excrement as biofuel

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Moderator: Probir Ghosh

excrement as biofuel

Postby drmsarkar » Tue May 12, 2009 11:12 pm

In nations underdeveloped and developed, animal and human excrement are inevitable byproducts of animal/human existence and metabolism. They can also be a source of pollution and even a noxious presence (imagine driving past hog farms in Iowa), not to mention the spread of disease (e.g. when cattle farm runoffs pollute groundwater). As a result, developed communities sometimes go to considerable lengths to treat and detoxify excrement, i.e. spend energy and resources in the process. What if the average US cattle/hog farm could instead convert the excrement of 500 animals into a energy source?

In Indian villages, cowdung is traditionally mixed with straw, cast into lumps the size of a bowl, sun-dried and then burnt as a fuel - often the fuel for the fires over which meals are cooked (thus reducing the dependency on the other common village fuels: coal, trees/firewood and kerosene). At least 25 years ago, Indians started constructing biomass convertors, essentially large tanks where the natural fermentative breakdown of excrement was used to generate gases, that could then be piped to fuel cooking stoves, etc.

Here is a link to how one Indian company, among others, has shown that a "new biogas digester turns human excrement, cow dung, or kitchen garbage into fuel that can be used for cooking or generating electricity, simultaneously addressing two of India's major needs: energy and sanitation." http://money.cnn.com/2008/02/26/news/international/kahn_biogas.fortune/index.htm

I strongly believe that the Midwestern US states that have significant animal farms can benefit from such technologies. Importantly, the excrement is truly a waste, so converting it into a energy source makes sense. Contrast that with corn being converted into ethanol (corn should feed people and not fuel-guzzling cars!).

M Sarkar
Univ. of Iowa
------------
Mitul Sarkar, Iowa City, IA
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Re: excrement as biofuel

Postby Probir Ghosh » Wed May 13, 2009 12:03 am

Mr. Sarkar's pst needs looking into. Subir, any Idea how Syntex is doing in India? From the picture it looks like an anaerobic digestor that will release methane gas over time, but not sure what the clean up process is with this system. I am assumng there is some kind of pump to get the compost(?) out after a certain number of days?

Actually I have been pretty deeply involved as an advisor to one of the local biogas firms Heartland Renewable Energy, how are planning to set up an improved version of the Hubenschid plug flow digestor model in Greely Colrado. There is a strategic overview paper on the potential for tapping the manure from 90 million cows of which 25% are Dairy cows to generate biogas. The economic does point out that the natural gas price needs to be around $7-$9.00 per mmBtu for the project ot mae business sense. The overview is avaialble at www.vsnicorp.com.
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