Useful waste

first_imgBy Stephanie SchupskaUniversity of GeorgiaTwo and a half pounds of litter – that’s about how much onechicken produces in its lifetime. A team of University of Georgiascientists is working to turn the poultry state’s waste litterinto a valuable alternative fuel product.That’s good news in Georgia, where chickens, specificallybroilers, rank No. 1 in the state’s agriculture, with aleaving-the-farm value of almost $4 billion. Poultry litter ismostly manure mixed with a bedding material such as wood shavings.Two and a half pounds of litter per broiler is 2.5 pounds ofby-product waiting to be converted into something usable, saidJimmy Palmer of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Withfunding from an EPA grant, UGA researchers are searching for waysto add value to poultry waste.“This will help us collectively deal with environmental issues ofgrowing agriculture,” said Palmer, an EPA regional administrator.“A waste is a terrible thing to mind,” he said, twisting a commonphrase. “We’re looking for better ways to deal with waste.”Through a process called fractionation, the UGA researchers planto produce two types of materials from the poultry litter,separating the fine and coarse parts, said Mark Risse, a UGACooperative Extension engineer and member of the research team.The scientists form the fine, nutrient-rich material into pelletsfor fertilizer. Because the processed fertilizer pellets wouldallow a slower release of nutrients into the soil, pollution frompathogens and nutrients in the poultry litter would be reduced.“Most poultry litter is currently being directly land-applied asfertilizer,” said K.C. Das, coordinator of the UGA Biorefinery.“It makes sense to a point. But in north Georgia, there’s notenough land to spread the litter. Through this process, we’reproducing a better energy product as well as a better fertilizer.”The research team puts the coarse, energy-rich poultry littermaterial through an intense heating process called pyrolysis tocreate char and bio-oil. The char can be used anywhere charcoalis used. Bio-oil can be refined further and used as diesel-likefuel.UGA engineers say developing a cheap source of energy frompoultry litter would provide a cleaner source of energy, helpingthe state grow in an economically and environmentally sustainableway. They estimate that in the United States, using poultrylitter as fuel could save 283 million gallons of fossil fuel.“Two or three companies are looking at Georgia right now,” Rissesaid. “They’re looking at pelleting litter for fertilizer.There’s a very real opportunity for research that can be used not10 years from now, but now.”“A lot more is said than usually done, and we’re about to do it,”Palmer said of the project.Besides Risse and Das, the UGA research team includes CooperativeExtension engineer John Worley, professor Sid Thompson andgraduate student Kaushlendra Singh.The project builds on work Thompson did 15 years ago and had toshelve due to a lack of application at the time. Now, with thedemand for alternative fuels increasing, his halted research cancontinue.The project team is in the process of showing they can break uppoultry litter into two parts and use both. The researchers willalso have to determine whether the processes should be done atcentralized locations across the state or at individual farms.“Poultry litter represents two times the energy consumption on afarm,” Das said. “You have everything you need to produce energyon the farm already.”last_img