Where there are large groups of farm animals, there are large piles of manure. The United States Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 1.3 million U.S. farms hold livestock. Of those, 238,000 farms are considered feeding operations, which generate more than 500 million tons of animal waste per year. That waste can pose public health and environmental risks if proper disposal isn’t taking place.
Companies and farmers across the globe are using animal waste to produce fuel, fertilizers and energy.
Here are three examples.
Bio-Adhesive Alliance is making shingles from manure
North Carolina-based Bio-Adhesive Alliance Inc. is working on a project to advance a technology for treating old, tear-off roofing shingles with processed swine manure, producing what it says is a green, low-cost, durable material for pavement construction, thus reducing landfill and manure wastes.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last week awarded the company $100,000 for the project as part of $2 million it’s giving to small businesses for developing and commercializing technologies that tackle critical environmental problems like excessive amounts of manure.
“Small businesses today are revolutionizing the tools available to protect human health and the environment,” said EPA Science Advisor and Deputy Assistant Administrator Thomas A. Burke. “Their technologies are creating new innovative solutions while ensuring a commitment to environmental sustainability.”
California has awarded grants to install digesters and reduce greenhouse gas emissions as five dairy operations
The CDLA recently awarded $11.1 million in grants to five California dairy operations for implementing digester technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from manure. Financial assistance for the installation of dairy digesters comes from the state’s cap-and-trade program for combating climate change.
Dairy manure produces methane when it decomposes. Dairy digesters collect manure in tanks or lagoons for decomposition in an oxygen-free environment and then capture the methane produced so none escapes into the atmosphere. That methane can then be used as a biofuel to power generators that produce electricity or fuel natural gas vehicles.
Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, trapping more than 80 times as much heat in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide over a short-term (20-year) period. These dairy digester projects support California’s efforts to reduce methane and other short-lived climate pollutants, helping meet the state’s goal of reducing greenhouse gases to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, as recently called for by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.
Among the award recipients is the Open Sky Ranch in Riverdale, for a dairy digester project recommissioning a covered lagoon digester. The biogas will be used to produce approximately 6.4 million kilowatt hours of renewable electricity. CDFA awarded the farm nearly $1 million toward its project.
All recipients of the CDFA grants will provide an estimated $18.9 million in matching funds for
Cargill will use poultry manure to produce energy
Cargill European poultry business will convert poultry manure to energy in a 20-year agreement with the Irish Agri-Tech company, BHSL.
BHSL will use an estimated 3,500 tons of poultry manure annually to generate heat and electricity by building a 1 megawatt plant on the Shobdon and Hangar poultry farm in Herefordshire, UK.
John Reed, Agriculture Director, Cargill Meats Europe, said the company selected BHSL for a number of reasons. Litter from the farms will provide a consistent, dry and renewable fuel source and the enclosed manure handling system will help to improve biosecurity on and off farm. The system also carries significant environmental benefits, which include low carbon production, reduced ammonia emissions and ground water protection.
The conversion of manure to energy presents a transformational opportunity to the poultry industry – not just in the UK but globally, said BHSL CEO Declan O’Connor, in a press release.
“Cargill will be the first to leverage the proven benefits of using poultry manure on the farm to generate heat and electricity,” O’Connor. “This is a genuine game changer for the poultry industry, for the first time the by-product (manure) from chicken production is used as a low cost energy source to grow chickens sustainably and efficiently.”