Ramble On

Friday, March 11, 2011

Poultry Waste Gasification - Part 1

This morning we’ll start looking at alternatives to burning poultry litter as a fuel for generating electricity. My goal is to get a sense of how these alternatives compare with the Fibrowatt process…while I am just beginning to do this research, there will be a bit of learning and a discovery process.

The first approach I want to take a look at is gasification – a process that involves heating organic waste material to a point where it produces gas, which in turn becomes a fuel for the generator. I have a couple of reports that I’ve scanned through, and the links are below.

One of the reports show the following as the advantages of thermal heating produced using gasification:

• Steam production for space and process heating
• Electrical energy generation
• Heating of grow-out houses (poultry facilities)
• Producing chilled water for grow-out house cooling

The first item is the report of a gasification demonstration in Michigan, which used turkey litter as the fuel. The report is credited to a firm called Recovered Energy Resources, Inc., located in Washington, VA. Maybe I’ll make some time to find out more about these “locals” in the future, but for now, their web page is parked, although I do find an active yellow pages listing. One of the listings I found for them said they specialize in gasification based Biomass-to-Energy Power Plants in the Range of 1 - 10 MW.

The test was done in Michigan, working with Xcel Energy, and the date of the report is 2006. As late as 2010, Xcel reported that they were still in the process of converting three coal plants to gasification plants; however, I found a press release from November 2010 that says progress is halted due to costs. On the “coincidence, I think not front” it also happens that these decisions were made after the November 2010 elections.

Here is a straightforward reporting of the results of the poultry litter gasification test:

They monitored the emission of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and sulfur dioxide – all components of air pollution or greenhouse gas. Their reports show “exceptionally low” output for nitrous oxide and sulfur dioxide, probably the worst of these by-products. There were visible calcium emissions, which they say are easily controlled.

The ash from this process was deemed to be of a fine, powdery composition – some of the other methods produce “clinkers” or chunks of ash, a high percentage of phosphorus, which makes it potentially saleable, and easy to handle while removing it from the gasifier.

So, on first pass, here is an alternative to Fibrowatt that could be applied to the poultry waste problem. Clearer, it is a scalable application, meaning that it could be used at the farm level, but offers the possibility of industrial-scale application as in the Xcel Energy case. But what I haven’t found yet is the total impact of those emissions, as in how much there is – if we are talking tradeoffs, then what might make this a better or worse technology than Fibrowatt’s?

I haven’t gotten far into how the process works with this one yet either. So I will look for that sort of material next: how does it work?

The test results source is here: http://www.michigan.gov/documents/deq/deq-ess-p2-ag-workshop-ppt-Schneider-PoultryLitter_192728_7.pdf
Wikipedia article on Xcel: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xcel_Energy
Press release on halting the Xcel Plant: http://www.jsonline.com/business/111018219.html

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