The Energy Potential of Chicken Droppings

Posted by Trish Riley, July 16, 2009

©Trish Riley 2009We often hear that renewable fuels won’t work for us because they’re not sufficiently developed to meet the energy demand of our nation or the world. Power industry flaks tell us that’s why we’re going to have to stick with oil, coal and nuclear power. But there are two factors they routinely leave out: 1) We have the potential to reduce our energy usage by as much as half (California has already demonstrated this), which doubles the potential for renewables to fill our needs, and 2) While solar or wind alone can’t – at this point – meet our needs, a blend of renewable resources has potential.

The only way we’ll be able to transition to alternative fuels is to establish a variety of resources. This one on burning poop sounds like a good way to reduce waste and eliminate CO2 emissions while producing energy. […]

A growing number of environmentally-minded poultry farmers in the United States, Canada and Australia are looking to peck away at their greenhouse gas emissions by transforming chicken dung into biochar fertilizer, as well as biogas and a form of bio-oil that can be used to run farm operations.

Central to the process is an old technology known as pyrolysis, which has attracted renewed attention from engineers and scientists. Pyrolysis involves cooking biomass (corn husks, manure, etc.) in the absence of oxygen, thus preventing the release of carbon.

Tom Riley, director for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture’s Public Policy Center, told Manure Manager Magazine: “Our country needs alternative sources of energy to balance against the world’s growing demand for petroleum-based energy.”

via The Energy Potential of Chicken Droppings – Green Inc. Blog – NYTimes.com.

Comment on this article in the forums

  1. 1. Ed Brown Says:

    Trish,

    No doubt that chicken poop has an energy value, but we may want to use this poop for something else. One use for chicken poor is food fertilizer. I’ve heard that the only fertilizer Rosie uses at her organic farm is chicken poop. All those beautiful and delicious veggies, fruits and flowers are possible because of chicken poop.

    The demand and cost for fertilizers are growing rapidly and the supply is declining just as fast. Most of our nitrogen fertilizer is made from natural gas. Gas production in the US peaked in 2005 and most (over 80%, I believe) of the nitrogen fertilizer comes from outside the US. Iran and Russia (not our friends) are the countries with the most natural gas reserves, according to the DOE.

    Phosphate fertilizer is difficult to come by too – most comes from Canada. The price of phosphorous is volatile, as are the prices for all fertilizers. Over 90% of the potassium fertilizer comes from outside the US. All these fertilizers are dependent on oil to transport them to us here in Florida and the US.

    The demand for fertilizer is growing as we try and use plants for fuel. Demand for fertilizer will also grow as we start growing more of our own food in the US as oil prices rise. In Alachua County we import over 95% of our food from outside the county and we import almost 100% of our coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear fuel. We are going to have to grow more of our food here at home – more fertilizer needed.

    In a very short period of time we are going to be looking for natural based fertilizers to replace the expensive and scarce traditional fertilizers. From what I know, chicken poop does not need to be processed before it is used. This means no energy is needed process the poop, but energy is needed to transport it to the food farms. The other options mentioned require processing that requires energy.

    Energy of all kinds are going to be in short supply in the near future. I think we would be better off using chicken poop for fertilizer, not energy to run the farm.

    Ed

  2. 2. Trish Riley Says:

    Hi Ed,
    Thanks for your thoughtful and well-informed comments. I would like to see chicken poop used as fertilizer, too, and I’m glad to know that Rosie’s Organic Farm utilizes this resource, although i think that most livestock waste (poop) is not handled as well, and it creates multiple problems for our waterways and environment. Perhaps a balance could be struck to utilize the waste that isn’t redirected as fertilizer into fuel. I’d also like to see us taking greater advantage of our yard and kitchen waste to create compost fertilizers instead of shifting that into our waste stream. These solutions circumvent the use of energy and synthetic petrochemicals, both of which I deem a move in the right direction. Growing locally and buying locally grown foods also reduces the energy impact of our food supply.

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