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Agronomy Day 2007

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Thermochemical Conversion Process for Swine Manure to Produce Oil and Reduce Waste

tour d
Mitch Minarick Mitch Minarick
Graduate Student,
Department of Agricultural
and Biological Engineering
mminari2@illinois.edu
Yuanhui Zhang Yuanhui Zhang
Professor
Department of Agricultural
and Biological Engineering
217-333-2693
yzhang1@illinois.edu

Summary: Billions of dollars are spent annually on manure transportation, treatment and land application. Our goal is to develop an economical and holistic technology to convert swine manure into bio-fuel and other byproducts. Regulations that continue to become more stringent and cost-intensive have been imposed to satisfy our desire for a clean, safe environment. It is vitally important to develop innovative solutions to treat livestock waste. Meanwhile, we have a growing need for bio-fuels that reduce our dependence on foreign oil and the world’s finite supply of crude petroleum. Our group has developed a process that converts manure to a petroleum-like oil product.

Principle: We mimic the natural thermochemical conversion (TCC) formation of petroleum, which is a very long process involving deceased hydrocarbons (such as animals and plants) under high temperature and pressure underground; but we do it in a very short time, on the order of one hour, instead of many years. TCC is a chemical reforming process of organic polymers, or biomass, in a heated enclosure, typically under anoxic or very low oxygen conditions. Depending upon the operating parameters of the system, the products of this process can be liquid oil, water, char or mineral solids, and combustible and inert gases. This TCC process offers an appealing solution to the swine manure problems.

Progress: Our research team at University of Illinois has applied TCC to the conversion of swine manure to crude oil. In our first stage research, a batch TCC reactor was developed with the capability to convert 70% of total manure (dry basis) to oil that has a heating value between 32,000 and 36,700 kJ/kg. At this conversion efficiency, the lifetime manure from one market hog (up to 250 lb body mass) can yield up to about 15 gallons of crude oil and add perhaps $10/pig profit. This means $1 billion to the 100 million hogs per year industry in the U.S. Carbon credits and greenhouse gas reduction credits are in addition to the oil product value, and could double the value per pig raised. A systematic investigation of process parameters was conducted. Using the results of the initial research, a bench-scale continuous TCC system has been designed and built at UIUC.

What needs to be done: (1) Develop further and optimize a bench-scale continuous thermo-chemical conversion (TCC) process for converting swine manure to liquid bio-fuel to expand understanding and guide design of farm-scale systems. (2) Perform chemical and physical analyses of all TCC products to determine their value and safety. (3) Evaluate post-process treatment alternatives and upgrading to maximize value and minimize potential environmental problems of the process. (4) Assess the economic feasibility of farm-scale continuous TCC systems.

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