Farm manure could be viable renewable energy source, Canadian researchers say

A chemical reaction in the converter would produce methane from carbon dioxide in the biogas

Researchers at an Ontario university say farm manure could be a viable source of renewable energy to heat homes.

University of Waterloo scientists say they are developing technology to produce natural gas from manure so it can be added to the existing energy supply system for heating homes and powering industries.

The proposal would eliminate harmful gases released by naturally decomposing manure when it is spread on farm fields as fertilizer.

They say it would also partially replace fossil natural gas, a significant contributor to global warming.

Chemical engineering professor David Simakov says the technology could be viable with several kinds of manure, particularly cow and pig manure, as well as at landfill sites.

In addition to being used by industries and in homes, the researchers say renewable natural gas could replace diesel fuel for trucks, another major source of greenhouse gas emissions.

“There are multiple ways we can benefit from this single approach,” Simakov said Thursday in a statement. “The potential is huge.”

To test the concept, researchers built a computer model of an actual 2,000-head dairy farm in Ontario that collects manure and converts it into biogas in anaerobic digesters.

Some of that biogas is already used to produce electricity by burning it in generators, reducing the environmental impact of manure while also yielding about 30 to 40 per cent of its energy potential.

Researchers want to take those benefits a significant step further by upgrading, or converting, biogas from manure into renewable natural gas.

That would involve mixing it with hydrogen, then running it through a catalytic converter. A chemical reaction in the converter would produce methane from carbon dioxide in the biogas.

Known as methanation, the process would require electricity to produce hydrogen, but that power could be generated on-site by renewable wind or solar systems, or taken from the electrical grid at times of low demand.

The net result would be renewable natural gas that yields almost all of manure’s energy potential and also efficiently stores electricity, but has only a fraction of the greenhouse gas impact of manure used as fertilizer, the Waterloo researchers said.

“This is how we can make the transition from fossil-based energy to renewable energy using existing infrastructure, which is a tremendous advantage,” said Simakov, who collaborates with fellow chemical engineering professor Michael Fowler.

The modelling study showed that a $5-million investment in a methanation system at the Ontario farm would, with government price subsidies for renewable natural gas, pay for itself in about five years, the researchers said.

Peter Cameron, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Presenting the Graduates of 2018

BCSS celebrated the 2018 grads last weekend.

30 degrees and warmer forecasted with heat wave in B.C.

The weather could stay well into next week, according to Environment Canada

Rock Creek Community Medical celebrates 40 years

The society started with a donation of land.

‘Daddy bonus’ common in B.C. workplaces, study finds

UBC researchers say dads don’t have to be number one in the office to get a raise

The only firestorm in Trail was on social media

Power outage set off alarms at Teck Trail; company says no fire or flooding

REPLAY: B.C. this week in video

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

B.C. announces $75M to help friends, family care for seniors at home

Funding will go towards respite care and adult day programs

Timely tide attracts another pod of orcas to Victoria

The pod left the harbour about 30 minutes later

Canada won’t ‘play politics’ on U.S. migrant children policy

The U.S. government is under fire over its ”zero tolerance” policy

Capitals coach resigns after Stanley Cup win

Barry Trotz announced his resignation on Monday

B.C. pledges $550 million for Indigenous housing

Aboriginal leaders say federal government needs to pitch in too

Teck donates $1 million to College of the Rockies

Investment in facilities and student scholarships boosts regional trades training

Sweden beats South Korea 1-0

Sweden gets benefit of video review in World Cup

Blue Jay Roberto Osuna not expected to appear in court

The Blue Jays pitcher is charged with one count of assault by Toronto police

Most Read