Ramble On

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Fibrowatt - the process

Since I am getting pretty far down the road on the Fibrowatt story, I wanted to start this post with a quick reference to the original NVD article where I learned about the company. By posting all of this material, I am simply trying to educate myself about them - Hawksbill Cabin is a blog and not a newspaper, so the purpose here is not to report a deal. That isn't my role.

So how did I learn about the Fibrowatt prospect, or opportunity? Here is the quote in the NVD newspaper that got me started: "Legislation in Richmond from Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, would establish tax credits and other incentives to encourage Fibrowatt LLC to locate a facility in Page County. "We became aware a couple of months ago that they were looking at constructing one of their plants in the valley," Gilbert said, adding that Page is considered a top contender for the site."

Now back to the review of Fibrowatt - today talking about the process for turning chicken litter into power. This is synopsized from the Fibrowatt website.

One of the value statements with the Fibrowatt process is the idea that this kind of renewable or sustainable energy provides an alternative means of disposal for chicken litter. That stuff has to go somewhere, and often the poultry farmer’s least expensive means of getting rid of it is to spread it.

That, said, from the web site, here is a summary of how they make power:
“Fibrowatt assists area growers with poultry litter removal and then transports the poultry litter in tightly covered trucks on prearranged routes to the facility. The trucks then discharge the litter within a specially designed fuel storage building, which is kept at negative pressure to prevent the escape of odors. The litter is combusted at more than 1,500° F, ensuring the destruction of odor and pathogens. Water is heated in a boiler to produce high-pressure, high-temperature steam, which drives a turbine and generates electricity. The remaining ash by-product is beneficially used as a nutrient-rich fertilizer.”

A quick Google search shows that there are a couple of alternatives, one described on a Mississippi State University site (link below):

"A gasifier converts organic materials into gas rather than burning it," said Plodinec, noting the units would be sited at poultry houses around the state. "Then, the gas can be moved somewhere else and burned cleanly. You can generate relatively small but significant amounts of electricity right there for the person who needs it." The MSU article goes on to describe an alternative process that can produce commercial chemicals as opposed to fuels.

The other link below discusses scale issues with these operations – farm-scale, or industrial-scale. It was written in 2002 and discusses various ways that litter can be used for energy. This article emphasizes what were then emerging farm-scale technologies, but it also references some of the issues that larger scale operations need to be aware of and manager, including ash management (the ash can be used as fertilizer, a byproduct of the process), plant emissions, and other regulatory concerns. The article even references Fibrowatt’s plants in England, highlighting their emissions control systems.

For tomorrow’s post, I plan to look at the Fibrowatt plant in Minnesota, known as Fibrominn, and especially to take a look at how the community’s concerns with emissions, truck traffic, and potential odors were addressed within the framework of a community board approach.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jim just a point for you to consider. In this post you make a reference to the disposal of poultry litter - it has to go somewhere.

I think there is a normal tendency for people to think of poultry litter as a waste and therefore that litter is being disposed of. Talk to a poultry grower, a row crop farmer, a agricultural extension agent, or a professor at the local university agricultural department and you will get a different opinion. Poultry litter has never been disposed of as it has value as a resource.

When the farmer is using poultry litter on area farmland, they are valuing the litter as a resource for its nutrient value. Fibrowatt likewise looks at poultry litter as a resource and is not only valuing it as a nutrient resource but we also are valuing it as a fuel for the generation of power.

Our place in resource management is providing an alternative for the poultry grower so that they can more sustainably use this resource in the confined areas that represent the countries most successful poultry growing regions such as the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

Terry Walmsley
Fibrowatt LLC