Anaerobic Digestion Offers Potential Alternate Energy Source

CANADA - Manitoba Hydro is confident anaerobic digestion has the potential to reduce environmental concerns related to the disposal of livestock manure while producing an alternate form of energy, writes Bruce Cochrane.
calendar icon 17 July 2007
clock icon 3 minute read

Over the years Manitoba Hydro, the provincial crown corporation that supplies Manitoba's electricity and natural gas, has promoted several successful initiatives aimed at helping farmers curb their energy use and currently the utility is involved in a number of projects which are looking at the use of anaerobic digestion for processing livestock manure.

Anaerobic digestion is a naturally occurring process where bacteria breaks down the organic matter, or solids, in manure producing biogas.

Senior biosystems engineer Dennis St. George notes there is potential to utilize that biogas in the livestock facility as an energy supply.

Dennis St. George-Manitoba Hydro

Logically the first use that will probably come into play will be using that biogas for heating.

A number of the livestock operations in the province, because we don't have as large a natural gas supply, would rely on propane as their heat source.

In some instances it's electricity.

So first of all propane has become quite expensive and as well we're trying to make customers more electrically efficient because what it means is if we can displace the electricity you purchase from Manitoba Hydro we can potentially move that into our export markets for higher value so it actually nets a better benefit to the overall system that way.

This is where the biogas could come into play from a heating perspective, first of all just eliminating a high cost fuel source for the customer and then secondly, if electricity is their heating source, it gives a benefit in terms of Manitoba Hydro freeing up some of our capacity.

Manitoba Hydro is currently in the process of establishing three on farm scale anaerobic digester projects.

St. George suggests for anaerobic digestion to be successful in Manitoba it will have to competitive with the investment capital that the industry is willing to commit and not present any risk from a technical or operational point of view.

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