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- Biochemistry Student working with F&S on an Anaerobic Digester study project
Biochemistry Student working with F&S on an Anaerobic Digester study project
Posted by Sarthak Prasad on November 13, 2019
Following is an email sent by David Rivera-Kohr regarding Biogas on-campus to several faculty and staff at the U of I.
My name is David Rivera-Kohr and I’m a student member of the Energy SWATeam. I want to propose using biogas for energy on campus. Since burning biogas for energy is effectively carbon neutral, this would bring us closer to our iCAP goal of achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Biogas is a huge untapped resource for energy production at the U of I. Rather than utilize the methane from animal manure and carcasses and food waste, we allow much of it to escape into the atmosphere. The Sanitary District currently uses municipal waste, restaurant grease, industrial food processing waste and campus dining hall food waste as feedstocks for its own anaerobic digester to produce biogas which is burned to generate 25-30% of the facility's energy. However, the Sanitary District does not want to dedicate digestion capacity to manure due to the need to accommodate growth of the local area (i.e. anticipated growth of student population). Furthermore, the Sanitary District is not a UIUC facility, therefore its use of biogas does not alleviate campus energy demand or contribute to our net-zero emissions objective.
I have a few ideas for biogas production on campus I would like feedback on:
1. Add a biogas siphoning system to the manure storage tanks at the Beef & Sheep Farm.
2. Conduct a study to determine which UIUC facility produces the most methane from animal waste and construct an anaerobic digester there. The 2014 Anaerobic Digester Feasibility Study indicated the Swine Farms collectively had the highest methane output; Miles Redden told me the Beef & Sheep farm is the highest manure-producing farcilty, though ionophore feeding of beef cattle decreases methane output. It may be worthwhile to determine which single facility has the highest methane output in 2019-2020.
Additionally, there are a few options in consideration for how to best use the biogas:
1. Burn it on-site in existing natural gas furnaces to meet facility heat demands. This could be used in conjunction with the deep direct-use (DDU) geothermal system that is being studied for the ACES Legacy corridor—the brine solution from the DDU system will bring the facility's hot water to ~110 degrees F and the biogas furnace could increase that temperature to 130 degrees. There would likely be a considerable excess of biogas, which could either be burned on-site to generate electricity for distribution to the local grid (which is less efficient than combined heat & power), transported to nearby facilities to burn in their furnaces, or...
2. Upgrade the biogas (all or only the excess from idea #1) to pipeline-quality methane and inject it into the pipeline for use at Abbott Power Plant. There is a supply pipeline that runs through the ACES corridor where this methane could be injected.
3. Use upgraded biogas for compressed natural gas (CNG) to power F&S vehicle fleets.
The 2014 Feasibility Study also discussed constructing a pressurized pipeline to deliver waste from multiple facilities to the site of the anaerobic digester. This may be worthwhile if the biogas is to be used on a larger scale i.e. at Abbott Power Plant or some combination of the previous ideas.
Life-cycle cost analysis of the above options should be studied to determine the most cost-effective and, more importantly, the lowest emissions option. If you can, please let me know which of these options for biogas production and use sound most feasible, or if better ideas come to mind.
Finally, we need the support and expertise of faculty and staff to advance this proposal. If you are interested in backing or contributing to this proposal, or you know someone else who may be, please let me know. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you!
David A. Rivera-Kohr
University of Illinois @ Urbana-Champaign
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Dr. Rutilio Fratti's Lab