Value of Manure Library for Educators and Advisors


Manure is a resource that comes with many benefits and challenges.  This library is designed to provide educators and advisors with access to recommended resources that will assist you in your discussion of manure’s benefits and challenges.  Educators, please feel free to share and re-purpose educational products in this library with local audiences. Advisors, the library’s resources shall provide you with decision tools and educational products for enriching your discussions with clientele and rural community residents.

How to find materials

For those seeking specific resources, materials are organized visually by topic area and type of media. For those that would rather search materials more linearly, there is a grid version available.

In all views, there is a search button in the top right corner that looks like a magnifying glass and an expansion button that looks like two outward pointing arrows to view in full screen.

By Topic Area

Preview of manure value library database sorted by topic.
    • Manure as a fertilizer
    • Manure economics
    • Soil quality/health effects
    • Water quality effects
    • Use in organic systems
    • Neighbors
    • Regulatory concerns
    • Logistics

By Media Type:

Preview of manure value library database sorted by purpose.
    • Social media
    • Short news articles and web pages
    • Educational publications
    • Decision support tools
    • Recommended research articles


Instructions for Re-purposing Educational Content

Our team encourages and welcomes educators and advisors re-purposing of many of the social media and web page/news article resources found in this library.  Would these resources be helpful to you for Tweeting to your followers? Assembling talking points for a local radio presentation or discussion with a county board?  Or adding an article to local print media or your blog?

Example of social media graphic to be re-purposed.
    • Twitter Posts:  A broad range of Twitter posts, graphics with an educational message and short text introduction, are included for use with your social media connections.  Please re-purpose these for your local use. We ask that you maintain the “N Extension” and “WSA” logos in your re-purposed post.  You may replace the “Manure Happens. Take Credit” caption and the “Learn more at: http:// ________”  with an appropriate recognition of your organization and/or a web page that you would like to promote.
    • Web Page/News Articles:  Many of these library products can be repurposed for a variety of local uses.  News articles and web pages may be revised to add local information with the new authors name included if the original authors continue to be listed.
    • Any Educational Products:  Any of the Library resources may be used as talking points for a local radio broadcast or community group presentations. Please recognize the original authors and resource title in your presentation.


Is something missing from our library?

We welcome your suggestions of resources that you have found beneficial in your educational or advisory role.  Please email any of the project team members with your suggestions or submit them via our google form for our consideration.


The project team assembling this product includes Amy Schmidt, Leslie Johnson, and Rick Koelsch, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Erin Cortus and Melissa Wilson, University of Minnesota; and Dan Andersen, Iowa State University.  These resources represent our recommendations for discussing the Value of Manure.

This product was assembled with financial assistance from the North Central Region Sustainable Agricultural Research and Education program.  NCR-SARE is one of four regional offices that run the USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, a nationwide grants and education program to advance sustainable innovation to American agriculture.

Transforming Manure from ‘Waste’ to ‘Worth’ to Support Responsible Livestock Production in Nebraska

The University of Nebraska – Lincoln (UNL) Animal Manure Management (AMM) Team has supported the environmental stewardship goals of Nebraska’s livestock and crop producers for many years using multiple traditional delivery methods, but recently recognized the need to more actively engage with clientele through content marketing activities. A current programming effort by the AMM Team to increase efficient manure utilization on cropland in the vicinity of intensive livestock production is the foundation for an innovative social media campaign.

What did we do?

content marketing plan
Figure 1. Content marketing plan to direct traffic to the AMM Team website.

While traditional extension outputs remain valuable for supporting the needs of clientele who actively seek out information on a topic, “content marketing” is a strategic tactic by which information is shared to not only attract and retain an audience, but to drive impactful action. Social media platforms are popular tools for delivery of current, research-based information to clientele; a key barrier to effectively using social media for content marketing by the project directors has been time. For instance, using Twitter efficiently requires regular attention to deliver messages frequently enough to remain relevant and to do so at times when user activity characteristics demonstrate the greatest opportunity for posts to be viewed and disseminated. Because this proved to be a challenge, a content marketing plan (Figure 1) was initiated using “waste to worth” as the topic of focus.

Three major components were identified as being critical to the success of the project (Figure 2): design of high-quality graphics that are tied to online content and resources and are suitable for use on Twitter, Facebook, or other social media platforms; development of a content library containing packaged content (graphic + suggested text for social media posts) that is easy to navigate and available for partners to access and utilize; and development  of a communication network capable of reaching a broad audience.


circles containing graphics, content library and communication network
Figure 2. Components identified for successful content marketing effort.

An undergraduate Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication (ALEC) student was recruited to support graphical content development using three basic guidelines: 1) Eye-catching but simple designs; 2) Associated with existing content hosted online; and 3) Accurate information illustrated was utilized by team members  to design, review and edit social media content (Figure 3).

Content Library

Completed graphics are downloaded from Canva as portable network graphics (*.png) and saved to Box folders, by topic, using a descriptive title. When posting to social media, hashtags, mentions and links to other content help (a) reach users who are following a specific topic (e.g. #manure), (b) recognize someone related to the post (e.g. @TheManureLady) and (c) direct users to more content related to the graphic (e.g. URL to online article). For our content library, each graphic is accompanied by a file containing recommended text (Figure 4) that can be copied and pasted into Twitter or Facebook.

content example graphics
Figure 3. Graphical content examples for the “waste to worth” project
content example with sample text
Figure 4. Sample text to accompany a related image when posting on social media

Communication Network

content distribution network diagram
Figure 5. Content distribution network diagram.

Disseminating our messages through outlets outside the University was identified as a critical aspect of achieving the widespread message delivery that was desired. As such, agricultural partners throughout Nebraska were asked to help “spread the word about spreading manure” by utilizing our content in their social media outputs, electronic newsletters, printed publications, etc. Partners in this project include nearly 30 livestock and crop commodity organizations, media outlets, agricultural business organizations, and state agencies in Nebraska (Figure 5).

The effort to distribute content through the established communication network was launched in September 2018. Each month, three to four graphics with accompanying text are placed in a Box file to which all partners in the distribution network have access. Partners are notified via e-mail when new content is released. Folders containing prior months’ releases remain available to allow partners to re-distribute previous content if they wish.

What we have learned?

Since launching, 34 partnering organizations (Figure 6) have helped disseminate content to 50,000+ producers, advisors, allied industry members, and related professionals each month. Invited media appearances (radio and television) by team members have increased substantially in the past six months. For instance, the Nebraska Pork Producers Association hosts a weekly “Pork Industry Update” on a radio station that is part of the Rural Radio Network. Team members have recorded numerous interviews for broadcast during this weekly programming spot.

parter organizations
Figure 6. Partner organizations contributing to content distribution.

Page views within the AMM Team’s website ( increased by 139% from the fourth quarter of 2017 to the fourth quarter of 2018. Additional analytics are being collected to better define routes by which traffic is reaching the AMM Team’s website.

Future Plans

A survey is being prepared for distribution to audiences targeted through this project to assess impacts of this effort on changes in knowledge and behavior related to responsible use of manure in cropping systems, recognition of the AMM Team as a trusted source for manure and nutrient management information in Nebraska, and quality of AMM Team outputs.


Amy Millmier Schmidt, Associate Professor, Biological Systems Engineering and Animal Science, University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL),


Rick Koelsch, Professor, Biological Systems Engineering and Animal Science, UNL

Abby Steffen, UG Student, Ag Leadership, Education and Communication, UNL

Additional Information

Sign up for monthly notifications about new content from the UNL Animal Manure Management team at Follow team members and the AMM Team.

Animal Manure Management Team    Amy Schmidt

Twitter: @UNLamm    Twitter: @TheManureLady

Facebook:    Facebook:


Rick Koelsch

Twitter: @NebraskaRick


Funding sources supporting this effort include We Support Ag, the Nebraska Environmental Trust, and the North Central Sustainable Agricultural Research and Education (NC-SARE) program.



The authors are solely responsible for the content of these proceedings. The technical information does not necessarily reflect the official position of the sponsoring agencies or institutions represented by planning committee members, and inclusion and distribution herein does not constitute an endorsement of views expressed by the same. Printed materials included herein are not refereed publications. Citations should appear as follows. EXAMPLE: Authors. 2019. Title of presentation. Waste to Worth. Minneapolis, MN. April 22-26, 2019. URL of this page. Accessed on: today’s date.

Performance and Payback of a Solid-Liquid Separation Finishing Barn

A 1200-hd solid-liquid separation finishing barn was built in Missouri for improved manure management and air quality. The facility has a wide V-shaped gutter below slatted flooring (Figure 1), which continuously drains away liquids.  A scraper is used to collect the solids, which are then managed separately. Field sampling and research were conducted to evaluate the performance of the solid-liquid separation finishing barn in improving manure nutrient management, potential nutrient/water recycling based on filtration, and barn construction and operating costs.

What did we do?

The barn (built in 2010) was closely monitored for manure production and nutrient content, and operating costs. Laboratory-scale pretreatments and filtrations were conducted to evaluate the practicality of nutrient/water recycling from the separated liquid manure.

What we have learned?

The daily liquid manure production averaged 885 gallons and daily solid manure production averaged 299 gallons (about ¼ of the total manure volume). The separation system removed 61.7%, 41.7%, 74.8%, and 46.2% of the total manure nitrogen, ammonium, phosphorous, and potassium, respectively, with the collected solids. The filtration results indicate that the microfiltration and reverse osmosis were time and energy intensive, which was probably constrained by the relatively small-scale unit (inefficient compared with larger units), small filter surface area, and high concentration of dissolved nutrients.

The construction cost of the solid-liquid separation barn with solid manure storage was $323,000 ($269/pig-space, in 2010), 17% higher compared to the traditional deep-pit barn ($175 to $230/pig-space). It is likely that the solid-liquid separation barn will become less expensive when more barns of similar design are built, and the conveyor system can be improved and simplified for less maintenance and lower costs. Additional electricity cost was $331 per year for daily operation of the scraper and conveyor systems, and pumping the separated liquid manure fraction. The additional maintenance cost of the scraper system averaged $1,673/year. A net gain of $3,975/year was observed when considering the value of the separated manures, cost of land application, and annual maintenance cost.

A payback period of 15.1 years on the additional investment was estimated, when compared with the popular deep-pit operation. However, the payback period can be reduced by many factors, including improved conveyor system and growing popularity of the barn design in an area. When the distance to transport the slurry manure was increased from 5 miles to 7.5 and 10 miles, the payback periods became 12.7 and 11.3 years, respectively. The solid-liquid separation barn was shown to have better air quality when compared with deep-pit barns based on monthly measurements of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide concentrations.

Impacts/Implications of the Research.  

This study monitored the manure production of a commercial finishing barn utilizing a solid-liquid separation system. Overall, we can conclude that the final results obtained from monitoring the total manure production rate, air quality exiting the barn fans, and the pig growth rates made sense relative to other comparative sources. The overall results indicate that the barn design can attain some valuable benefits from separating the solid and liquid streams.  About a quarter of the manure volume was collected and managed as nutrient-dense solid manure (defined as ‘stackable’). The solid manure held 80% of the total solids and nearly 75% of the phosphorous.

Take Home Message

There are alternative barn designs and manure management systems (relative to lagoon and deep-pit operations) that should be considered when planning for a new operation or expansion. Considerations should include the need to better manage manure nutrients and improve air quality for human and animal occupants.

Future plans

Further consideration of the manure management, including work load and major- and micro-nutrients need to be furthered analyzed. Future research may look into application of a larger-scale crossflow system to see if nutrient removal and flow rates can be improved significantly. Future research may focus on improving manure filtrate flow, and determining the cost of installation and upkeep for a filtration unit that can operate at the level of a farm operation. Extrapolating the costs off of bench-scale model does not seem remotely indicative of the true cost, due to improved efficiency and power of larger unit.


Lim, Teng (Associate Professor and Extension Agricultural Engineer, Agricultural Systems Management, University of Missouri,

Brown, Joshua (University of Missouri); Zulovich, Joseph (University of Missouri); and Massey, Ray (University of Missouri).

Additional information

Please visit for the final report, and ASABE Paper No. 1801273 (St. Joseph, Mich.: ASABE. DOI: for more information.


Funding for this research project was provided by the National Pork Checkoff and University of Missouri Extension.

Figure 1. The V-shape pit with automated manure scraper and trough at center (Left), and gravity draining of liquid manure from the trough to the sump pit (Right).
Figure 1. The V-shape pit with automated manure scraper and trough at center (Left), and gravity draining of liquid manure from the trough to the sump pit (Right).
Figure 2. The storage shed for solid manure to the north of the modified scraper barn (Left), and stored solid manure (Right).
Figure 2. The storage shed for solid manure to the north of the modified scraper barn (Left), and stored solid manure (Right).

The authors are solely responsible for the content of these proceedings. The technical information does not necessarily reflect the official position of the sponsoring agencies or institutions represented by planning committee members, and inclusion and distribution herein does not constitute an endorsement of views expressed by the same. Printed materials included herein are not refereed publications. Citations should appear as follows. EXAMPLE: Authors. 2019. Title of presentation. Waste to Worth. Minneapolis, MN. April 22-26, 2019. URL of this page. Accessed on: today’s date.

Energy Consumption in Commercial Midwest Dairy Barns

Consumer interest and concern is growing in regards to sustainability of livestock production systems. Demand for reduced carbon emissions within agricultural systems has been growing along with increasing demand for food. Baseline fossil fuel consumption within agricultural systems, including dairy production, is scarce. Therefore, there is a need to discern where and how fossil energy is being used within dairy production systems. Determining baseline energy use is the first step in investigating the demand for a reduced carbon footprint within dairy production systems. The objective of this study was to measure total electricity use and determine specific areas of high energy consumption in commercial dairy barns located in the Upper Midwest of the United States.

What did we do?

Four commercial dairy barns representative of typical Midwest dairy farms and located in west central Minnesota were evaluated in the study. The dairy farms were: 1) a 9,500 cow cross-ventilated barn with a rotary milking parlor (Farm A), 2) a 300 cow naturally-ventilated barn with stirring fans for air movement and 6 automatic milking systems (Farm B), 3) a 200 cow naturally-ventilated barn with stirring fans for air movement and a parabone milking parlor (Farm C), and 4) a 400 cow naturally-ventilated barn with stirring fans for air movement and a parallel milking parlor (Farm D).

Electricity use was monitored from July 2018 to December 2018 with a goal of collecting two years of total energy usage. Two-hundred ninety-two  electric loads across the four farms were monitored on the farm side of the electric utility meter to evaluate areas of highest energy usage (Figure 1). Some of the monitored electric loads included freestall barn fans, water heaters, compressors, chillers, manure pumps, and pressure washers. The electric loads were monitored by data loggers (eGauge, Boulder, CO) and electric current sensors at the circuit panels. Electrical use data (kWh) of each load were collected and analyzed on a monthly basis. In addition, monthly inventory of cows on farm, cows milked per day, and milk production was recorded. Bulk tank production records (milk, fat percentage, protein percentage, and somatic cell count) were also recorded.

Figure 1. Data loggers with electric current sensors installed on farm circuit panel boxes.
Figure 1. Data loggers with electric current sensors installed on farm circuit panel boxes.

What have we learned?

Based on preliminary results, fans were the largest electrical load across all four dairy farms. Fan usage during the summer ranged from 36 to 59% of the total electricity measured (Figure 2). Regular maintenance, proper control settings, design, sizing, location, selecting energy efficient fans and motors, and other factors all could influence the efficiency of these ventilation/cooling systems. Farms B, C, and D had greater electricity usage across all months for milk cooling (compressors and chillers) than Farm A. This is likely due to the fact that Farm A does not utilize bulk tanks to store milk, but instead, milk is directly loaded onto bulk milk trucks. Lighting use ranged from 7 to 21% of the total electricity use measured across the four farms, which suggests there is potential to reduce energy usage by upgrading to more efficient lighting systems such as LEDs. For heating, energy usage includes water heating, heating units in the milking parlor or work rooms, waterer heating elements, and generator engine block heaters. Average monthly heating use ranged from 5% of electricity used in Farm A to 32% of electricity used in Farm C.

Figure 2. The average monthly electrical use measured by data loggers and the percent used by each electrical load category. The average monthly total electricity in kWh is displayed at the top of each bar.
Figure 2. The average monthly electrical use measured by data loggers and the percent used by each electrical load category. The average monthly total electricity in kWh is displayed at the top of each bar.

Future plans

Based on the preliminary analysis, clean energy alternatives and energy-optimized farms will be modeled as clean energy alternatives for Minnesota dairy facilities. An economic analysis will also be conducted on the clean energy alternatives and farms. Potential on-site renewable electric generation may supply some or the entire electric load allowing the buildings to approach net-zero (producing as much energy as is used).

The results of this study provide recent energy usage for farm energy benchmarks, agricultural energy policy, economic evaluations, and further research into dairy farm energy studies. The data will also be useful to producers who are searching for areas for reduced energy usage in their own production systems. Improving the efficiency of electrical components in dairy operations could provide opportunities to improve the carbon footprint of dairy production systems.


Kirsten Sharpe, Animal Science Graduate Research Assistant, West Central Research and Outreach Center (WCROC), Morris, MN,

Bradley J. Heins, Associate Professor, Dairy Management, WCROC, Morris, MN

Eric Buchanan, Renewable Energy Scientist, WCROC, Morris, MN

Michael Cotter, Renewable Energy Researcher, WCROC, Morris, MN

Michael Reese, Director of Renewable Energy, WCROC, Morris, MN

Additional information

The West Central Research and Outreach Center (WCROC) has developed a Dairy Energy Efficiency Decision Tool to help provide producers a way to estimate possible energy and costs savings from equipment efficiency upgrades. The tool can be used to evaluate areas of a dairy farm that may provide the best return on investment for energy usage. Furthermore, a guidebook has been developed for Optimizing Energy Systems for Midwest Dairy Production. This guidebook provides additional information about energy usage issues as well as a decision tool. More information may be found at


The funding for this project was provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR).

The authors are solely responsible for the content of these proceedings. The technical information does not necessarily reflect the official position of the sponsoring agencies or institutions represented by planning committee members, and inclusion and distribution herein does not constitute an endorsement of views expressed by the same. Printed materials included herein are not refereed publications. Citations should appear as follows. EXAMPLE: Authors. 2019. Title of presentation. Waste to Worth. Minneapolis, MN. April 22-26, 2019. URL of this page. Accessed on: today’s date.

Cataloging and Evaluating Dairy Manure Treatment Technologies

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To provide a forum for the introduction and evaluation of technologies that can treat dairy manure to the dairy farming community and the vendors that provide these technologies.

What Did We Do?

Newtrient has developed an on-line catalog of technologies that includes information on over 150 technologies and the companies that produce them as well as the Newtrient 9-Point scoring system and specific comments on each technology by the Newtrient Technology Advancement Team.

What Have We Learned?

Our interaction with both dairy farmers and technology vendors has taught us that there is a need for accurate information on the technologies that exist, where they are used, where are they effective and how they can help the modern dairy farm address serious issues in an economical and environmentally sustainable way.

Future Plans

Future plans include expansion of the catalog to include the impact of the technology types on key environmental areas and expansion to make the application of the technologies on-farm easier to conceptualize.

Corresponding author name, title, affiliation  

Mark Stoermann & Newtrient Technology Advancement Team

Corresponding author email address

Other Authors 

Garth Boyd, Context

Craig Frear, Regenis

Curt Gooch, Cornell University

Danna Kirk, Michigan State University

Mark Stoermann, Newtrient

Additional Information


All of the vendors and technology providers that have worked with us to make this effort a success need to be recognized for their sincere effort to help this to be a useful and informational resource.

The authors are solely responsible for the content of these proceedings. The technical information does not necessarily reflect the official position of the sponsoring agencies or institutions represented by planning committee members, and inclusion and distribution herein does not constitute an endorsement of views expressed by the same. Printed materials included herein are not refereed publications. Citations should appear as follows. EXAMPLE: Authors. 2017. Title of presentation. Waste to Worth: Spreading Science and Solutions. Cary, NC. April 18-21, 2017. URL of this page. Accessed on: today’s date.

Early Stage Economic Modeling of Gas-permeable Membrane Technology Applied to Swine Manure after Anaerobic Digestion


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The objective of this study was to conduct cost versus design analysis for a gas-permeable membrane system using data from a small pilot scale experiment and projection of cost versus design to farm scale.

What did we do?

This reported work includes two major steps. First, the design of a small pilot scale batch gas-permeable membrane system was scaled to process effluent volumes from a commercial pig farm. The scaling design maintained critical process operating parameters of the experimental membrane system and introduced assumed features to characterize effluent flows from a working pig farm with an anaerobic digester. The scaled up design was characterized in a spreadsheet model. The second step was economic analysis of the scaled-up model of the membrane system. The objective of the economic analysis was to create information to guide subsequent experiments towards commercial development of the technology. The economic analysis was performed by introducing market prices for components, inputs, and products and then calculating effects on costs and on performance of changes in design parameters.

What have we learned?

First, baseline costs and revenues were calculated for the scaled up experimental design. The commercial scale design of a modular gas-permeable membrane system was modeled to treat 6 days accumulation of digester effluent at 16,300 gallons per day resulting in a batch capacity of 97,800 gallons. The modeled large scale system is 19,485 times the capacity of the 5.02 gallon experimental pilot system. The installation cost of the commercial scale system was estimated to be $903,333 for a system treating 97,800 gallon batches over a 6 day period.

At $1/linear ft. and 7.9 ft./gallon of batch capacity, membrane material makes up 86% of the estimated installation cost. Other installation costs include PVC pipes, pumps, aerators, tanks, and other parts and equipment used to assemble the system, as well as water to dilute the concentrated acid prior to initiating circulation. The annual operating cost of the system includes concentrated sulfuric acid consumed in the process. Using limited experimental data on this point, we assume a rate of 0.009 gallons (0.133 pounds) of acid per gallon of digester effluent treated. At a price of $1.11 per gallon ($0.073/lb) of acid, acid cost per gallon of effluent treated is $0.010. Other operating costs include electric power, labor, and repairs and maintenance of the membrane and other parts of the system estimated at 2% of investment cost for non-moving parts and 6% of investment for moving parts. Potential annual revenue from the system includes the value of ammonium sulfate produced. Over the 6 day treatment period, if 85% of the TAN-N in the digester effluent is removed by the process, and if 100% of the TAN-N removed is recovered as ammonium sulfate, and given the TAN-N concentration in digester effluent was 0.012 pounds per gallon (1401 mg/l), then 0.01 pounds of TAN-N are captured per gallon of effluent treated. At an ammonium sulfate fertilizer price of $588/ton or $0.294/pound and ammonium sulfate production of 0.047 pounds (0.01 pounds TAN-N equivalent), potential revenue is $0.014 per gallon of effluent treated. No price is attached here for the elimination of internal and external costs associated with potential release to the environment of 0.01 pounds TAN-N per gallon of digester effluent or 59,073 pounds TAN-N per year from the system modeled here.

Several findings and questions, reported here, are relevant to next steps in experimental evaluation and commercial development of this technology.

1. Membrane price and/or performance can be improved to substantially reduce installation cost. Membrane material makes up 86% of the current estimated installation cost. Each 10% reduction in the product of membrane price and length of membrane tube required per gallon capacity reduces estimated installation cost per gallon capacity by 8.6%.

2. The longevity and maintenance requirements of the membrane in this system were not examined in the experiment. Installation cost recovery per gallon of effluent decreases at a declining rate with longevity. For example, Cost Recovery Factors (percentage of initial investment charged as an annual cost) at 6% annual interest rate vary with economic life of the investment as follows: 1 year life CRF = 106%, 5 year life CRF = 24%, 10 year life CRF = 14% . Repair costs are often estimated as 2% of initial investment in non-moving parts. In the case of the membrane, annual repair and maintenance costs may increase with increased longevity. Longevity and maintenance requirements of membranes are important factors in determining total cost per gallon treated.

3. Based on experimental performance data (TAN removal in Table 1) and projected installation cost for various design treatment periods ( HRT = 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 days), installation cost per unit mass of TAN removal decreases and then increases with the length of treatment period. The minimum occurs at HRT = 4 days when 68% reduction of TAN-N in the effluent has been achieved.

Table 1. Comparison of installation cost and days of treatment capacity

4. Cost of acid relative to TAN removal from the effluent and relative to fertilizer value of ammonium sulfate produced per gallon of effluent treated are important to operating cost of the membrane system. These coefficients were beyond the scope of the experiment although some pertinent data were generated. Questions are raised about the fate of acid in circulation. What fraction of acid remains in circulation after a batch is completed? What fraction of acid reacts with other constituents of the effluent to create other products in the circulating acid solution? What fraction of acid escapes through the membrane into the effluent? Increased efficiency of TAN removal from the effluent per unit of acid consumed will reduce the cost per unit TAN removed. Increased efficiency of converting acid to ammonium sulfate will reduce the net cost of acid per gallon treated.

5. Several operating parameters that remain to be explored affect costs and revenues per unit of effluent treated. Among those are parameters that potentially affect TAN movement through the membrane such as: a) pH of the effluent and pH of the acid solution in circulation, b) velocity of liquids on both sides of the membrane, and c) surface area of the membrane per volume of liquids; effluent and acid solution, in the reactor. Similarly, the most profitable or cost effective method of raising pH of the digester effluent remains to be determined, as it was beyond the scope of the current study. Aeration was used in this experiment and in the cost modeling. Aeration may or may not be the optimum method of raising pH and the optimum is contingent on relative prices of alternatives as well as their effect on overall system performance. Optimization of design to maximize profit or minimize cost requires knowledge of these performance response functions and associated cost functions.

6. Management of ammonium sulfate is a question to be addressed in future development of this technology. Questions that arise include: a) how does ammonium sulfate concentration in the acid solution affect rates of TAN removal and additional ammonia sulfate production, b) how can ammonium sulfate be removed from, or further concentrated in, the acid solution, c) can the acid solution containing ammonium sulfate be used without further modification and in which processes, d) what are possible uses for the acid solution after removal of ammonium sulfate, e) what are the possible uses for the effluent after removal of some TAN, and f) what are the costs and revenues associated with each of the alternatives. Answers to these questions are important to designing the membrane system and associated logistics and markets for used acid solution and ammonium sulfate. The realized value of ammonium sulfate and the cost (and revenue) of used acid solution are derived from optimization of this p art of the system.

7. LCA work on various configurations and operating parameters of the membrane system remains to be done. Concurrent with measurement of performance response functions for various parts of the membrane system, LCA work will quantify associated use of resources and emissions to the environment. Revenues may arise where external benefits are created and markets for those benefits exist. Where revenues are not available, marginal costs per unit of emission reduction or resource extraction reduction can be calculated to enable optimization of design across both profit and external factors.

Future Plans

A series of subsequent experiments and analyses are suggested in the previous section. Suggested work is aimed at improving knowledge of performance response to marginal changes in operating parameters and improving knowledge of the performance of various membranes. Profit maximization, cost minimization, and design optimization across both financial and external criteria require knowledge of performance response functions over a substantial number of variables. The economic analysis presented here addresses the challenge of projecting commercial scale costs and returns with data from an early stage experimental small pilot; and illustrates use of such preliminary costs and returns projections to inform subsequent experimentation and development of the technology. We will continue to refine this economic approach and describe it in future publications.

Corresponding author, title, and affiliation

Kelly Zering, Professor, Agricultural and Resource Economics, North Carolina State University

Corresponding author email

Other authors

Yijia Zhao, Graduate Student at BAE, NCSU; Shannon Banner, Graduate Student at BAE, NCSU; Mark Rice, Extension Specialist at BAE, NCSU; John Classen, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Programs at BAE, NCSU


This project was supported by NRCS CIG Award 69-3A75-12-183.

Estimating the Economic Value of the Greenhouse Gas Reductions Associated with Dairy Manure Anaerobic Digestion Systems Located in New York State

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There is a worldwide concern in controlling the anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. GHGs pertinent to this paper, include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O) and are measured in CO2 equivalents (CO2 eq.). On a 100-year basis, CH4 is 34 times as potent as CO2, while N2O is 298 times as potent as CO2 (IPCC, 2013); CO2 eq. is referred to as the global warming potential (GWP) of these gases. The carbon from feed used on a dairy farm originally comes from CO2 recently removed from the atmosphere during photosynthesis and so has a neutral impact on climate change. However, carbon that is converted to CH4 and N2O is a significant concern since their GWPs are much higher. Dairy farms create GHG emissions when they use fossil fuel-based sources to provide energy for the farm, when importing fertilizer to grow crops and to harvest milk. However, emissions from the animals in the form of enteric CH4 and GHGs from manure management ! are much more significant due to the GWP. While every farm is different, estimates from Thoma et al. (2012) show that of the 34.9 Tg of CO2 eq. in the US dairy supply chain, 19% comes from feed production and 53% comes from milk production. Of the milk production, CO2 eq., 49% is from enteric emissions while 44% is from manure management, predominately from CH4 emissions from manure storages.

New York State, the third largest dairy state in the nation (NASS, 2015), has established ambitious overall renewable energy goals including incorporating 50% renewable energy in the electricity used in the State by 2030 (Energy to Lead, 2015) and reducing GHG emissions 40% by 2040 based on 1990 year baseline values (Executive Order, 2009). The New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) is charged with the responsibility of developing a system that encourages utilities to help meet these goals. This includes reforming the energy vision, a new clean energy standard that is being developed to value electric products from distributed energy sources that includes an economic value for the environmental attributes (E).

An attempt at quantifying the environmental benefits of AD (E) might be expressed as follows:

Etotal=∑▒〖Eghg+Eair quality+Ewater quality+Esoil quality+E…〗

As the State’s renewable energy goals are realized, there needs to be a way for the process to include special provisions for those renewable energy sources that have extra societal benefits, including economic and environmental, and that support the rural character of upstate NY. The dairy industry is New York’s leading agricultural sector, accounting for more than one-half of the state’s total agricultural receipts. The increased milk supply has been very important in helping to meet the tremendous growth in the production of yogurt in NYS. However, the margin between the cost of producing milk and the price received for milk sales, is shrinking. Investing in farm facilities like ADSs will need to be analyzed carefully to ensure a return on investment that merits their implementation. An economic value for the environmental attributes of electricity produced from an ADS would aid in the analysis, showing a more positive overall benefit.

Dairy farms are also under increasing pressure to improve conditions environmentally. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) proposed revisions for the CAFO state permit, regulating the water quality impact of farms with more than 300 cows, will require manure storages to be built to limit spreading on at-risk fields during the winter and early spring seasons. These are farm sizes where manure-based ADSs have been built in the past and where many more could be implemented, given a reasonable rate of return. Manure storages are an important best management practice (BMP) to reduce the potential for water pollution by allowing farms to avoid manure spreading during inappropriate times. Unfortunately, if the manure system does not have a way to capture the GHGs produced, they are released into the atmosphere. Manure-based ADSs installed on farms would be a win-win-win to capture and reduce GHGs and to produce renewable energy from the captured! CH4, fur thermore helping to meet the NYS renewable energy and GHG reduction goals. ADSs installed on farms would stimulate the rural economy and also provide the farm and rural community with all the additional benefits contained in Appendix A.

This paper presents an analysis of the GHG reduction potential for a NYS dairy manure management system that includes AD, post-digestion solid-liquid separation (SLS) and long-term manure storage of SLS liquid effluent. This system is representative of almost all of the 27 ADSs currently operating on-farm in NYS today.


The mass of GHG emission reductions (i.e., the mass of carbon dioxide equivalents [MT CO2 eq.]) associated with AD (in this analysis, AD followed by SLS with liquid effluent stored long-term) located in New York State (NYS), was quantified and is discussed in this paper. The following protocols were used: IPCC (2006), AgSTAR (2011), and EPA (Federal Register, 2009) combined with reasonable input values that are representative of a farm’s baseline condition (long-term manure storage with no pre-treatment by ADS). The reductions quantified include: 1) the replacement of fossil fuel-based electrical energy by using AD produced biogas to operate an on-site engine-generator set, and 2) GHG emissions from CAFO required (for water quality purposes) long-term manure storages. The difference between the baseline condition and the conditions post-implementation of an ADS yields the farm’s net GHG emission associated with manure storage. To quantify the economic value! of the G HG emission reductions, the EPA social cost of carbon (SC-CO2) was used (EPA, 2016).

What did we do? *


The baseline condition is represented in Figure 1. Typical liquid/slurry long-term manure storages have manure that consists of urine plus feces, solid bedding and milking center washwater, added continuously as is produced on the farm. A natural crust may form as lighter organic material floats to the surface. The storages are constructed as a designed earthen storage with 2:1 side slopes or fabricated from concrete or steel. The fabricated structures have straight sides so less surface area is exposed. A few storages have a SLS prior to storage, while very few have a manure storage cover. Without a cover, they are exposed to rainfall from both annual precipitation and from extreme storms. To determine the baseline condition, storage with no SLS and with a natural crust was considered.

Figure 1. Baseline emissions from dairy farm with no renewable energy system (per cow, per year)

Figure 1. Baseline Emissions from Dairy Farm with No Renewable Energy System (Per cow per year)

Establish Long-Term Manure Storage Baseline Emissions

Part I – Estimating typical CH4 emissions from a long-term manure storage

An independent panel of experts agreed (USDA, 2014) that GHG emission reductions are best estimated using the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) Tier 2 method. For long-term manure storages, the daily methane emissions can be calculated by using Equation 1.

Equation 1. ECH4 = VS x Bo x 0.67 x (MCF/100)


ECH4 = Mass of CH4 emissions (kg CH4/cow-day)

VS = Mass of volatile solids in manure going to storage (kg/cow-day)

Bo = Maximum volume of CH4 producing capacity for manure (m3 CH4/kg VS)

= 0.24 m3 CH4/kg VS (for dairy cow manure)

0.67 = Conversion factor for m3 CH4 to kg CH4

MCF = CH4 conversion factor for the manure management system

Yearly CH4 emissions (kg CH4/cow-yr.) can be estimated by summing the daily emissions (or multiplying an average representative daily emission by 365 days). The MCF is largely dependent on the temperature and the type of manure management system. The MCF will change throughout the year as the manure storage temperature changes. Using a summer ambient temperature representative of Upstate New York, of 18°C (64°F) and a winter ambient temperature of < 10°C (< 50°F), a farm can limit the amount stored and the time in storage during the warmer months to reduce the average yearly MCF. Different manure systems also have a different MCF based on the oxygen levels, interception of CH4 gases, and moisture content.

The two variables that can be controlled by the farm management are the VS loading per cow and the methane conversion factor (MCF). The VS loading rate can be reduced by any pre-manure storage treatment process that reduces the storage organic loading rate; fine tuning the diet to reduce VS in the manure and SLS are examples of two methods used to control the VS.

Typically in NYS, manure is stored both in the summer and winter in a liquid/slurry system with no natural crust. Using average typical winter and summer manure storage temperatures, average MCF values can be used in Equation 1 to estimate average methane emissions for these 6-month storage periods. The MCF values are shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Typical Long-Term Manure Storage Methane Conversion Factors for Storage Periods in NYS1

Storage Period



Average Manure Storage Temperature (°C)






1These numbers are based on liquid/slurry storage without a natural crust cover.  (Source:  IPCC, 2006)

Using these MCF values shown in Table 1 and a per-cow VS excretion rate of 7.7 kg/cow-day (representative of high producing NY dairy cows – ASABE, 2006), manure storages could be estimated to produce 38 kg CH4/cow (for the winter storage period) and 79 kg CH4/cow (for the summer storage period) or an average of 4 metric tons (MT) of CO2 eq. per cow per year since 1 kg of CH4 = 34 kg CO2 eq.

Part II – Estimating typical N2O emissions from a long-term manure storage

There could be N2O emissions from a raw manure storage facility. The CO2 equivalent from N2O emissions can be estimated by using Equation 2.

Equation 2. CO2eq = 298 CO2/N2O GWP x EF3 x N x44 N2O/28 N2O-N


CO2eq = Equivalent global warming potential expressed as carbon dioxide

298 CO2/N2O = GWP factor for N2O

EF3 = Emission Factor for N2O-N emissions from manure management

N = Mass of N excreted per cow per day = 0.45 kg/cow-day (ASAE, 2005)

Using an EF3 value of 0.005 (USEPA, 2009) for long-term storage of slurry manure with a crust and multiplying it by 0.45 kg of N/cow-day and by 365 days per year yields an additional 0.38 MT of CO2 eq. per cow per year from N2O emissions from a long-term manure storage facility.

Summary of long-term storage GHG emissions

Combining both the CO2 eq. per cow per year from CH4 emissions and the CO2 eq. per cow per year from N2O emissions from a manure storage facility provides a baseline emission of 4.38 MT of CO2 eq. per cow per year from the manure storage systems that the NYS CAFO permit requires. These emissions can be mitigated by implementing a renewable energy system including an ADS with SLS of the digestate before storage.

Establish GHG Emissions and Emission Reductions for an ADS

If a manure-based ADS was installed on a farm, it could reduce the GHG emissions from manure management as well as replace fossil fuel use or energy for both the farm and other users. By capturing the CH4 produced, and combusting it for energy or simply flaring the excess, CH4 releases are converted back to the neutral CO2 originally consumed by the animals in the form of feed products. The ADS could help to meet NYS renewable energy and GHG reduction goals, however, farms with an ADS would need to manage the system to minimize leaks. With no incentives to control leaks, the CH4 produced potentially could add to overall farm GHG emissions.

Part I – Estimating typical CH4 emissions and emission reductions

There are a number of factors that need to be taken into consideration when estimating the GHG reductions that an ADS will provide. Leaks in the ADS can be very detrimental as more methane is produced in an ADS than is emitted naturally from a manure storage facility in the baseline condition. In addition, there are uncombusted CH4 losses from flares and even some from the engine as well. Although every farm system is different, typical values can be determined from the literature, on-farm measurements, and experience.

ADSs designed and built to supply only the quantity of electricity consumed on-farm and to reduce odors may not be as effective as systems designed specifically to reduce GHG emissions. The conservative values in Table 2 could be used to describe these types of systems. ADSs built specifically to reduce GHG emissions in addition to maximizing the renewable energy produced would achieve significantly better GHG reductions. The optimum numbers are achievable, while the obtainable values are based on ADSs that consider GHG emissions and are built to optimize CH4 production.

Table 2. ADS variables that can be controlled by the system equipment, operation, and management





Leaks from system (% CH4)




AgSTAR (2011) and on-farm
Flare Efficiency (%)




AgSTAR (2011) and on-farm
Engine capacity factor (decimal)




On-farm measurements
Engine efficiency (%)




On-farm measurements
ADS Parasitic load





On-farm measurements
Biodegradability post-digestion (%)




On-farm measurements
VS left after SLS (%)




On-farm measurements

The additional societal benefit of this technology can be calculated using EPA’s SC-CO2 of $47.82 as the 2017-2019 average SC CO2 value per metric ton of C02 eq. (at a 3% discount rate) for the methane and nitrous oxide emissions (EPA, 2016).

Part II – Estimating typical N2O emissions and emission reductions for an ADS

An EF3 value of 0 (IPCC, 2006) for an uncovered liquid manure storage describes the typical emission factor from an ADS with SLS since post-digestion there would be no free oxygen, and after solids removal, there would not be a crust forming.

The resulting calculations from the conservative, optimum and obtainable ADS values are shown in Table 3. The fossil fuels avoided are based on the kilo-Watt hours (kWh) produced minus the parasitic load. The uncombusted CH4 from the engine is based on a rich burn engine. The CO2 equivalents from the system leaks and the digestate storage are the major emissions in the conservative scenario, the uncombusted emissions from the flare and the digestate storage are minor emissions from the optimum scenario, while storage contributes the most to the continuing emissions from the obtainable scenario.

Table 3. GHG Emissions from electric production converted with a $47.82 SC-CO2 into a value of E for conservative, optimum and obtainable ADS with solid separation of the digestate before storage.

Units Conservative Optimum Obtainable
Fossil Fuels Avoided
MT CO2 eq/cow-yr




Engine uncommuted CH4 MT CO2 eq/cow-yr

2.5 x 10-3

3.2 x 10-3

3.1 x 10-3

Flare uncommuted CH4 MT CO2 eq/cow-yr




System Leaks CH4 MT CO2 eq/cow-yr




Storage emissions CH4 MT CO2 eq/cow-yr




ƩCO2eq emitted – FF avoided MT CO2 eq/cow-yr




Baseline MT CO2 eq/cow-yr




Reduction in CO2eq MT CO2 eq/cow-yr




SC-CO2 Benefit $/cow-yr




Gross Electricity produced kWh/cow-yr




Value of E $/kWh




Summary of long-term storage GHG emissions

The obtainable value of E $0.081/kWh, for an ADS with SLS of the digestate could be used to better determine the value of renewable energy in meeting NYS’s goals of reducing GHG emissions, increasing renewable energy, and supporting the dairy industry and the upstate NY economy.

More specific values for each individual ADS could be determined as a more granulated value (i.e., a value based on a more detailed/thorough analysis) through the implementation of NYS’s renewable energy vision. By using a value of E that reflects the actual environmental benefit of an ADS, this would incentivize dairy farms with an ADS to improve their CH4 production to produce more electrical energy. This would also increase the interest of more dairy farms in controlling GHG emissions and producing renewable energy by investing in ADS on their farms.

What have we learned?

ADSs can be used to reduce the manure management generated GHG emissions from dairy farms. With careful management, 3.32 MT of CO2 eq. per cow-year can be credited to the ADS. Using EPA’s SC-CO2 average price during 2017-2019 of $47.82, this could amount to a GHG benefit of over $140/cow-year. At this time, the benefit to society is unrewarded and high costs for ADSs both to construct and to operate, discourage farms from installing them. Working towards New York State’s renewable energy goals, as well as the reduction in GHG emission goals by compensating farms for the societal value of $0.081 per kWh of electricity produced from a well-run ADS would better incentivize farms to both install and operate ADSs to the advantage of the State.

Future Plans


ADSs can provide additional GHG reductions by utilizing organic wastes that currently go to landfills or aerobic waste treatment facilities. Some landfills may be able to capture a portion of the CH4 that the organic waste produces as renewable energy, but typically the leaks from a landfill gas recovery system are greater than those of farm-based ADS. NYS has some interest in diverting organic waste from landfills to reduce: the fill rate, the potential GHG emissions, and O&M costs in landfills. The value of the diverted organic waste can be best recovered by society if the energy is recovered through manure-based AD since the nutrients would also be recovered by mixing the food waste with manure, digesting it and recycling the nutrients in the effluent to the land for growing crops.

Nutrients to grow crops that are currently utilized in the form of commercial fertilizer, could be offset by the nutrients contained in a post-digested liquid, which would also reduce the energy and accompanying fossil fuel emissions now emitted when manufacturing commercial nutrients.

Aerobic treatment of organic wastes requires additional energy that adds to the fossil fuel-based carbon dioxide emissions and typically does not recover nutrients. While anaerobic digestion creates renewable energy and preserves nutrients.

Typical ADSs produce a large portion of energy from CH4 as waste heat from the engine(s). Operating a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) system in conjunction with an enterprise that would utilize the heat produced, would enable the system to harvest even more renewable energy.

ADSs could improve GHG mitigation efforts if the effluent storage was covered and if the gas collected was included in the biogas utilization system, eliminating any emissions from the effluent storage while producing even more renewable energy.

Farm Disadvantages

Managing a complex and expensive ADS requires dedication and a sophisticated management effort that clearly competes for time with other tasks on the farm. There is the potential to emit excess CH4 if: 1) leaks are not properly controlled, 2) the engine generator, boiler and/or flare are not efficient or 3) if the effluent storage continues to produce uncontained CH4. These can all be compounded if off-site organics are imported to the farm. The existing NYS net metering program makes the current price paid for exported electricity, very low. This reduces the motivation to produce and capture the maximum amount of CH4 from the ADS.

Planning and installing an on-farm ADS takes time to consider the benefits and costs so that a business decision can be reached. Capital costs of ADSs vary, but can range from $4,000 to $5,500 per kW of generation capacity. Operating costs have been estimated at $0.02 to $0.03 per kWh. Much of the capital investment is considered lost capital by lenders. The existing manure management system should be examined to determine any disadvantages from extra solids, contaminants, or dilution. If the successful operation of the ADS depends on tipping fees from imported organics, the reliability and quality of these sources needs to be determined. If electricity is to be sold, the utility should be consulted to determine how/if the distribution lines to the farm can handle what is expected to be generated.

Corresponding author, title, and affiliation

Peter Wright, Agricultural Engineer, Cornell University

Corresponding author email

Other authors

Curt Gooch, Dairy Environmental Systems and Sustainability Engineer, Cornell University

Additional information

Recovery of Proteins and Phosphorus from Manure

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The recovery of phosphorus and proteins from manure could be advantageous to both offset costs and to improve and lessen the environmental impacts of manure storage and treatment. Phosphorous in manure can contaminate rivers, lakes, and bays through runoff, if applied onto cropland at excessive rates. Thus, recovering phosphorous from manure can not only help reduce phosphorus loss in runoff, but also reduces the use of commercial fertilizer based upon phosphate rock. Phosphorus mines have limited reserves and viable alternatives for replacing rock phosphate as fertilizer do not exist. Protein is a natural resource used in a wide range of commercial applications from pharmaceuticals to dietary supplements, foods, feeds, and industrial applications.

What Did We Do?

A new method for simultaneous extraction of proteins and phosphorus from biological materials has been developed and is presented.  The experiments used swine manure solids fraction after solids-liquid separation.  From raw manure, wet solids are dissolved in acidic solution and then treated with a basic solution so phosphorus will precipitate and be reclaimed.  The proteins in the washed solids can be extracted and concentrated with ultrafiltration and flocculation.

Test tubes filled with proteins from manure

What Have We Learned?

On a dry-weight basis, it was found that the separated manure solids contained 15.2-17.4% proteins and 3.0% phosphorus.  Quantitative extraction of phosphorus and proteins from manures was possible with this new system. The phosphorus was first separated from the solids in a soluble extract, then the proteins were separated from the solids and solubilized with an alkali solvent.  Both phosphorus and protein recovery were enhanced about 19 and 22%, respectively, with the inclusion of a rinse after the washing. The recovered phosphorus solids had 20.4% phosphates (P2O5).  The protein extract was concentrated using ultrafiltration (UF) and lyophilization to obtain a protein solids concentrate.  UF of 5 and 10 kDa captured all the proteins, but 30 kDa resulted in 22% loss.  The protein solids were converted into amino-acids using acid hydrolysis.  Further, the system was proved effective in extracting phosphorus and proteins from other biological materials, such as algae or crops. The recovered proteins could be used for production of amino acids and the recovered phosphorus could be used as a recycled material that replaces commercial phosphate fertilizers.  This could be a potential new revenue stream from wastes.

Future Plans

Further research will be conducted to reduce process costs and separate the amino acids.

Corresponding author (name, title, affiliation)

Matias Vanotti, USDA-ARS

Corresponding author email address

Other Authors

A.A. Szogi, P.W. Brigman

Additional Information

Vanotti, M.B. and Szogi, A.A.  (2016).  Extraction of amino acids and phosphorus from biological materials. US Patent Application SN 15/350,283. U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

USDA-ARS Office of Technology Transfer, Invention Docket No: 080.15, Contact:


This research is part of USDA-ARS Project 6082-12630-001-00D “Improvement of Soil Management Practices and Manure Treatment/Handling Systems of the Southern Coastal Plains.”  We acknowledge the field and laboratory assistance of William Brigman and Chris Brown, USDA-ARS, Florence, SC.  Support by The Kaiteki Institute, Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings Group through ARS Cooperative Agreement 58-6082-5-006-F is acknowledged.

Renewable Energy Set-asides Push Biogas to Pipeline

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Deriving the most value from the harvesting of organic wastes, particularly waste produced through farming operations, can be quite challenging. This paper describes an approach to overcome the challenges of realizing the best value from harvested farming wastes through aggregation. Included in this description is an overview of the first swine waste-to-energy project in North Carolina based on aggregation of the value stream rather than aggregation of the feedstock, or manure. Also included in the description are an overview of the challenges encountered, approaches to overcome these challenges, and the solutions developed for this breakthrough approach that will foster further development of successful ventures to maximize the value derived from recycled farming wastes.

What did we do?

Increasingly, our civilization is turning to bioenergy sources as an environmentally-friendly, sustainable alternative to harvesting long-buried fossil fuel sources to supply our energy needs. As the land that farmers have cultivated for years becomes encroached more and more by non-farming land uses, society seeks innovations to address its concerns for our future food needs produced in a manner that addresses environmental concerns associated with modern food production, including nutrient recovery, water conservation and reuse, and controlling odors and emissions from agricultural wastes and manures. Collectively, these innovations have been described as ‘sustainable farming’ approaches.

North Carolina is a significant agricultural producer, and as such, a large producer of agricultural wastes. This state also became the first state in the Southeast to adopt a Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard, and is the only state in the U.S. to require a certain percentage of that renewable energy must be generated from agriculture waste recovery, with specific targets for swine and poultry waste. Naturally, the plentiful resources coupled with a regulatory driver for renewable energy worked together to create attention and efforts toward cost-effective and efficient means of supplying our energy needs through organic waste recovery, or bioenergy approaches.

We are only beginning to see a surge in commercial development for the recovery of additional value stream from the waste, such as through the recovery of nutrients, enzymes, and monetized environmental attributes associated with pollution abatement. While manyOptima-KV swine waste to pipeline RNG project forward-thinking farmers have learned that their waste is valuable for supplying renewable energy, it has been unfortunately difficult for an individual farmer to implement and manage advanced value recovery systems primarily due to costs of scale. Rather, it seems, success may be easier achieved through the aggregation of these products from several farms and through the collaborative efforts of project developers, product offtakers, and policy. A shining example of such aggregation and collaboration can be observed from the Optima-KV swine waste to pipeline renewable gas project, located in eastern North Carolina in an area of dense swine farm population.

The Optima-KV project combines, or aggregates, the biogas created from the anaerobic digestion of swine waste from five (5) adjacently located farms housing approximately 60,000 finishing pigs. The Optima-KV project includes the construction of an in-ground anaerobic digester at each farm. The resulting biogas is captured from each farm, and routed to an adjacent, centralized biogas upgrading facility, or refinery, where the biogas undergoes purification and cleaning to pipeline quality specifications. The renewable natural gas produced from this system will be sold to an electric utility subject to the requirements of the North Carolina Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards, and will result in reduced emissions from both the receiving electricity generating unit and the farms, reduced emissions of odors from the farms, and reduced fossil fuel consumption for the production of electricity. The upgraded biogas (RNG) will be transmitted to the electricity generating unit through existing natural gas pipeline infrastructure.

What have we learned?

The innovative design, permitting, and financing for the project is very different than a conventional feedstock aggregation approach, and thus much has been learned. To deliver the RNG to the end user, in this case, multiple contracts with multiple utilities wereGraphic showing how it works required, which presented challenges of negotiating multiple utility connections and agreements. This learning curve was steepened as, at the time of the inception of Optima KV, the state of North Carolina lacked formal pipeline injection standards, so the final required quality and manner of gas upgrading was established through the development of the project.

The project is currently in the beginning stages of construction, and completion is expected by the end of 2017. Given this schedule, the Optima KV project will provide the first pipeline injection of gas – from any source – in the state of North Carolina (all natural gas presently consumed in the state is sourced from out of state).

Future Plans

North Carolina’s potential for agricultural waste-to-energy projects is enormous, given its vast agricultural resources. Combining the potential from agriculture with the bioenergy potential from wastewater treatment plants and landfills, it is estimated to be third in capacity behind only California and Texas. The unique approach to aggregation of value streams from multiple sources, as exhibited by this project, will open the doors for similar aggregation strategies, including the anaerobic digestion of mixed feedstocks such as food waste, poultry and swine waste, animal mortality, fats, oils and grease and energy crops.

Corresponding author, title, and affiliation

Gus Simmons, P.E., Director of Bioenergy, Cavanaugh & Associates, P.A.

Corresponding author email

Additional information


The authors are solely responsible for the content of these proceedings. The technical information does not necessarily reflect the official position of the sponsoring agencies or institutions represented by planning committee members, and inclusion and distribution herein does not constitute an endorsement of views expressed by the same. Printed materials included herein are not refereed publications. Citations should appear as follows. EXAMPLE: Authors. 2017. Title of presentation. Waste to Worth: Spreading Science and Solutions. Cary, NC. April 18-21, 2017. URL of this page. Accessed on: today’s date.