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

Used election signs could serve as emergency shelters, candidate says

Langley council hopeful wants to build one-person foul weather shelters for homeless

Four-vehicle collision shuts down section of Highway 10 in Cloverdale

One driver transported to hospital with what looked to be non-life threatening injuries

Langley player to compete in first NCAA basketball tournament in Canada

Former Brookswood star Louise Forsyth to play in Vancouver Showcase

VIDEO: Scouts in Langley learn how to communicate during emergencies

Weekend event at Camp McLean part of worldwide Jamboree On The Air and Jamboree On The Internet

Canada Post strikes leaves small shops in the lurch as holidays approach: CFIB

Rotating strikes began in Victoria, Edmonton, Halifax and Windsor

‘Violent’ B.C. man wanted on Canada-wide warrant could be in Lower Mainland

RCMP say the man has likely made his way to the Lower Mainland or another community

New monitoring of vessel noise impact on endangered whales announced

Federal government to monitor underwater ship and mammal noise in B.C.’s Salish Sea

Three men charged in Alberta man’s murder will go straight to trial

The three men are charged with first degree murder in the death a 20-year-old from Alberta.

Aldergrove Kodiaks take narrow loss to Wolf Pack

Kodiaks took a 4-5 loss in the dying minutes of the third period against PJHL’s leading team

Vancouver cops, four-legged pals pose for police dog calendar

Proceeds go to fighting cancer and helping sick kids

Liberals write off $6.3 billion in loans as part of money never to be collected

That includes student loans and a $2.6 billion write off that came through Export Development Canada

Trudeau, McKenna to announce compensation for federal carbon plan

Provinces that don’t have a carbon price of at least $20 per tonne of emissions will have Ottawa’s plan forced on them

UPDATE: American rapper killed in skydiving accident

Man, 34, dies in skydiving accident Saturday near Westwold, between Vernon and Kelowna

Most Read