Manure Gasification

Gasification is quite distinct from anaerobic digestion. This short post explains the former in terms of dairy or beef farm manure. There is traditional gasification (around for over 100 years) and plasma arc gasification.

biochar is a by product that can be rich in nutrients:

A more welcome surprise came for Josh Frye when he was introduced to the concept of biochar by Tom Basden, an extension specialist in nutrient management at West Virginia University. “Tom told me I would end up growing chickens mainly for the poop,” Josh said. “I thought he was off his rocker, but now I think he might be right on the money.”

Josh is now producing a high quality biochar and has sold his first ton at a net price of $480 ($600 a ton for the char and $120 a ton transport costs) to a farmer in New Jersey who is testing its qualities for his crop of corn and soybeans.  A farm in South Carolina is testing the char on pharmaceutical grapes (used in the nutritional supplement industry). Josh worked with IBI board members Johannes Lehmann and Stephen Joseph to optimize the gasifier to produce quality biochar rich in phosphorous and potassium. His test burns so far have made biochar that ranges from 1.7 to 3.2 percent P and 5.4 to 9.6 percent K.

Th800px-Adler_Diplomat_3_GS_mit_Holzgasgenerator-hinten_rechtse Stirling engine.


Biochar is retained in the soil over many hundreds and even thousands of years, unlike fertilizers which typically require annual application. The “black earth”, or Terra Preta, of the Amazon Rain Forest is noted world-wide as being one of the most fertile soils, yet was actually a very poor soil enriched with biochar material. The market for biochar is currently being developed.  It is valuable commercially for fertilizing soil, and is used to mitigate climate change through the sequestering of atmospheric carbon dioxide.  Biochar is an ideal amendment to increase crop yields in most soil types.

Biochar also has a variety of other uses, including animal feed supplements and use as a water filtration medium. Extensive research has been done in both applications, with a small amount of biochar being sold for these uses.  Research continues towards these and other applications.

Cow Manure as an Economical Energy Source

The dairy industry is globally under pressure from increasing environmental regulations, falling prices, as well as very aggressive foreign competition. Manure management and electrical costs are one area dairymen can look to cut costs. The current market for all agriculture is under high pressure from increasing regulation, falling prices, as well as very aggressive foreign competition. The current EU administration is trying to pass new environmental laws and regulations. At the same time trying to reduce government subsidies, it is determined to push through stricter regulations using the regulatory government agencies.

The dairy industry in particular is facing new challenges with low milk prices that have started to incline but with feed costs currently on the rise dairymen still are challenged to break even. This has meant that dairy farmers have had to borrow more money to maintain their herds while at the same time increasing the breakeven point they must get for their milk now and in the future. Dairy farms must become more efficient. Dairy farmers must find ecological and economical solutions to ever increasing environmental regulations while at the same time lowering their costs of production.

Successful dairy farmers often own multiple farms; while this is often successful it is not always the most effective solution. Adding more animals at the same location should be more efficient as well as cost effective. Generally availability of land and manure management is the limiting factors. Increasingly waste management is a major factor and concern of dairy farmers. Fines, threats, and an ever-increasing regulatory burden take more of our time, energy and money. How can dairies increase the point at which their operation is profitable?

Energy costs will continue to go up and costs are dictated to the user by third parties of which we have no control over. Additionally handling of waste material and increasing regulation is another high cost that shows no indication of going down. One possible method of increasing efficiency is to use manure, and waste feed to produce the electrical needs of the farm. Capturing solids before they go to the lagoons, and send all the waste to a boiler specifically designed and tested to burn high moisture waste. This system can provide electricity, heat and hot water.

Plasma arc gasification is a new form of technology that turns biomass into plasma at extremely high temperatures. The basic requirements for a plasma arc gasification system involve a sealed vessel that is filled with a stable gas. The gas can be either nitrogen or, even ordinary air. Then a high-volt current is passed between two electrodes creating an electric arc that pull electrons from the air (Plasma arc & Gasification).

This high voltage impact converts the gas into plasma. The current flows through this newly formed plasma, creating a field of high energy that is extremely powerful and is compared to the equivalent of lightening. The energy of the plasma arc is so powerful; it can turn trash, biomass, and basically anything into its basic elements by tearing apart their molecular bonds. With the plasma process toxins and odor substances are immobilized in-situ environmentally friendly.

What is left behind after biomass is passes through this plasma gasification process is a volcanic-like glass. This glass can be used as a raw material for several applications that range from bathroom tiles to an asphalt like product.  Another beneficial by-product that is created during this process is a syn-gas much like the gas created from older forms of biomass gasification. It is a mix of hydrogen and carbon monoxide that can be converted into several types of useful fuels. Some of these fuels include ethanol, natural gas and hydrogen. A big bonus of this system is that it is self-sustaining. It requires only the initial high volt current to start the cycle after that it produces its own electricity to create the electric arc, even if there is a blackout power outage.

To produce electricity this system much like other methods of cogeneration, relies on heating water to generate steam and in turn spin a turbine that drives an electric generator. At the current time this technology is mainly targeting the landfill waste segment. Our society is pushing towards more environmentally friendly technologies and this certainly is one. This technology has the ability of taking otherwise useless landfill waste and creating electricity at the same time slowing the growth of landfills and the pollution we leave behind. If they could extremely scale this back and reduce the equipment costs then it could be a possibility for the dairy industry in the future.

Manure production is a key factor for determining just how much electricity could potentially be generated. Average milk production per cow has increased 70% from 4,500 kg/cow/year in 1971 to nearly 7,300 kg/cow/year in 2000, resulting in changes in manure production.

A cow produces 14 pounds of manure on a dry matter basis for lactating cows. Electrical production is the cornerstone for this project. 1 British thermal unit (BTU) requires 6lbs of manure to be gasified. To convert BTU’s to kilowatts of electricity there is a factor of .00029. This means that 3,448 lbs of manure at 55% moisture are required to produce one kilowatt of electricity. The project is in the preliminary stage and is planning a design that will have the capacity to burn 3,000 lbs per hour.

Biomass gasification has many promising attributes for the dairy industry. It can produce electrical needs for a dairy operation in an environmentally friendly manner, while utilizing a renewable fuel source. Another financial benefit is that any excess energy could possibly be sold back to the power grid to generate extra revenues. Biomass gasification also produces a beneficial by-product for any dairy operation that farms.


Chicken Manure (Frye Poultry)

Frye Poultry gasifier

Frye Poultry gasifier

Frye Poultry Farm
Wardensville, West Virginia

West Virginia Department of Environmental Quality features Coaltec’s Frye Poultry chicken litter gasification project in their InDEPth newsletter. Scroll to pages 4 and 5 of the PDF version of this article here.

West Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, Division of Air Quality, features Coaltec’s Frye Poultry gasification project in their Clean Air Forum. Scroll to page 7 of the PDF version for the full article here.

Gasifier at Frye Poultry

Gasifier at Frye Poultry

Located at Frye Poultry Farm, Hardy County West Virginia, this demonstration project has shown that chicken litter can successfully be gasified to provide a bio-based heating system. The project compared, side-by-side, a typically-heated poultry house and a poultry house heated with hot air out of a gasifier with an air-to-air heat exchanger. The focus of the project was to prove the feasibility and economic viability of a bio-based fuel-to-energy system utilizing poultry litter as the fuel and a fixed-bed gasifier as the medium to convert the material to energy. The project is the culmination of advanced-stage research and development work for a poultry system, and included commissioning, evaluation, and field testing of a gasification system specifically designed for the poultry industry.

Inside Frye Poultry barn

Inside Frye Poultry barn

On March 19, 2007 the gasifier was delivered to the Frye Poultry site. By the end of that same day the modular system was in place and ready for coupling to the ducting system. On day two the propane and electrical work were in progress. On day three the system was operating to cure the refractory. The was done by a six man crew with the assistance of a crane and crane operator. A sock air distribution system was installed with outstanding results; the ambient air temperature throughout the house having no more than a two degree differential.

The controls in the house are completely secured and the system is operational with birds in the house. Additionally it was operated between flocks to dry the manure pack on the floor and to preheat the house to improve the environment for new birds coming in. The fuel feed iscompletely automated and the system changes as fuel quality and energy needs change. The system has been operated utilizing both local controls as well as with monitoring from Indiana and Canada through the remote web-based access system.

Frye Litter Shed

Frye Litter Shed

The operation of the gasifier has a definite positive impact on the bird growth and health. The humidity level in the house is lower – over 20% less, and the bird’s growth was as much as 7% higher. The propane use is obviously lower as the gasifier is providing the energy for replacement heat.

The owner installed a litter shed to improve the quality of both the fuel feed and the resulting biochar.

As the system is used, a variety of unexpected benefits have been discovered: The ash as a fertilizer supplement has substantial value. It may also be beneficial as a feed supplement to replace dicalcium phosphate. Research work to determine this will be a part of Phase 2 of the project.


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