Feasibility of Installation of Anaerobic Digesters at Cattle Operations and Demonstration of a Decision Support Tool

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An online decision support tool for determining feasibility of anaerobic digestion has been developed (http://www.erams.info/AD_feasibility/). This decision support tool is specifically targeted to cattle operations in the arid west and provides general information on anaerobic digestion (AD), recommendations on the technical and economic feasibility of AD based on producer provided information on management practices, recommendations on appropriate AD technology based on user defined criteria for the system, guidance on technology provider selection, and required maintenance for operation of an AD system. The goal of the tool is to enable and empower producers to make informed decisions about AD based on unbiased information rather than relying on the biased information often provided by technology providers. In this workshop, the drivers for technical and economic feasibility for on farm AD installation will be discussed and the online decision support tool will be demonstrated.

Why Look at Anaerobic Digestion for Cattle Operations?

Anaerobic digestion is a waste management tool with many advantages, including generation of energy for on-site use. However, careful consideration must be given regarding technical and economic feasibility for installation on cattle operations. A web-based decision tool has been developed to provide technical and economic guidance to producers on feasibility of on-farm anaerobic digestion (http://www.eramsinfo.com/erams_beta/AD_feasibility/).

Home Page of Web-based Decision Support Tool

What Did We Do?

Based on commonalities found from feasibility studies conducted throughout the state of Colorado, a web-based decision tool has been developed to provide technical and economic guidance to producers on feasibility of on-farm anaerobic digestion (http://www.eramsinfo.com/erams_beta/AD_feasibility/)

What Have We Learned?

For use of conventional anaerobic digestion technology at dairy facilities, manure should be collected on concrete by scraping or flushing. Anaerobic digestion of manure collected on dry lots is not feasible with conventional technology.  Economics are favorable when on-site energy use is high and the energy produced by the digester is primarily used on-site.

Future Plans

We will continue to develop and improve the existing web-based tool. We are also working on developing an anaerobic digestion technology suitable for dry lot collected manure.


Sybil Sharvelle, Assitant Professor, Colorado State University, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, sybil.sharvelle@colostate.edu

Jeffrey Lasker, Research Assistant, Colorado State University

Lucas Loetscher, Research Assistant, Colorado Sate University

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