Higher Energy Costs Improve Economics of Anaerobic Digestion

CANADA - Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives predicts, as energy costs continue to rise, the economics of using anaerobic digestion to produce energy from livestock manure will become easier to justify, writes Bruce Cochrane.
calendar icon 23 July 2007
clock icon 3 minute read

Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives is providing funding for the evaluation of three different technologies which use anaerobic digestion, a natural biological process in which bacteria breaks down manure producing biogas which can be used as an alternate source of energy on the farm.

Agri-energy specialist Doug Jackson notes anaerobic digestion is not a new process, it's been around for awhile and he is confident it offers potential in the coming years, particularly as energy costs go up.

Doug Jackson-Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives

It's an expensive process.

This equipment and so on doesn't come cheaply.

It's a high maintenance type of project.

It's a biological type of process so you have to keep it going and baby-sit it.

So the economics are, depending on what you're trying to justify it for, in terms of production of electricity say to offset heating and electrical requirements, again depends on how much gas you produce and what kind of conversion you can get.

But it's an expensive proposition for sure and the economics are, let's say, a little questionable right now but, as energy costs go up and as technologies improve, certainly this could be a thing of the future.

Jackson estimates, depending on the type of livestock operation, energy can account for anywhere from 40 to 60 percent of costs, in terms of heating in the winter months and cooling in the summer.

He suggests, if a farm can use the anaerobic digestion process to offset some of its own operating costs, in terms of heating and electrical, that could be a fairly substantial input.

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