'Gasifier' might harness manure's
May 21, 2010 - Bill Jackson - Greeley
Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune
Two Weld County companies are cashing
in on a plan to turn manure into energy.
JBS Five Rivers Cattle Feeding has
been exploring ways to do just that for the last
five years. Through a partnership with Harsh International
Inc. of Eaton, a theory is close to becoming a reality.
Basically, the system would burn feedlot manure
to the point that it produces a gas that could be
used to produce steam energy.
On Thursday, JBS Five Rivers and Harsh demonstrated
a prototype gasifier of what JBS intends to install
at its newly renovated feedlot at Kuner, which is
east of Kersey, by the end of this year. The company
intends to install three of the Harsh-built commercial
gasifiers, which will replace the feedlot's three
boilers that are used to flake corn, part of the
diet given to cattle.
Andy Brown of Harsh International said the gasifier
was created by a Canadian inventer about 10 years
ago. Harsh has developed what Brown called a strategic
alliance to build the prototype -- and eventually
commercial units. The prototype can burn about 250
pounds of manure per hour; the commercial unit will
handle 4,200 pounds.
"This is the most exciting thing I've been
involved with in my career," Brown, 79, said.
He bought Harsh in 1986, and he now runs the company
with his son, Bob. For years, Harsh has been involved
in the manufacture of hydraulic lifts and other agriculture
Tom McDonald, vice president of environmental affairs
for JBS Five Rivers, said the new equipment will
result in an 80 percent reduction in the natural
gas that is presently used to operate the boilers.
Each of the gasifiers, he said, will cost $425,000.
In comparison, John Slutskey, who operates a dairy
near Wellington and is chairman of the Colorado Air
Quality Commission, said a digester for his dairy
would cost $1.3 million, or $1,000 a cow. But he
and McDonald were quick to point out that a gasifier
and a digester are two different types of technology.
Feedlot manure, they said, contains a lot of dirt,
unlike that of dairy manure, since those cows stand
on solid flooring such as concrete.
McDonald said while JBS Five Rivers has been looking
at the technology for the past five years, it was
about two years ago when company officials approached
Harsh to see if it could build the gasifier.
The dirt in the feedlot manure presented a problem,
McDonald said. JBS, he said, learned of a solid fuel
burner in use at a Wisconsin dairy and took a load
of feedlot manure to that dairy to see if that technology
"What happens when you throw dirt on a fire?
It puts it out and that's what we did," McDonald
So they went back to the drawing board, and Harsh
developed the answer.
The gasifier takes the manure into a container much
like what McDonald called a "pizza oven," only
once operational, it operates at 1,600 degrees. The
gas coming off the manure is then pulled into a waste
heat boiler, which produces the steam to flake the
corn. A byproduct is ash, which also holds potential
as it can be mixed with cement to then be used to
pave roads, or in the case of JBS Five Rivers, to
provide a hard surface at its feedlots, which would
remove much of the dirt from manure.
Following Thursday's demonstration of the gasifier
at Harsh, JBS officials gave officials from the county
health department, the Environmental Protection Agency
and the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission a
tour of the Kuner feedlot. An $18 million renovation
of that feedlot is scheduled to be complete by October,
said Nolan Stone, manager of the lot.
The first 100,000-head feedlot in the world when
opened, JBS Five Rivers is in the process of replacing
all the wooden feed pens with steel post pens and
completely changing the drainage pattern, which in
the past, ran to the north and south. Now, water
runs to the north into newly constructed retention
ponds, which can handle 286 times the capacity of
any major storm that is required under current regulations.
Water from those ponds, once cleared of solid matter
by another new technology being developed, is used
to irrigate 450 acres of land around the feedlot,
which produces some of the feedstuffs needed by cattle.
An agreement with B.O.S.S. Composting also has been
developed, and that company is using manure to make
compost at the west end of the feedlot.
"We've practically got a new feed yard," McDonald