Wageningen Looks to go Carbon-Neutral

NETHERLANDS - Scientists at Wageningen UR's Swine Research Farm are working on a biogas plant aimed to help make pig farms carbon-neutral, as well as other energy-saving ideas.
calendar icon 29 March 2010
clock icon 3 minute read

Swine Research Farm of Wageningen UR at Sterksel is to carry out research into carbon neutral pig farming using a mini-biogas plant. The Productschap Vee en Vlees (Cattle and Meat Marketing Board) will invest €170,000 in a low-cost prototype design.

The farm is opting for a simple 'mono-fermenter', which converts manure only into gas. This fermenter is linked to a gas turbine which converts the gas into electricity and heat.

"The turbine works out much cheaper in terms of upkeep," says researcher, Dr John Horrevorts. "If you opt for co-fermentation you have to build a small factory. We have chosen a simple and robust process that ferments manure only and turns it into electricity. This has resulted in lower investment costs."

Sterksel Swine Research Farm consists of a breeding farm and a rearing farm. It produces more than 5,000 tons of manure a year. To achieve good fermentation the manure has to stay in the fermenter for around 25 to 30 days, says Dr Horrevorts. He wants to shorten that time by preventing the bacteria that convert the manure into energy from being washed away. The fermenter could then be smaller in size and this would make it cost-effective. In this way he hopes to produce enough energy annually to make the research farm carbon neutral. The fact that the plant extracts methane from the manure and converts it into usable energy is an additional benefit. It thereby prevents this powerful greenhouse gas from ending up in the atmosphere.

The process involving a mini-biogas-installation has been researched in the laboratory over the past few years. Dr Horrevorts will now launch the design in practice. If the trial succeeds, he expects that companies will go on to market the mono-fermenter.

He is also researching a different project, again financed by the Productschap Vee en Vlees, in which he looks at some new ideas for saving energy in pig houses. Such as recycling heat from the house, and harnessing the energy from animal movements.

Dr Horrevorts added: "It is an exploration of new ideas from within the sector, which we research to determine their viability."

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