Redefining Chicken S__t: New Biogas Plant Starts Up in Germany

Andrew Burger

It looks like something of a breakthrough has been made in the biogas world: a chicken hatchery in eastern Germany has commissioned a biogas-to-combined heat and power generation plant that relies on chicken manure as its primary feedstock.

One of Germany’s leading producers of broiler hatching eggs and chicks earlier this month commissioned what is claimed to be the first biogas plant that uses chicken manure as its primary feedstock.

New biogas plant in Germany uses chicken manure

Wimex/Gut Mennewitz GmbH on August 8 commissioned a closed system biogas-to-electricity-combined heat and power facility at its chicken hatchery at Bassdorf in Germany’s eastern Saxony Anhalt province, according to a report by Sabine M. Lieberz from the U.S. Embassy in Berlin.

Using process, technology and a scalable, modular plant designed by Rueckert Naturgas, the facility mimics natural processes carried out by microorganisms in soil to produce biogas and biomethane from a mix of 70% chicken manure, 20% corn and 10% grass silage. Chicken manure’s high nitrogen content, which inhibits anaerobic fermentation, had previously limited its use as a biogas feedstock.

Ain’t nobody here but us chickens

It’s estimated that the biogas plant’s 2.1 MW per hour of electrical power would be sufficient to meet the needs of some 4,600 households while the 2.23 MW per hour of heat would replace 1.8 million liters (475,000 gallons) of heating oil. The electricity is being fed into the public power grid while the heat is used to heat Wimex’s chicken stables and hatchery office buildings. It’s anticipated that heat output will also be used to heat the city of Koethen’s administrative building, as well as dry corn for chicken feed, in the near future. Rueckert Naturgas’s new process and technology has beneficial effects all along a chicken farm’s value chain. Besides producing clean, renewable power and energy from manure, the process significantly lowers the volume of food crops in the process and reduces feedstock costs. In addition, it drastically reduces the amount of land required to implement a biogas plant. There were some 4,200 biogas plants operating in Germany as of year-end 2007, according to the Lieberz’s Resource Investor report. Corn and plant silage are the predominant feedstocks for these plants, grown over some 350,000 to 400,000 hectares of farm land.

All down the line

All the processes starting from poultry breeding via growing the fodder and energy crops up to the production of energy, heat, natural biogas and fertilizers are in one hand,” according to Rueckert Naturgas’s website.

In addition, hygiene is improved through fermentation and more efficient spreading of liquid and pellet fertilizers on farmlands. This also reduces the need for pesticides and fertilizers, while building such plants near poultry and grain farms also reduces greenhouse gas emissions by reducing transport costs associated with fuel transport.

Biogas production receives support via Germany’s Renewable Energy Law (EEG), Lieberz points out,

which entitles biogas producers to a fixed price for electricity inserted into the public power system. The per-unit-compensation ranges between €0.124 and €0.195 (US$0.17 and $0.37) per kWh. Power companies initially pay for the fixed prices, but ultimately the cost is borne by consumers.”

Tags: biogas, biofuel, alternative+energy


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