is being constructed right now in Ottawa. Its cost will come in under $150,000. It measures about 15 feet by 30 feet. Fransham says this size of system is suitable for an average-sized operation of 70-100 000 birds. Partners in the research and development have included Agriculture and Agri-food Canada, Natural Resources Canada, the National Research Council, Laplante Farms and Verido Ltd. The Farm Pilot Project Corpora-tion in Florida provided the initial research funding.
HOW THE TECHNOLOGY WORKS
The first step involves placing the litter-manure into a hopper, where its moisture content is brought down from about 25 to 10 per cent. The material is then placed in the reactor, where it undergoes pyrolysis (rapid heating in an oxygen-depleted environment). The products are char, gas and bio-oil. Fransham says it is useful to think of the system as a “distillation process. We’re distilling all these chemicals that become a fuel.”
The three products are separated very quickly. Fransham says “The bio-oil and gas come off together, and condense out of a pipe into a liquid. What doesn’t condense is the gas (methane, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen), which is used now to generate process heat in a small furnace.” This heat is also used for initial moisture removal.
The char powder that is left over is separated, stabilized and placed into barrels or bags. It is intended for use
as an income-generating fertilizer, boasting fertilizer proportions of 4, 4, 5.
In the second step, the bio-oil, which has a similar heating value to propane, is gasified into mostly CO and H and burned in a diesel generator engine. Fransham says “The combustion of this gas produces all the heat and power needed on the poultry farm.” He notes 50 per cent of litter-manure put into the system can be turned into bio-oil at 80 per cent efficiency.
Besides providing ongoing nutrient management, the system provides income in a flexible manner. Fransham says “The advantage of our process is that we can adjust the unit so that it produces the maximum amount of the maximum value product. If char is providing the best profit at the time, we can maximize char output. By tailoring these things within a certain range, we can provide the maximum return for the individual farmer.” This tailoring is mostly accomplished through temperature control. “In a general sense,” says Fransham, “the higher the temperature, the more gas we produce.”
Advanced BioRefinery is also working on other systems designed to maximize farmer income from agricultural waste. Fransham says his company is partnering with Agriculture Canada scientists to refine methods for extracting phosphorus and other high-value chemicals from bio-oil prior to burning. “The world supply of phosphorus is limited,” he says. “There is also potential for pharmaceutical products to be derived.”
The company also very recently got approval to build a 50 tonne per day unit in Saskatchewan in partnership with Titan Clean Energy Projects, with government support. The unit will accept oat hulls, and the fuels generated will be sent to mining operations in the northern region of the province to offset fuel requirements there. n