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Feasibility study for an anerobic digester on campus with Marcello Pbiri - Meeting 1

Posted by Naveen Baarla on November 11, 2022

Attendance: Tyler Swanson, Daphne Hulse, Meredith Moore, Sarthak Prasad, Shawn Maurer, Joy Scrogum, Justin Holding, Paul Foote, Shreya Mahajan, Brent Lewis, Jason Ensign, Tim Mies, Colleen Ruhter, Jonathon Mosley, Marcello, Thurman Etchison, Morgan White, Damon McFall, Robert Roman

  • UIC would like to do a screening analysis scenario for a small or micro-scale digester on campus
  • UIUC farms investigated this in the past with ACES
  • Marcello’s introduction: 200lbs of waste per day in a small-scale digester (in the shape of the container), frequent bottom-line thinking, it’s more about sustainability and the creation of green jobs, involving students, because the economics may be tight for money savings. But there are a few companies that are manufacturing small scale digesters. UIC had a speaker during their TEACH AD webinar who was a student from San Diego California. Installed one of these on their campus, student was the operator of the digester. Interested to see if this is something to be replicated at UIUC?
  • Morgan’s introduction: high-level feasibility analysis (not the most robust because of funding limitations). Hear from the college of ACES about a study of 10 years ago.
  • Marcello thinks the outcomes weren’t very favorable for this time? This is another possible scenario too. University of Wisconsin Oshkosh is doing something similar. They are partnering with a farm which installed a small-scale digester in the farm for food waste and manure. The university owns the digester and the farmer owns the farmer, so it is a partnership. Maybe we could replicate this. These projects seem to become more and more feasible.
  • Marcello’s question for the group: what are the main motivations for UIUC to look into anaerobic digesters?
  • Reducing waste, looking at clean energy, protecting the planet
  • Do not have an environmentally beneficial or neutral solution for organic waste at the large scale for our campus. Dining is able to do the digester at the sanitary district, but we have animal waste and food waste at more than just the dining halls
  • Looking at how to get to carbon neutral energy. Anaerobic digestion was identified in 2010. Dean of Animal Science was ready to push for it, but then he was promoted and then retired
  • ACES has agreed with current dean to include the analysis of a large scale digester when they build a new dairy facility, but this is very far down the road
  • Swine modernization facility; needs to deal with waste that is there. animals will be added to this space in the future. looking into options for that particular facility.
  • Operational + research perspective, a micro-digester looks nice. Oshkosh does tours, internships, etc so it is like a pilot project to demonstrate the feasibility of the technology
  • Sanitary district is paid to receive the waste, and they get the benefit of seeing the methane capture
    • It would be good to see the benefits stay in house
  • Hypothetically you could create a new position for this, or you could do it through student intern. What happens to the residual material from the digester? can be used as fertilizer, grow food, use the food and food waste goes back to the digester “circular economy”

Marcello’s second question: Takeaway for the old feasibility study?

  • It should be at the future dairy facility (conversations were had, maybe not in the study)
  • $10M capital cost, so it probably costs more now
  • Shared the energy output we would expect if we took all food waste from dining
  • Could use as compressed natural gas (CNG) for fleet vehicles
  • Combined heat and power (Abbott) which primarily uses natural gas, but could use biogas from an anaerobic digester, there is an opportunity here

CHP, CNG or renewable natural gas are what Marcello is familiar with

Next steps: Marcello will work on an updated feasibility study.


Link to the recording