Poultry farmer, EERC partner on poultry litter syngas technology

By Luke Geiver | May 04, 2012

An Iowa-based turkey farmer has partnered with the U.S. DOE and the University of North Dakota’s Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) to test and further develop a fixed bed, downdraft gasifier intended to produce syngas from poultry litter. 

DenYon Energy, a turkey grower operation in Webster City, Iowa, was founded in 2009. In 2011, owner Dennis Weis earned funding from several sources to design and build a demonstration system at the farm. Now, DenYon Energy has licensed the gasifer technology from EERC, and together the partners will continue testing it for use at the demonstration facility. 

The inventor of the technology, Nikhil Patel, research scientist and project manager for the poultry gasifer project at EERC, said the team is now trying to achieve a complete solution for the poultry industry. “This project can lead to environmental and economic sustainability by helping a major food processing industry eliminate waste and become more energy self-reliant,” Patel said. “Poultry farms around the globe could use their own waste to supply lower-cost energy to their operations and reduce disposal challenges.” 

DenYon plans to create gasification units that will process waste from an individual farm and meet that farm’s energy requirements without each unit connected to the grid. An operator will load the feedstock into the unit’s hopper, but the overall system will be automated. The system will also capture the nutrient value of the poultry litter, reducing the mass of the litter by as much as two-thirds before it is used as biochar. According to the EERC, a farm generating 3,000 tons per year of waste litter has the potential to produce roughly 280 kilowatts, which is enough to power 150 homes. 

EERC will continue with systems testing for the next several weeks, but according to DenYon Energy, the system could be available in the fourth quarter of 2013. 

The funding for the project came in part from the Iowa Power Fund, which provided $2 million, and from the U.S. DOE, which contributed $750,000. Frontline BioEnergy out of Ames, Iowa, is performing implementation services for the project.

Although the EERC typically works with private firms on large scale projects designed for wide commercial use, EERC’s director Gerald Groenwold said one of the EERC’s main strategic initiatives is to work on distributed generation projects that provide practical, environmentally sound solutions for its clients’ site-specific needs.