Biodigesters Using the Southern End of a Northbound

The biofuels revolution cannot be just an intellectual discourse. There is the actual matter of building with bricks and mortar, of making an innovative commercial enterprise pay. In that enterprise, few have come further than Dennis Langley, a Nebraska cattle farmer, ethanol producer, and one of the founders of an innovative energy start-up firm called E3 BioSolution.

When Langley steps onto his Nebraska feedlot, he is confronted by the same problem vexing other farmers—namely, a pile of cow manure roughly the size of Mount McKinley. His 30,000 head of cattle generate an amount of manure and solid waste comparable to that of a city with a population of 300,000, producing tons of pollutants and flashing methane, a greenhouse gas twenty-one times more powerful than carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere. That is a major environmental and logistical challenge, and it triggers significant regulatory oversight under the EPA.31

But to Langley, it is also a source of economic advantage. Through an innovative design, he combined his feedlot with a solid-waste management facility and a traditional corn ethanol plant, creating huge environmental and economic advantages in the process. By way of a specially designed floor in the feedlot, he is able to harvest the manure every fifteen minutes and send it to an anaerobic digester, which captures the methane before it reaches the atmosphere. Instead of worsening global warming, the methane is used as replacement energy for the ethanol plant, entirely eliminating the need for fossil fuel inputs into the ethanol production process. That reduces nitrogen pollution from the manure by 70 percent and produces ethanol with an energy balance of 46.6 units of ethanol for every unit of fossil fuel energy, all while cutting the cost of production.

The ethanol plant in turn produces a waste product called distillers grain, which consists of the high-protein residue of the corn used to make the fuel. The wet feed is returned to the feed lot and reduces the methane produced in the cows' digestive tracts, which otherwise would be released into the atmosphere (a source ofjokes but a serious problem for greenhouse gases)—providing benefits at every stage of the process.

The most profound benefits are economic. This 50-million-gallon facility is able to save $15 million a year in avoided energy costs while producing additional marketable by-products of organic nitrogen fertilizer worth $3 million. Five more plants are on the way.

That's some cow pie.

Guide to Alternative Fuels

Guide to Alternative Fuels

Your Alternative Fuel Solution for Saving Money, Reducing Oil Dependency, and Helping the Planet. Ethanol is an alternative to gasoline. The use of ethanol has been demonstrated to reduce greenhouse emissions slightly as compared to gasoline. Through this ebook, you are going to learn what you will need to know why choosing an alternative fuel may benefit you and your future.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment