By Kim Harington
Thursday, January 24, 2019
(NEW FRONTIER NEWS)- Biofuel is a broad category that encompasses any type of fuel that comes from organic matter.
I’m sure you’ve heard of turning fast food grease into biodiesel. There are many ways of producing biofuels, and one of the most recent processes involves converting pig manure into biogas.
This is the process of producing natural gas from animal waste products, so as one can imagine, it has a lot of appeal to farmers, energy companies, and environmentalists.
How it works
The process starts with methane, which is a powerful greenhouse gas that comes from the manure.
Most hog farms will produce (literally) tons of it every year and store it in a “lagoon”.
These hog waste lagoons received a lot of media attention after hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina. Intense rainfall ruptured these waste lagoons and contaminated the surrounding waters.
In order to create biogas, a farmer will close off the lagoons in order to capture the methane as it gets released from the manure, preventing it from entering the atmosphere. This not only allows the farmer to turn the waste into a form of profit, but it also keeps the waste itself and the smell contained.
The rest of the waste can then go into a digester system, where bacteria can start to digest it. They produce both natural gas and a residue that can work as a fertilizer.
The farmer can use the gas directly as a source of fuel or sell it to the power grid. With the remnants going towards growing crops.
Where it Happens
Farmers have been using variations of this process for decades, but it has only recently become much more efficient due to increased research into green power.
It is still quite expensive to buy the equipment to get started. However, it is worth it in the long run.
Right now the cost of setting up the system means that most installations happen with the support of large agricultural companies.
For example, Smithfield Foods is spearheading a fairly large project in their farms in North Carolina, Missouri, and Utah.
Their example to both farmers and government leaders, along with the valuable experience that comes from running those projects, will likely encourage other farmers in those areas to follow.
There are also a number of available Smithfield Foods jobs that would allow one to work on the cutting edge of this technology.
Why it Matters
These biofuel systems are a powerful tool for preserving the environment and keeping greenhouse gas levels under control.
Traditionally, pig farms have simply left pools of manure in a lagoon system, which allowed large amounts of methane to enter the air and atmosphere.
Agriculture is one of the leading sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.
This system massively reduces the amount of methane that enters the atmosphere, allowing farmers to meet the public’s demand for their products while also protecting mother earth.
Biofuel also has the potential to reduce pollution from other fuel sources by competing with those sources.
After all, every person that uses gas from a pig farm is a person who isn’t using gas from a pipeline. That is valuable because many other types of fuel extraction are damaging to the environment due to the nature of the drilling process.
This type of biofuel production is still in its infancy, so it isn’t providing a huge amount of power to the grid at the moment.
That having been said, it is getting more popular and the systems are getting more efficient as more farmers and corporations invest in them.
That trend is likely to continue, so biofuel is likely to do much more to protect the environment in the coming years. Who knows, maybe your house will be running off pig poop soon.