Tried and Tested

Gasifier transforms turkey litter into heat, power and fertilizer.
By | January 04, 2011

Invented by David Mooney of Roswell, Ga.-based REM Engineering Inc., Enginuity Energy’s Ecoremedy biomass gasification system is slated for commercial deployment in the spring. This milestone will be reached at an energy nutrient recovery facility in Pennsylvania, following several years of development and testing. 

Ecoremedy was awarded a patent in 2005, two years after initial alpha testing. Beta testing continued through 2007, with advanced pilot plant operations taking place at Tyson Foods Bolivar Feed Mill in Fairmount, Ga., through 2008. Since deployment at Tyson, the technology has been successfully operated at Illinois State University and other confidential private corporations, according to Rich Madeira of Enginuity Energy.

Madeira says Ecoremedy is advanced but simple to operate and doesn’t require higher skill sets than those required to operate and maintain conventional boiler technology. Once the biomass is transferred from storage, it enters a gasifier chamber and is heated on advanced conveyor technology. Gases from the heated biomass are forced upward, and hot air ignites the gas to create a fireball that heats the boiler and creates steam. The steam is used to generate thermal energy and/or electric power generation, and the exhaust gases pass through an air heater. Ambient air is heated before being sent to the gasifier to continuously fuel the fireball, and before being circulated under the conveyor belt to heat the biomass. Exhaust goes through filters to separate fine particulates that are captured and processed as part of the recovered nutrient, which is processed and then can be used as a fertilizer, feed supplement or biochar.

Madeira emphasizes the value of the additional component of the technology besides heat and power generation—recovery of the nutrients within agricultural byproducts such as poultry litter, manures, spent mushroom substrate and more. “The materials the system focuses on using as feedstocks are readily and overly abundant and possess high levels of nutrient content,” he says. “This combination offers the opportunity for no- or low-cost procurement of the feedstocks with a significant resale value once the nutrients have been recovered via the gasification process.”

In addition, the system isn’t hindered by the need for uniform size, shape or moisture content of the fuel, as it allows up to 65 percent moisture content, 80 percent ash, and varied moisture and size. The energy output varies with the material used, Madeira explains.

The smallest Ecoremedy unit can be mounted on a 53-foot flatbed trailer and process several hundred thousand pounds of material per hour. A 2.5 megawatt (MW) plant can be constructed on a 1-acre site, and the largest designed plant of 22 MW requires less than five acres.

The 2011 business activity outlook for Enginuity seems to be healthy. “We have a 22-MW plant designed and a letter of intent on a 2.5-MW power plant that will annually convert 85,000 tons of egg laying manure into energy and recover 13,000 tons of nutrients,” Madeira says. During this particular installation, all of the carbon will be removed so nutrients can be recycled as an animal feed supplement. “However, the output could be regulated to increase carbon content to create a biochar product,” he says.

Recently, Enginuity constructed a new Ecoremedy research and development facility on the Harrisburg Area Community College campus in Harrisburg, Pa., that will serve to advance biomass gasification testing, evaluate new materials for their application as fuel and evaluate nutrient content for use as fertilizer or feed supplement. Madeira adds that in January, Enginuity, working in conjunction with the American Mushroom Institute and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, will use the Ecoremedy system to prove that spent mushroom substrate is a viable source of clean energy and recoverable nutrients. Live demonstrations will be held in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Farm Show in January.