In a move to help localize animal-waste treatment and minimize the environmental impact of livestock operations, Clear-Green Environmental Inc., with the help of Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC), is setting up an on-site, end-to-end organic waste processing project at two rural Saskatchewan hog farms. One site is in Leroy, Saskatchewan and the other is in Cudworth.
“The project will demonstrate that large-scale, profitable organic waste facilities can be built locally, and with existing technology,” says Ben Voss, president and founder of Saskatoon-based Clear-Green. The solution will manufacture fertilizer that can be used locally or transported and sold, and produce natural gas that can be used for on-site heating or to generate electricity on the farm for local use or for sale to the grid, while reducing the need to remove waste.
In order to bring this demonstration project to fruition, Clear-Green needed to obtain funding. Voss turned to SDTC, a foundation created by the Government of Canada to support the development and demonstration of clean technologies, along with a consortium of partners including Agriculture Canada, SaskPower and the University of Saskatchewan. SDTC’s funding, which is subject to successful contract negotiations, is leveraged two to three times on average from consortia partners involved in the projects it supports.
“SDTC acts as a catalyst for innovative technologies like those being advanced by Clear-Green,” Whittaker said. Of the $169 million in funds committed by SDTC, about nine percent is invested in the waste management sector.
With an investment fund of $550 million, SDTC supports clean technology projects through the critical stages between research and commercialization. In doing so, SDTC helps increase the chances that Canadian innovation and technology succeed in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.
“By localizing waste treatment — minimizing the need for large manure spreading fields — farms could be located closer to abattoirs and rail systems and other infrastructure,” says Rick Whittaker, vice president, investments, with SDTC. Additionally, dead stock, which can afflict as much as one per cent of livestock, would no longer have to be trucked long distances to processing plants. Individual farms could even offset their Clear-Green installation costs by treating other farms’ waste, he said.
Given that the cost of lagoon waste removal often approaches $50,000 annually per acre, setting up an onsite waste solution has inherent economic advantages. Though much of the waste management technology used in the Clear-Green solution is already commercially available (especially in Europe), the task of setting up an onsite processing plant is not easy.
“The integration of all the technologies can be very complex,” Voss says. His company acts as the project integrators responsible for putting all the pieces together into a functioning waste-processing plant — from installing pre-treatment screening and mechanical/chemical separation tools to getting biogas plants up and running.
The first part of the procedure is to separate the various waste elements and remove non-organic objects such as rocks. For manure, it is a relatively easy process, according to Voss. With dead-stock, the process is slightly more complex as separation, flocculation, hydro-pulping and grinding may be needed. Since most farms have to deal with dead-stock along with waste, Clear-Green plans on adding dead-stock processing capability to the Leroy site. Additional dead-stock waste will come from a local abattoir to fully test the facility’s capabilities.
Bio-processing for energy
The second phase is bio-processing. This is where anaerobic digestion biogas plants break down organic waste and generate renewable energy, mostly methane. The biogas generated from each farm, which individually raise about 27,000 market pigs a year (considered an average size farm) will produce over $100,000 worth of electricity annually, which is enough to power a farm of this size.
Controlling the process poses certain challenges, even with advancements in digestion technologies, since climate variances need to be strictly controlled. For example, the bacteria that generate methane are sensitive to slight microclimate changes within the digester. A change of only two degrees Celsius can be enough to affect methane production rates. Since temperatures on the plains of Saskatchewan can fluctuate more than 60 degrees Celsius annually, this portion of the process needs to be closely monitored.
Next is the post-production phase, where valuable end products are created using ultra-filtration, micro-filtration, reverse-osmosis, ammonia stripping, de-watering, evaporation and crystallization. The resulting products are similar to high-value fertilizers made synthetically, and can be sold to other agricultural operations, Voss says.
Voss envisions an expansive clientele list including slaughterhouses, food processing plants, intensive livestock operations as well as cities and towns seeking to divert organic waste from landfills.
Vicky J. Sharpe is president and CEO of SDTC. For more information on SDTC, go to www.sdtc.ca