ALBANY — One recipe for renewable natural gas goes: Place manure from about 2 million hogs in lagoons, cover them with an impermeable material and let it bake until gas from the manure rises. Then, use special equipment to clean the gas of its impurities and ship the finished product out.
That's the vision of one of the largest biogas projects of its kind in the US currently being installed in northern Missouri, part of a long-term effort to turn underused agriculture resources into an engine for environmentally friendly farming practices.
The joint project, involving Roeslein Alternative Energy and Smithfield Food Hogs Production, will first convert manure from hogs on nine farms into renewable natural gas, with a goal of selling it as soon as 2016. The second phase would add native prairie grasses planted on erodible or marginal farm land to the manure to increase the biomass.
Developers expect the first phase to produce about 2.2 billion cubic feet of pipeline-quality natural gas, providing an alternative energy source while also keeping an estimated 850,000 tons of methane, a major greenhouse gas, from escaping into the atmosphere. Plus, the covers mostly eliminate the odor that can permeate the area around large hog farms, reduce the amount of waste-tainted water that leeches into the ground and capture thousands of gallons of clean water for re-use.
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