By Nancy Allen
Research at the University of Illinois is a step closer to tapping a billion-dollar market within the hog industry and reducing U.S. independence on foreign oil imports.
Yuanhui Zhang, an agricultural biological engineer at U of I, has helped design a pilot plant that turns pig manure into crude oil.
He will give a free public lecture on the topic on April 6 via interactive videolink at the following three locations: 121 Fisher Auditorium on the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center's Wooster campus at 1680 Madison Ave., 244 Kottman Hall on Ohio State University's Columbus campus at 2021 Coffey Road, or at Ohio State's Lima campus with the exact location to be announced.
Mike Broering, who works at Maria Stein Grain, said he plans to go to the lecture. Broering first heard about the manure to oil technology a few weeks ago from a co-worker who heard it on a radio broadcast. Maria Stein Grain serves dairy, hog and beef producers.
"We are following up on any technology we can to see what we can do to help the county out," Broering said. "Any time you're talking about (more) profit per hog, that perks someone's ears up." According to a recent article in Farm Pro-gress magazine, Zhang and other scientists at U of I have teamed with industry partners to design the plant for a large commercial hog farm.
Zhang and his colleagues developed a system using thermochemical conversion (TCC) to transform organic compounds like hog manure in a heated and pressurized enclosure to produce oil and gas. The initial research led to the development of a batch TCC reactor that produces a continuous output.
Zhang's team has achieved as high as a 70 percent conversion from swine manure volatile solids to oil. At that efficiency, the manure from one pig could produce up to 21 gallons of crude oil and add a $10 per pig profit, the article says.
The researchers also are trying to determine if the technology can be used on other types of livestock manure and even human waste.
Sharon Koesters, a member of the Mercer County Pork Producers, said she thinks local hog producers would be interested in the technology if it pans out.
"I'm sure, because there is so much manure out there," Koesters said. "They'd want to know more."
In Mercer County, which has the largest concentration of livestock operations in the state, the technology would be positive, said Nikki Hawk, interim coordinator of the Grand Lake/Wabash Watershed Alliance.
"Any technology that deals with turning a resource like manure into an energy will be helpful to water quality and have an economic advantage," Hawk said.
For more information about the upcoming lectures, contact The Ohio State University's Com-posting and Manure Management Coordinator Mary Wicks at 330-202-3533 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.