Ramble On

Friday, May 25, 2012

Revisiting a Poultry Litter Power Plant

Looking over some old posts, it's been nearly a year since I posted anything about the ongoing studies in Virginia regarding "what to do with all the chicken s***" -  so when a few friends and alert readers recently sent along the first work product coming out of the litter-to-energy working group (label LEWG at the end of this post will take you to the other material I have on this topic, and there's tons more under the label Fibrowatt), I knew it was time to refresh myself on the facts.  First, though, I want to begin this new series of posts by saying thanks to those alert readers who sent me the recently completed Virginia Tech report designed to estimate just how much chicken litter might be available in the Valley for various purposes, whether that is for use as a directly applied fertilizer or as a component fuel for firing an electric plant.

This Virginia Tech report is the first output of the scope laid down by the LEWG.  Since it has been over a year since we've heard anything out of this group, let's start out with a quick review of what they are up to: this is working group that is chartered by the Virginia governor to determine the feasibility of establishing a power plant in the state that would be fueled by poultry litter, a waste by-product of poultry farms in the area.

I've written up that sentence about the charter in a very cynical tone - but when you read much of the work, it's easy to come to the conclusion that the LEWG has been chartered as an industry-friendly working group, and the goal envisioned for it is the establishment of a power plant - whether the public here wants it or not.  I can determine no other justification for including Fibrowatt representatives in the initial working sessions for that group, and even the project title suggests a predisposition to that outcome.

Full disclosure:  the prospect of a Fibrowatt plant in the Valley, and specifically in Page County, is what got me started on the topic in the first place.

The LEWG scope is characterized by their project title:  "Evaluating Net Benefits/Impacts of a Shenandoah Valley Poutlry Litter to Energy Power Plant on the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and Air Shed: -  a Google search for Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VA DEQ) in 2011 should pull up the scope for those who are interested, but I will summarize the five-part task here:

  1. Conduct baseline analyses and projections related to supply and usage of poultry litter in the Shenandoah Valley;
  2. Determine the net nutrient load reduction levels to the Chesapeake Bay - taking into account reductions from litter-to-energy system as well as potential new load from replacing land application with commercial fertilizers;
  3. Analyze various waste by-product handling options to determine impact on the Chesapeake Bay watershed;
  4. Analyze effects from emission deposition on the Chesapeake Bay Watershed; and
  5. Analyze and quantify potential air emissions from a large poultry litter combustion facility.
The new report from Virginia Tech is the result of task one, a strictly agro-economic assessment of supply and demand for chicken litter.  This post will be the first in a series of five or so I plan over the next two weeks to summarize the report and revisit some conclusions I've made in the past.

I welcome comments or discussion on this topic - it's one that will have a surprising big impact, not just on Page County and the Shenandoah Valley, but also on the state of Virginia - indeed, the entire Chesapeake Bay Watershed, which covers seven states!

No comments: