From Chicken Manure to Clean Energy
Dec 28, 2010 - Craig K. Paskoski
- Energy Central
The millions of chickens at Hillandale Farms can make quite a mess. Getting
rid of that mess has traditionally meant trucking tons of manure to area farms
where it is then spread on the land as fertilizer.
While that process benefits farmers, it also leads to excess nutrient runoff
into streams, rivers and eventually the Chesapeake Bay.
A $30 million energy and nutrient recovery facility planned on the sprawling
Hillandale Farms egg-laying operation in Tyrone Township is expected to eliminate
that environmental problem as well as generate enough electricity to power
the equivalent of roughly 2,500 homes.
"I think there are huge benefits for agriculture and the environment," said
Patrick Thompson, president and CEO of EnergyWorks BioPower LLC, which will
be constructing the manure collection and treatment facility. "Agriculture
is the leading industry in Pennsylvania. Finding ways to handle byproducts
from agriculture is important to sustaining these farms."
EnergyWorks BioPower, the Lancaster-based bioenergy arm of EnergyWorks, received
an $11 million low-interest loan through the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment
Authority, or PENNVEST, to help fund the project, which is expected to be completed
in early 2012.
For Hillandale Farms, the bioenergy facility is expected to help reduce its
mineral byproducts and eliminate 34,000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse
gas. It will also reduce ammonia emissions by 50 percent, reduce manure storage
by 97 percent and eliminate the annual hauling of more than 70,000 tons on
manure that is currently applied to 23,000 acres of land.
"We're looking at ways to help be more sustainable and reduce nutrients
going into the Chesapeake Bay watershed," said Julie DeYoung, spokesperson
for Hillandale Farms, which has 3.5 million layer hens that produce about 3
million eggs per day on its Gettysburg area farm.
According to Thompson, the facility will significantly reduce the amount of
nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorous, that end up in waterways.
"There is a lot that is lost to the environment. It gets into streams
and rivers and eventually the Chesapeake Bay," he said.
The bioenergy project, the first of its kind in this country, according to
company officials, will use a thermal-chemical process to turn the manure into
a gaseous fuel. During that process, nutrients are removed, leaving behind
a mineral compound that also can be reused.
The project alone should achieve 3.5 percent of Pennsylvania's goal for reducing
nitrogen going into the Chesapeake Bay. It will account for 4.4 percent of
the state's goal for phosphorous reduction.
Environmentalists say those nutrients spur the growth of algae, which reduce
oxygen in the water and create dead zones for crabs, oysters and other marine
John Repetz, state Department of Environmental Protection spokesman, said
the Adams County project holds tremendous potential.
"This can have multiple benefits," he said. "A project like
this that would take manure off those fields is certainly beneficial from the
nutrient angle. This would create another source of alternative energy and
you're also improving air quality."
According to Thompson, "It makes economic sense for (Hillandale) and
there's an environmental benefit."
A byproduct of the manure-burning process will be an ash so refined that Thompson
said he expects it to be certified as a food-grade substance, meaning it could
be used as an animal-feed supplement.
At full capacity, the facility will process more than 250 tons of animal manure
daily and generate between 2 1/2 and 3 1/2 megawatts of energy, or enough to
power about 2,500 homes. EnergyWorks would then either offer to sell the energy
back to the farm, a host supplier or an energy provider, such as a utility
EnergyWorks is awaiting a final air quality permit in order to proceed with
building structures. Site work, Thompson said, is expected to begin shortly.
According to Thompson, because chicken manure is drier than hog or cow manure
it lends itself to the staged heating process.
Repetz said that while methane digesters have proven successful in converting
dairy and hog manure into energy, this is the first thermal-chemical project
in the state that he is aware of.
He said DEP is very interested in gauging the project's success.
"It's something we'll be monitoring to see how efficient it is. We'll
be watching to see if it meets their expectations," he said. "If
this project can show how beneficial it is, that can spur others."
EnergyWorks generally offers project-management services to companies involved
in alternative energy projects. It is involved in managing the construction
of the Chestnut Flats Wind Farm Project near Altoona, and the Bear Creek Wind
Power Project near Wilkes-Barre.
The plant at Hillandale will be the second major project for EnergyWorks BioPower.
The company owns and operates the central utility plant that provides heat
and cooling for the 1.2 million-square-foot Park City Center shopping complex
in Lancaster. Since taking over the infrastructure, the company has reduced
the electrical consumption there by more than 50 percent.
"We work backwards. We look at each problem and find a solution," said
Thompson, who holds an engineering degree from the U.S. Naval Academy, a master
of science degree in engineering from the University of Michigan, and a MBA
from the University of California.
"This is our lead project," Thompson said. "We do have expectations
to do more."