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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Playground reopens at Vernon’s Polson Park

No more standing water, park reopens just in time for summer’s end

Vernon man brews up award-winning flavours in Golden

Kenton (Kent) Donaldson is co-founder of Whitetooth Brewing Company Ltd. in Golden

New group home for Vernon

Howard House to be replaced by new development

Stolen vehicle recovered from site of Vernon manhunt for wanted man

Police return to Brooks Lane in response to reports of suspicious vehicle

Vernon talent airs for Top of the Country

Raquel Cole semi-finalist in SiriusXM contest with Canadian Country Music Association

COVID-19: 4 more deaths, 366 new cases in B.C. since Friday

A total of 8,208 people in B.C. have tested positive for COVID-19 since January

16 COVID-19 cases reported in Interior Health region

One person is in hospital and 34 people are isolating

Group wants Parliament, courts to hold social media to same standard as publishers

Daniel Bernhard made the comments shortly after Friends of Canadian Broadcasting released a research paper

Truck, Shuswap police vehicle collide during arrest of wanted man

Emergency response team and helicopter called out to assist in Chase area arrest

Shuswap search and rescue crew respond to dirt biker injured on Mount Ida

North Vancouver man transported to hospital for treatment of injuries

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Popular South Okanagan cafe shuts its doors

Saint Germaine Cafe and Gallery served its last latte Sept. 19

Kelowna woman to run from Vernon to Penticton for mental health awareness

Melissa Gosse’s 100-kilometre ultramarathon will raise funds for Canadian Mental Health Association

Film that explores themes of missing Indigenous women to screen in Kelowna

Rustic Oracle is the story of a missing teenage Indigenous girl, told through the eyes of her seven-year-old sister

Most Read