Netherlands plant to convert poultry litter to energy

By Kris Bevill
Web exclusive posted Sept. 12, 2008 at 9:33 a.m. CST

A recently opened power plant in Moerdijk, The Netherlands, will convert 485,000 tons of poultry litter, more than one-third of the nation's manure stocks, into renewable electricity. The plant is one of the first power stations of its kind in Europe.

The plant is co-owned by Netherlands-based Delta N.V., a multi-utility company which will sell the electricity produced at the facility. Peter Couwenberg, corporate communications director at Delta, told Biomass Magazine that Delta holds a 50 percent ownership stake in the facility. The other 50 percent of the plant's ownership is split between a 629-member Netherlands poultry farmer cooperative and Austrian Energy and Environment. The poultry cooperative will supply all of the poultry litter to the facility. Austrian Energy, a supplier of energy generation systems, built the plant together with Siemens AG, a Germany-based global engineering firm.

"We have to innovate to be able to generate renewable energy that is affordable. It takes time and money but it is essential for our future," said Peter Boerma, Delta's chief executive officer, adding that a mix of different energy sources is necessary to meet growing demand while taking corporate responsibility seriously.

Couwenberg said the Moerdijk facility will produce 36.5 million megawatts of electricity annually and will sell the phosphor and potassium-rich ash byproduct as fertilizer. The $210 million facility will employ approximately 25 people. He also noted that the facility will be carbon neutral because carbon dioxide emissions from the plant will be equal to what would be emitted if the litter were used as manure in fields.

In the United States, Fibrominn, a subsidiary of Fibrowatt LLC, opened the nation's first poultry litter-fueled power plant in Benson, Minn., in 2007. The 55-megawatt facility uses more than 500,000 tons of litter annually, supplied mostly by local poultry farmers. The facility also sells its ash byproduct as fertilizer. The city of Benson established a citizens advisory panel to act as a liaison between Fibrominn and members of the community, addressing issues such as odor, truck traffic, air emissions and the layout of the facility. By contrast, Couwenberg said no issues have been raised by community members near the Moerdijk facility. He said truck traffic was limited to 60 trucks per day and because trucks are sealed off and the manure reception bunker has less pressure than outside they are able to eliminate any odor from disturbing the public.