Farm Manure-to-Energy Initiative in the Chesapeake Region Report January 2016

From 2012-2015, the Farm Manure-to-Energy Initiative conducted a study of thermal, farm-scale systems that produce energy from poultry litter. The technologies were installed on working farms in the Chesapeake region, in places where manure management is especially important for protecting water quality. The technologies were evaluated for technical, environmental, and financial performance. This report details the findings.

Download the full report and appendices. (252 pages; PDF)

Download a section of the report:

  1. Executive Summary (6 pages)
  2. Main Body of the Report (26 pages)
  • Background and Objectives
  • Process: Getting Projects on the Ground
  • Performance Evaluation
  • Summary of Results
  • Fertility Value and Market Potential of Poultry Litter Co-Products
  • Summary of Lessons Learned
  • Communicating Results
  • Summary and Next Steps
  1. Appendix A: Technical Performance Global Re-Fuel
  2. Appendix B: Technical Performance Ecoremedy ® Gasifier
  3. Appendix C: Technical Performance LEI Bio-Burner 500
  4. Appendix D: Technical Performance Total Energy Blue Flame Boiler
  5. Appendix E: Air Emissions and Permit Compliance
  6. Appendix F: Nutrient Availability from Poultry Litter Co-Products
  7. Appendix G: Nutrient Balance: Fate of Nitrogen and Phosphorus Nutrients
  8. Appendix H: Financial Assessment of the Farm Manure-to-Energy Initiative
  9. Appendix I: North Carolina State University’s Pyrolysis Technology

Thermal-Chemical Conversion of Animal Manures – Another Tool for the Toolbox


How Can Thermo-Chemical Technologies Assist in Nutrient Management?

Livestock operations continue to expand and concentrate in certain parts of the country. This has created regional “hot spot” areas in which excess nutrients, particularly phosphorus, are produced. This nutrient issue has resulted in water quality concerns across the country and even lead to the necessity of a “watershed diet” for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. To help address this nutrient concern some livestock producers are looking to manure gasification and other thermo-chemical processes. There are several thermo-chemical conversion configurations, and the one chosen for a particular livestock operation is dependent on the desired application and final by-products. Through these thermo-chemical processes manure Factory processingvolumes are significantly reduced. With the nutrients being concentrated, they are more easily handled and can be transported from areas of high nutrient loads to regions of low nutrient loads at a lower cost. This practice can also help to reduce the on-farm energy costs by providing supplemental energy and/or heat. Additional benefits include pathogen destruction and odor reduction. This presentation will provide an overview of several Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) and other manure thermo-chemical conversion projects that are being demonstrated and/or in commercial operation. Information will cover nutrient fate, emission studies, by-product applications along with some of the positives and negatives related to thermo-chemical conversion systems.

Exterior of factory processingWhat did we do? 

Several farm-scale manure-to-energy demonstration projects are underway within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Many of these receive funding through the USDA-NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant program. These projects, located on poultry farms, are being evaluated for the performance of on-farm thermal conversion technologies. Monitoring data is being collected for each project which includes: technical performance, operation and maintenance, air emissions, and by-product uses and potential markets. Performance of manure gasification systems for non-poultry operations have also been reviewed and evaluated. A clearinghouse website for thermal manure-to-energy processes has been developed.

What have we learned? 

The projects have shown that poultry litter can be used as a fuel source, but operation and maintenance issues can impact the performance and longevity of a thermal conversion system. These systems are still in the early stages of commercialization and modifications are likely as lessons are learned. Preliminary air emission data shows that most of the nitrogen in the poultry litter is converted to a non-reactive form. The other primary nutrients, phosphorus and potassium, are preserved in the ash or biochar co-products. Plant availability of nutrients in the ash or biochar varies between the different thermal conversion processes and ranges from 80 to 100 percent. The significant volume reduction and nutrient concentration show that thermal conversion processes can be effective in reducing water quality issues by lowering transportation and land application costs of excess manure phosphorus.

Future Plans    

Monitoring will continue for the existing demonstration projects. Based on the lessons learned, additional demonstration sites will be pursued. As more manure-to-energy systems come on-line the clearinghouse will be updated. Based on data collected, NRCS conservation practice standards will be generated or updated as necessary.

Author       

Jeffrey P. Porter, PE, Manure Management Team Leader, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service jeffrey.porter@gnb.usda.gov

Additional information                

Thermal manure-to-energy clearinghouse website: http://lpelc.org/thermal-manure-to-energy-systems-for-farms/

Environmental Finance Center review of financing options for on-farm manure-to-energy including cost share funding contact information in the Chesapeake Bay region: http://efc.umd.edu/assets/m2e_ft_9-11-12_edited.pdf

Sustainable Chesapeake: http://www.susches.org

Farm Pilot Project Coordination: http://www.fppcinc.org

National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund: http://www.nfwf.org/chesapeake/Pages/home.aspx

Acknowledgements

National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Chesapeake Bay Funders Network, Farm Pilot Project Coordination, Inc., Sustainable Chesapeake, Flintrock Farm, Mark Weaver Farm, Mark Rohrer Farm, Riverview Farm, Wayne Combustion, Enginuity Energy, Coaltec Energy, Agricultural Waste Solutions, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Environmental Finance Center, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Lancaster County Conservation District, Virginia Tech Eastern Shore Agricultural Research and Extension Center, Eastern Shore Resource Conservation and Development Council, with funding from the USDA Conservation Innovation Grant Program and the U.S. EPA Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reduction 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. 2015. Title of presentation. Waste to Worth: Spreading Science and Solutions. Seattle, WA. March 31-April 3, 2015. URL of this page. Accessed on: today’s date.

Introduction to Thermal Technologies for Generating Energy from Manure

Manure-to-Energy home | Case Studies | Start-Up | More…

There are two general methods for producing energy from manure: the use of heat and the use of bacteria. This page is focused on the use of heat – specifically, on relatively small thermal systems that can be used on a farm to produce energy from excess poultry litter or manure.

temperature and oxygen levels for thermal technologiesThe use of bacteria to produce energy from manure is called anaerobic digestion. For more information about anaerobic digestion, explore Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas. Related: Treatment Technologies for Manure

Types of Thermal Energy Production for Farm-Scale Systems

In scientific terms, the use of heat to produce energy from manure is a thermochemical process. Thermal systems are well-suited for manure that is relatively dry, such as poultry litter, because there is less need to dry out the manure prior to processing.

Thermal processes that can convert animal manure into fuel include pyrolysis, gasification, and combustion. These processes differ with respect to temperature and oxygen concentrations, but each converts solid material into combustible, gaseous components, which then creates a hot flue gas. The flue gas is directed through a heat exchanger where heat is captured and moved through a distribution system for use in the poultry houses.

Thermal processes also produce a range of potentially valuable co-products including liquid bio-oils, diesel fuel, and combustible gases. They also produce nutrient-dense products like ash and bio-charcoal (commonly referred to as “biochar”). The concentration of nutrients varies depending on the process, operating parameters, and system design.

Fate of Manure Nutrients in Thermal Energy Systems

In thermal systems, almost all of the phosphorus and potash are conserved in the ash or biochar. While biochar retains some nitrogen associated with organic carbon, much of the nitrogen from these systems is lost in atmospheric emissions. Most is released to the atmosphere in the form of non-reactive nitrogen gas, or N2. Reactive forms of nitrogen may also be released, including oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and ammonia (NH3).

The concentration of phosphorus in the ash or biochar provides a way to transport excess nutrients to phosphorus-deficient regions where the ash or biochar can be used as a fertilizer to replace inorganic, mined phosphorus. Reactive nitrogen, on the other hand, is largely lost from agricultural production. Biochar retains some nitrogen, while systems that produce ash (like gasification and combustion) generally convert almost all of the nitrogen to atmospheric emissions. Given that land application of poultry litter and manure can result in atmospheric emissions of far greater amounts of reactive nitrogen (from 50 to 90 percent of ammonia-nitrogen for surface-applied manure), well-designed thermal manure-to-energy systems can reduce overall atmospheric emissions of reactive nitrogen.

Environmental Impacts

Thermal manure-to-energy systems can help address nutrient imbalances in high-density animal production areas, but it is important to use clean technologies with low emissions in order to avoid transferring a surface and groundwater problem to the atmosphere.

Technologies evaluated by the Farm Manure-to-Energy Initiative resulted in atmospheric reactive nitrogen emissions that were generally better than or, at the very least, similar to land application of poultry litter that is immediately incorporated, a strategy recommended to reduce ammonia emissions.

equipmentequipment

Thermal manure-to-energy systems, like the examples shown here, use heat to produce energy from manure.

However, the Farm Manure-to-Energy Initiative project identified particulate matter as a pollutant of concern for some thermal manure-to-energy technologies. At high temperatures typical of gasification and combustion, potash (which is abundant in poultry litter) volatilizes and can produce fine particulate matter in the form of potassium chloride or potassium sulfates. While some technologies have achieved low particulate matter emissions, others need additional work before they will be eligible for installation in states that set strict limits for particulate matter emissions.

Depending on the location and the size of the installation, emissions of particulate matter and NOx are often a consideration for air permitting. Data on other criteria and hazardous air pollutants associated with the proposed technology may also be required. To learn more about air permitting associated with thermal energy production, see Start-Up Questions and Considerations.

Components of a Farm-Scale System

Thermal systems are adaptable to different scales, but the technologies vary widely in their design, effectiveness, and cost. Most are still in the early phases of commercial development, and many are still in the research and development phase.

Thermal, farm-scale systems typically include some combination of the following components. Each configuration differs depending on the vendor’s technology and the specific goals and needs of the farm where the system is installed:

    • Covered manure storage area
    • Feed hopper and conveyor belt
    • Thermal manure-to-energy unit (combustion, gasification, or pyrolysis)
    • Heat exchanger or boiler
    • Heat distribution unit (ductwork or piping)
    • Emissions control unit
    • Ash or bio-char collection unit

The Farm Manure-to-Energy Initiative conducted several case studies between 2012-2015 to document the performance of farm-scale systems in the Chesapeake region.

More Resources on Thermal Technologies


Farm Manure Energy Initiative logoDevelopment of this information were funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), the USDA, U.S. EPA, and Chesapeake Bay Funders Network. The views and conclusions contained in materials related to the Farm Manure-to-Energy Initiative are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as representing the opinions or policies of NFWF, the USDA, U.S. EPA, or Chesapeake Bay Funders Network. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute endorsement by project funders.

Thermal Manure-to-Energy Systems for Farms

Using manure to generate energy is growing in popularity. Explore the topics below to learn more.

  1. Introduction to Thermal Technologies for Generating Energy from Manure (Combustion, Pyrolysis, Gasification)
  2. Benefits & Challenges of Manure-Based Energy
  3. Farm Manure-to-Energy Case Studies
  4. Start-Up Questions and Considerations (What should I know or ask before pursuing manure-to-energy technologies for my farm?)
  5. Additional Resources on Manure-to-Energy Technologies
Manure-to-Energy in the Chesapeake Region 2016 REPORT

Farm Manure Energy Initiative logoPortions of this information were funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), the USDA, U.S. EPA, and Chesapeake Bay Funders Network. The views and conclusions contained in materials related to the Farm Manure-to-Energy Initiative are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as representing the opinions or policies of NFWF, the USDA, U.S. EPA, or Chesapeake Bay Funders Network. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute endorsement by project funders.

Effect of Fractionation and Pyrolysis on Fuel Properties of Poultry Litter

Waste to Worth: Spreading science and solutions logoWaste to Worth home | More proceedings….

Abstract

Raw poultry litter has certain drawbacks for energy production such as high ash and moisture content, a corrosive nature, and low heating values. A combined solution to utilization of raw poultry litter may involve fractionation and pyrolysis. Fractionation divides poultry litter into a fine, nutrient-rich fraction and a coarse, carbon dense fraction. Pyrolysis of the coarse fraction would remove the corrosive volatiles as bio-oil, leaving clean char. This paper presents the effect of fractionation and pyrolysis process parameters on the calorific value of char and on the characterization of bio-oil. Poultry litter samples collected from three commercial poultry farms were divided into 10 treatments that included 2 controls (raw poultry litter and its coarse fraction having particle size greater than 0.85 mm) and 8 other treatments that were combinations of three factors: type (raw poultry litter or its coarse fraction), heating rate (30 or 10 °C/min), and pyrolysis temperature (300 or 500°C). After the screening process, the poultry litter samples were dried and pyrolyzed in a batch reactor under nitrogen atmosphere and char and condensate yields were recorded. The condensate was separated into three fractions on the basis of their density: heavy, medium, and light phase. Calorific value and proximate and nutrient analysis were performed for char, condensate, and feedstock. Results show that the char with the highest calorific value (17.39MJ/kg) was made from the coarse fraction at 300°C, which captured 68.71% of the feedstock energy. The char produced at 300°C had 42mg/kg arsenic content but no mercury. Almost all of the Al, Ca, Fe, K, Mg, Na, and P remained in the char. The pyrolysis process reduced ammoniacal-nitrogen (NH4-N) in char by 99.14% and nitrate-nitrogen (NO3-N) by 95.79% at 500°C.

Authors

Kaushlendra Singh, West Virginia University        Kaushlendra.Singh@mail.wvu.edu

L. Mark Risse*, K.C. Das, John Worley, and Sidney Thompson, University of Georgia

 

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. 2013. Title of presentation. Waste to Worth: Spreading Science and Solutions. Denver, CO. April 1-5, 2013. URL of this page. Accessed on: today’s date.

 

Reducing the Impacts of Poultry Litter on Water Quality by Developing Alternative Markets for Poultry Litter Biochar

Waste to Worth: Spreading science and solutions logoWaste to Worth home | More proceedings….

Abstract

Manure from confined animal operations is an environmental liability because of the potential for water and air pollution. The poultry industry in the Chesapeake Bay watershed is under increased regulatory scrutiny due to nitrogen and phosphorous inputs into the Bay. Although poultry litter (PL) is valued as a fertilizer, the cost of shipping the bulky material out of the watershed is prohibitive. One potential solution is to turn the excess litter into energy through pyrolysis. If a market can be developed for poultry litter biochar, more N and P could be removed from the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Our overall program goals are to develop a comprehensive strategy to convert poultry litter from an environmental liability into an economic and ecological asset and to develop a comprehensive conceptual model for improving poultry litter waste management through market-driven alternatives. Our specific objectives are to characterize the properties and variability of biochar from a commercial poultry/ litter biochar producer, evaluate PL biochar for two potential commercial uses; greenhouse plant production and as an amendment for degraded mine soils.

Why Is It Important to Develop Alternative Markets for Biochar?

Figure 1. Our biochar supplier, Frye’s Poultry Farm in Wardensville, WV.

Excess phosphorus (P) in the Chesapeake Bay watershed has created water quality problems within the Bay. A major source of this P originates from confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs); within the West Virginia portion of the watershed, primarily in the form of poultry production. The lack of sufficient, suitable cropland on which to spread the manure from these operations has created the need to export P out of the watershed. One potential solution to this challenge may come from the gasification of poultry litter. Gasification produces energy and a carbonaceous byproduct (Figure 1) for which a number of applications have been suggested, including use as a soil amendment. Our long-term objectives are to determine the beneficial uses for a commercially produced poultry litter biochar (PLB) with the goal of generating a market for PLBs that will promote the transport of P out of the Bay watershed. In this work, we describe the particle size distribution and nutrient content of two different pyrolysis oven batch runs of poultry litter from our commercial producer (M-type and W-type).We describe effects of these PLB types on lettuce seed germination and seedling growth and its use as a substitute greenhouse media for cyclamen production.  We also describe the results of an experiment using PLB for mine soil reclamation and cellulosic biomass production.

What did we do?

M-Type and W-type PLBs were mechanically sieved into six size classes in duplicate and then extracted with dilute hydrochloric (0.05M) and sulfuric (0.05M) acids. Solution sodium (Na), potassium (K), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg) and P concentrations were determined and converted to mg (kg PLB)-1. Lettuce (Lactuca sativa var. Black Simpson) seed was planted into a commercial top soil amended with two rates of M-type biochar (3.18 g kg-1) and (9.09 g kg-1), some of which had been rinsed with water for 24 or 48 hours to remove salts, with no biochar and fertilizer controls, in two 8 x 8 Latin Square designs. In one Latin Square seedlings were thinned to two per cell and allowed to grow until root bound. Germination percent and dry mass were determined. The second PLB product (W-type) was used untreated as a substitute potting media for greenhouse cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum) production The treatments were a commercial mix, 1:1 peat:perlite + 64 g dolomitic lime or + 112 g W-type PLB. One of the products (M-type) was washed in tap water in an attempt to reduce salt content and then leached and unleached PLB (2.5 kg m-2) was used (lime and fertilizer controls) in a factorial experiment using switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) and Miscanthus sinensis transplants for mine soil reclamation.

What we have learned?

The M-type PLB had more, fine particles (<60 mesh) than did W-Type). The M-type fine particles (<60 mesh) had more Ca and K whereas the coarser W-type particles (>60 mesh) had more K. PLB did not have a significant effect on lettuce germination (> 85%) at either concentration or rinsing treatment. PLB treatments also had no effect on aerial biomass of lettuce yield. The inorganic fertilizer treatment was the only treatment with aerial biomass significantly different (higher) than the control. Cyclamen growth was initially slower, but by the end of the experiment, yields were equivalent. It is too soon to draw conclusions from the mine soil reclamation experiment.

Future plans

We will continue monitoring switchgrass and Miscanthus growth and mine soil property changes in response to biochar applications and are seeking additional disturbed soil sites for new experiments. Because biochar is known to sorb metal contaminants, we have initiated laboratory experiments to evaluate the effectiveness of biochar for the remediation of brownfield sites. We also have plans to determine the stability of biochar in a variety of soils and the effects of biochar applications on soil microbial communities and greenhouse gas emissions.

Authors

Louis M. McDonald, Professor, LMMcDonald@mail.wvu.edu

Andrew Burgess, Research Assistant Professor

Jeff Skousen, Professor

Joshua L. Cook, Graduate Student

Sven Verlinden

Walter E. Veselka, IV, Research Associate

James T. Anderson, Professor. Environmental Research Center, West Virginia University

Additional information

Anderson, J. T., C. N. Eddy, R. L. Hager, L M. McDonald, J. L. Pitchford, J. Skousen, and W. E. Veselka IV. 2012. Reducing impacts of poultry litter on water quality by developing markets for energy and mine land reclamation. Athens: ATINER’S Conference Paper Series, No: ENV2012-0069. 12pp. http://www.atiner.gr/papers/ENV2012-0069.pdf

Acknowledgements

Support for this project was provided by NOAA, NSF, blue moon fund, Frye Poultry Farms, and the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design and Environmental Research Center at West Virginia University.

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. 2013. Title of presentation. Waste to Worth: Spreading Science and Solutions. Denver, CO. April 1-5, 2013. URL of this page. Accessed on: today’s date.

Agronomic and Environmental Uses of Biochar (Part 2)

Technologies to treat animal manure are rapidly gaining more traction as producers search for ways to minimize environmental impact and maintain a profitable operation. In the conclusion of this 2-part webcast, the focus continues on a thermal technology, pyrolysis, and the resulting biochar. Biochar impacts on soil carbon and fertility is discussed as well as how biochar as a soil amendment affects microbial life within the soil. This presentation was originally broadcast on August 21, 2015. More… Continue reading “Agronomic and Environmental Uses of Biochar (Part 2)”

Agronomic and Environmental Uses of Biochar – Part 1

Technologies to treat animal manure are rapidly gaining more traction as producers search for ways to minimize environmental impact and maintain a profitable operation. In the conclusion of this 2-part webcast, the focus continues on a thermal technology, pyrolysis, and the resulting biochar. In part 1 of this 2-part webcast, we will provide a general overview of the history of biochar use, how biochar is produced, and give examples of how biochar is being used for agronomic and environmental purposes. This presentation was originally broadcast on July 17, 2015. More… Continue reading “Agronomic and Environmental Uses of Biochar – Part 1”

Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program and Two Innovative Technologies–Vermicomposting and Pyrolysis

This webcast discusses the USDA CSREES Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program and highlights two of the projects funded through the program. One project involves vermicomposting dairy manure and the other utilizes pyrolysis to convert poultry litter into biogas. The presenters are: Richard Hegg, USDA CSREES; Mike Serio, Advanced Fuel Research, Inc.; Tom Herlihy, RT Solutions. This presentation was originally broadcast on December 14, 2007. More… Continue reading “Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program and Two Innovative Technologies–Vermicomposting and Pyrolysis”