How Biogas Can Save Farms And Reduce Global Warming

Unique 2.8 mw PlanET anaerobic digester in Alberta, Canada. Along with processing manure from dairy, beef, pigs and chickens it converts food processing waste and potentially hazardous animal carcasses into electricity, heat and fertilizer.

What is biogas (anaerobic digestion)?

The world now produces more milk than people can pay for. As a result the low prices paid for blended milk per hundred weight in the USA are causing record numbers of farms to fail. This includes multi generational farm sites that have been in operation for hundreds of years.

While this is happening, the world’s continued dependence on fossil fuels and the benefits of  renewable energy are “top of mind” among national leaders and everyday citizens. What tops most minds, however, is renewable energy produced by “borrowing” the sun and wind.

But there is a lesser known category of renewables – anaerobic digestion or biogas. Importantly, anaerobic digesters on farms not only produce electricity and natural gas, they also remove the dangerous methane that causes global warming.

Anaerobic digestion, or biogas, is not new. It is the natural process of collecting gases from decaying organic material. It may have been used to heat water as early as the 10th century BC and the first biogas plant was built in Bombay, India in 1859.

Today in western and central Europe over 15,000 digesters convert manure and other organic waste into electricity or natural gas. By contrast, the United States has just 240 commercial systems. This is due in part to lower prices paid in the USA for renewable energy, partly due to high land and labor costs and partly to a chronic lack of education and marketing.

The biogas process involves manure and other organic waste being fed into a sealed tank without the presence of oxygen. It typically remains there for an average of 25 days being continually stirred at a temperature of 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit). Bacteria is generated causing the release of methane gas which is then piped into a combined heat and power (CHP) generator to create electricity, or into gas cleaning equipment to meet renewable natural gas (RNG) standards.

Should you be interested in exploring a biogas solution, MMS is affiliated with one of the world’s most successful (450 installations) anaerobic digester manufacturers, PlanET Biogas.

Manure/nutrient management conference assembled by MMS. Attending were three New England farms who purchased digesters.

Manure and other organic waste are chemically altered in the process resulting in significant pathogen and odor reduction. The output or “digestate” can be separated into solids and liquid. The liquid is spread on a farmer’s fields as high quality fertilizer while the solid portion can be used as a soil amendment for plant nurseries or in the case of dairy farmers, a cost free bedding material.

What material or feedstocks does an anaerobic digester process?

An anaerobic digester can process anything organic. Animal manure (including human waste) is reliably available in abundance, but anything animals can eat, or waste that comes from food processing, can also be digested. This includes the fats, oils and greases that come from restaurants as well as slaughter house and meat packing waste.

Manure transformed by 25 day oxygen free digester process into odorless, pathogen free, bedding for cows.

An anaerobic digester can process anything organic. Animal manure (including human waste) is reliably available in abundance, but anything animals can eat, or waste that

In Europe there are 100% corn silage and 100% sugar beet pulp digesters. American digesters often co-digest manure with food processing waste.

Should you be interested in exploring a biogas solution, MMS is affiliated with one of the world’s most successful (450 installations) anaerobic digester manufacturers, PlanET Biogas.

What benefit does an anaerobic digester provide?

The revenue streams from a biogas plant are diverse and to some degree depend on the ingenuity of the digester owner. As mentioned, electricity or natural gas can be produced and sold. The useful heat from the generator can be used in buildings located near the digester which offsets heating costs in cold weather climates.

The output from the digester can be separated into solid and liquid portions. The solids can be used to offset a farmer’s cow bedding cost which in American can be more than $100,000 annually.

The excess can also be sold to farmers without digesters or to nurseries as soil amendment. The separated solids are pathogen free which reduces costly mastitis infections. It also keeps the somatic cell count low.

In at least one case a farmer takes dried solids, presses them in a mold and sells the resulting  “cow pots” to people to grow their household plants in an organic pot! Each costs the farmer just pennies.

Of course a major benefit to the entire planet is the elimination of dangerous methane that causes that causes global warming.

We like to tell people that the AD in www.muirad.com stands for Anaerobic Digesting. Should you be interested in exploring a biogas solution, MMS is affiliated with one of the world’s most successful (450 installations) anaerobic digester manufacturers, PlanET Biogas.

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