September 25, 2006 12:03 PM PDT

Gas from manure: Big plant to open

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A plan to convert large quantities of manure into natural gas and sell it over pipelines is materializing.

Microgy plans to start operating its first two thermophilic digesters--large, heated vats in which microbes turn manure into fuel--in its Huckabay, Texas, facility next month, according to a company representative.

Barnyard energy

The digesters extract biogas, a mixture of carbon dioxide and methane, from manure. Biogas can be used locally to run generators and farm equipment, but by burning off the carbon dioxide (about a third of the overall gas content), natural gas is created that can be shipped through a pipeline.

The company has already installed digesters at farms in Wisconsin, but the majority of gas created there gets consumed by local farmers. The coming Huckabay Ridge plant is another beast entirely.

When complete, the eight digesters--each of which hold 916,000 gallons--will be able to process the manure of 10,000 cows. That's enough to produce a billion cubic feet of biogas a year. A year's worth of biogas can sell for about $4.6 million. The plant itself costs $11.2 million.

Microgy, a division of Portsmouth, N.H.-based Environmental Power, believes that it could build several digesters throughout the country. Meat giant Swift & Co., for one, is looking at the feasibility of installing thermophilic digesters.

Microgy's first two digesters will likely start producing biogas in October, a little later than the anticipated third-quarter start date. They are being filled up now.

"There is (about) a 20-day digestion process," the company representative said.

Turning manure into gas has environmental benefits. Traditional manure composting can lead to algae blooms and chemical runoffs.

The Five Star Dairy farm in Elk Mound, Wis., which has a Microgy digester, uses the leftover grass and solid bits from gas production--which doesn't smell anymore--for cow beds.

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Article title should be: No Sh-t!
Does this mean a future with our own waste? Instead of a rural home (fecal) matter wasting in a septic field, perhaps an opportunity knocks for a residential version, then you can power your home off your own biowaste!
Have a party and serve lots of fiber-laden foods!
Just think, college dorms can power themselves just on the waste of pizza and snacks!
Hey look, those fat neighbors always leave their lights on!
Posted by Below Meigh (249 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Burning CO2 ?!?!?!??
<<...but by burning off the carbon dioxide... >>

You have Methane and Carbon Dioxide... you light a match... and the CO2 is supposed to burn?!? Somebody want to explain how you "burn off" carbon dioxide?
Posted by David Arbogast (1709 comments )
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Magnesium will burn in carbon dioxide, forming carbon and magnesium oxide. In the absence of oxygen, the methane will not burn.
Posted by realkato (31 comments )
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biogas and CO2
It struck me like a brick falling on my foot! Did anyone proof this? Removing the stated volume of this gas would take a bit of chemistry beyond burning.

It could be reacted with quick lime that could make calcium carbonate, but that cost big bucks. And a waste disposal for the product of the reaction.
Posted by bigduke (78 comments )
Link Flag
Wrong location
I realize that texas is a big producer of manure, but Washington DC has the biggest supply.
Posted by picklesdaddy (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
There's a certain company in Redmond that's not doing to cr*appy themselves.
Posted by City_Of_LA (118 comments )
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Gas from Manure
There is a plant in Nashua New Hampshire that converts human waste to gas,in operation now.
Posted by Joe Ranguette (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
City waste plants have..
burned methane produced in sewerage disposal plants for decades until cheap electric power displaced many of the big engines that drove the machinery and pumps. There are still swamps that burp methane and it can be ignited.

The cow pies of ten thousand bovine bodies is a big pile of c*&p!

My grandfather used to use a spreader to put it on his fields for next years crops. Is this a forgotten practice? OTOH in winter in the north it collects behind the barn until it thaws in spring.
Posted by bigduke (78 comments )
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Carbon Dioxide?
I have always thought that dry ice was the solid form of Carbon Dioxide. Couldn't the byproduct of this process be used to create refrigeration to air condition computer centers or even as air conditioning for a community or some industry? Just a thought, as I didn't see anyone else mention it. The cold could be stored under ground... I think. Regards, R. LaMonte
Posted by R. LaMonte (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
probably not economical
It takes a lot of energy to solidify CO2 into dry ice... I'm guessing that if it were an economically viable cooling solution, we would already be using dry ice in data centers and our own homes, given that CO2 is more than plentiful.
Posted by David Arbogast (1709 comments )
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