Centralised Biogas plants. a contribution to sustainable agriculture

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1 Centralised Biogas plants a contribution to sustainable agriculture

2 Preface Contents Biogas production is a good idea. Not only because of the energy produced, but also because: The farmer retrieves more nutrients from the manure The obnoxious smells are reduced The environment is protected against unnecessary CO 2 Organic waste is adequately recycled Animal anure storage and transport can be optimised. This pamphlet aims at going through the principles of biogas production at a centralised biogas plant in a simple way. In particular the advantages have been emphasised of farmers that deliver raw slurry to and receives digested slurry from the centralised plant. The pamphlet is written by Adviser Torkild Birkmose, The Danish Agricultural Advisory Centre, The National Department of Crop Production, in cooperation with the Danish Energy Authority s Biogas Group, a group of specialists within biogas production. The publication of this pamphlet is subsidised by the Danish Energy Authority. Centralised biogas plants in Denmark How does a centralised biogas plant work? Energy from the plant The economy of centralised biogas plants What is digested slurry? Increased risk of ammonia evaporation Different effect of digested slurry Digested slurry smells less Reduction of germs in slurry Storage and transport optimisation Relevant addresses For additional copies of the pamphlet please contact: The Danish Agricultural Advisory Centre The National Department of Crop Production Udkaersvej 15, Skejby DK-8200 Aarhus N Phone: January 2000 Layout: Vagn Brostrup Photo: Torben Skøtt, BioPress Translation: Gitte G. Graversen 2

3 Centralised biogas plants in Denmark A centralised biogas plant receives animal manure from several farms. In 1984 the first centralised biogas plant was taken into use in Denmark. Today 20 plants are in operation. Biogas is CO 2 -neutral energy, because fossil-bound carbon is not released unlike e.g. coal, oil and natural gas when burning off biogas. Thus biogas is a renewable type of energy like e.g. wind power, straw and solar cells. Lemvig Sinding Blaabjerg Vegger V. Hjermitslev Thorsø Hodsager Studsgård Blåhøj Filskov Lintrup Ribe Vaarst- Fjellerad Århus Revninge Fangel Davinde Snertinge Hashøj Nysted The production of these energy types is subsidised by society, as we wish to reduce the emission of greenhouse gasses, e.g. CO 2. In the Danish government s action plan for energy, Energi 21, biogas production has been stressed in particular. Thus Danish biogas production is expected to increase by approx. eightfold over the next 30 years. The bulk of this rise is expected to originate from manurebased biogas plants. Therefore future political support can also be expected in connection with new biogas projects. The 20 Danish biogas plants manage about 1.1 mill. tons animal manure per year. This corresponds to approx. 3 per cent of the total amount of animal manure in Denmark. By far most animal manure applied is slurry. Moreover, about 200,000 tons organic waste from industries, sewage disposal plants and private households are processed. If the government s goal of an eightfold increase is reached within 30 years, more than half of all animal manure must be used for biogas production. In these years the Danish government tries to expedite its aim by means of subsidies. Thus financial support is provided for the initial design activities as well as the plant establishment and operation (subsidies for electricity production). Moreover, application of biogas for heat supply is tax exempted. 3

4 How does a centralised biogas plant work? The dry matter in animal manure consists among others of carbon. The biogas process transforms the carbon into a compound of methane (CH 4 ) and CO 2 whereas the nutrients remain in the manure. The compound of methane and CO 2 is called biogas. All centralised biogas plants receive animal manure as well as industrial organic waste. Manure and waste are mixed in the plant pretank before they are heated to a temperature at between C and are pumped into the anaerobic digestion tank (the reactor), in which the actual biogas production takes place. Thus the mixture of manure and waste must be so liquid that it can be pumped. The liquid mixture is transported through the plant in a closed piping system by means of pumps. The biomass is kept in the reactor for 2-3 weeks after which approx. half of the dry matter has been transformed into biogas. The rest of the dry matter is so difficult to metabolise that it is uneconomical to prolong the retention time in the reactor any further. Biogas applications: Own combined self-supply heat and power station, in which the biogas is transformed to per cent electricity and per cent district heating Own gas-fired furnace, where the biogas is transformed into district heating Sale of gas by means of pipeline to combined heat and power stations or district heating power plants However, even after the slurry compound has left the reactor a certain production of biogas still takes place. A considerable part of this post-production is collected in a covered slurry storage tank before the slurry is returned to the farmer. This means that the biogas is collected both from the reactor and the slurry tank. The gas is applicable in several different ways. The application depends on the possibilities and needs of the local area. The wide extension of combined heat and power stations in Denmark facilitates the utilisation of biogas. Animal manure from cattle, pigs, poultry and minks Digested slurry for the fields Centralised biogas plant: compounding, digestion, sanitation and declaration Organic waste from industry, sewage treatment plants and private households Energy in the form of biogas 4

5 Energy from the plant It is a principal rule that the higher dry matter percentage in slurry and waste the more gas can be extracted. Thus e.g. chicken manure contains more gas than slurry. It is also possible to extract much gas from most types of organic waste. It is best to apply slurry with a high dry matter percentage to the biogas plant to ensure a high gas yield. Thus the following rules must be complied with: The slurry must be as fresh as possible The waste of water on the farm must be reduced as much as possible The slurry must not be mixed with rainwater. The farmer is also interested in keeping the water content of the slurry low as this reduces the amount of slurry that must be stored and spread. From the listed facts it e.g. appears that energy equivalent to 13 litres of heating oil can be extracted from only one ton of cattle slurry. Since one cow produces approx. 22 tons of slurry per year, one cow has a capacity to produce energy equivalent to about 300 litres of heating oil per year that is if all the slurry is collected and used for biogas production! Energy for extraction process and transport The energy mentioned in the fact table is gross energy. This means that at calculation of the real energy production of the plant, the gross energy should be deducted from the diesel oil consumption for transporting the slurry as well as the electricity and heat consumption for the extraction process. Fortunately, this consumption is rather modest in relation to the production. Energy for extraction process and transport Amount of gas per ton manure and org. waste, m 3 = litre heating oil Net energy 84% Pig slurry Cattle slurry Poultry manure Abattoir gastrointestinal waste Abattoir fatty waste >100 >65 Transport 3% Process 13% 5

6 The economy of centralised biogas plants Today most centralised biogas plants operate satisfactorily and they have an acceptable economy. The below-mentioned general numbers are based on what is expected from a plant that is built today. The numbers in the example show that the main income source of centralised biogas plants is energy sales. Moreover, most plants earn a considerable amount of money in the form of gate fees when they rid the food processing industry of fatty or other organic waste products. In the below example the economy breaks even. Through a number of years the Danish State has granted subsidies for the building and operation of centralised biogas plants. A grant of approx. 13,500 is extended for feasibility studies. Normally, a plant subsidy of 20 per cent of the total investment is granted. The plants are encouraged by means of duty free heat sales and electricity production subsidies Income per m 3 treated biomass Sale of gas 6.90 Gate fees for waste 0.70 Value of plant subsidies 0.80 Total 8.40 Costs Slurry transport, etc Gas production 5.80 Total 8.40 Profit 0 Source: Danish Research Institute of Food Economics How do farmers involved benefit? Most plants are established as limited liability cooperatives on the initiative of a group of farmers. Thus the owners financial risk is very limited. On the other hand the profit is not paid directly to the cooperative members. Farmers have first and foremost been interested in the indirect economic benefits, which they obtain by being cooperative members of a biogas plant. The economic benefits derived e.g. from the optimisation of storage and transport are in some cases calculated at per ton slurry treated. 6

7 What is digested slurry? Digested slurry must be transported, stored and spread in the same way as slurry that has not been used for biogas production. However, there are some important differences. The distinctive features of digested slurry are: that several types of slurry and waste are mixed that the organic matter of slurry is partly metabolised that the ph factor of slurry increases during the extraction process. The below table shows some typical analytic numbers for untreated slurry and for a digested compound of equal parts cattle and pig slurry. Dry matter, Total N, NH 4 -N, P, K, ph per cent kg/ton kg/ton kg/ton kg/ton factor Cattle slurry Pig slurry Digested slurry It is important to notice that: the dry matter is reduced considerably in the biogas plant, which makes the slurry thinner the ammonium (NH 4 -N) content rises the ph factor rises the total N content remains unchanged the P and K contents correspond to the compound i.e. remain unchanged. 7

8 Increased risk of ammonia evaporation The degassing process results in two changes in the slurry, which effect that the risk of nitrogen loss in the form of ammonia evaporation is larger than before the slurry treatment. Approx. half of the organic matter is decomposed. Thus the tendency to form a floating cover is reduced. Often digested slurry does not have a natural floating cover at all The rise in the ph factor increases the transformation of ammonium (NH 4 ) into ammonia (NH 3 ). Ammonia evaporation is prevented by providing a constant barrier between slurry and atmosphere. If the floating cover on the surface of the slurry in the slurry storage tank is permanent, and if the slurry is applied or harrowed quickly into the soil the loss is modest. Ammonia is a volatile gas and evaporates rapidly if slurry is in direct contact with the atmosphere. Ammonia evaporation from digested slurry with and without floating cover Nitrogen loss, per cent No floating cover Cut straw Leca nuts Source: The Danish Institute of Agricultural Sciences 8

9 According to the legislation on animal manure storage the slurry storage tank must always either be provided with a cover or a floating cover. Moreover, it is economically rational to establish an artificial floating cover, if it is not formed naturally. The nitrogen evaporation saved and hence the possibility of a higher harvest yield will pay the floating cover expenses and more! Nitrogen loss, per cent of slurry applied Nitrogen loss after spreading of digested slurry Even after the digested slurry has been spread it is sensible to reduce its contact with the atmosphere if possible. This will reduce the ammonia evaporation. 0 No incorporation Harrowing into soil after 1 hour Source: The Danish Institute of Agricultural Sciences Injection into soil 9

10 Different effect of digested slurry The physical and chemical changes in the slurry at the biogas plant result in a changed manure effect on the field. This must be taken into account both when planning the spreading and when handling and spreading the digested slurry. When planning the manure spreading the farmer must be aware of the fact that the ammonium content is high. This is an advantage as it is primarily ammonium nitrogen, which is absorbed by plants. Thus by applying digested slurry it is often possible to cut down the amount of nitrogen in fertiliser. Nitrogen utilisation, per cent Digested slurry Nitrogen utilisation in field trials (per cent) Pig slurry Cattle slurry The ratio of phosphorus to potassium in digested slurry is often approx. 1:3 (please see the table at page 7). This ratio lends itself pre-eminently to a crop rotation with e.g. grain and rape, which often requires about 20 kg phosphorus and about 60 kg potassium. If, on the other hand, the crop rotation is dominated by roughage extra fertiliser with potassium must be applied. The thin and fluid digested slurry percolates relatively fast into the ground. This contributes to reducing the usually large ammonia evaporation risk. Digested slurry field trials have shown a nitrogen effect at the level of pig slurry. As regards appearance, composition and nitrogen effect digested slurry is to a higher extent similar to pig than cattle slurry. Source: The Danish Agricultural Advisory Centre, the National Department of Crop Production 6 pieces of useful advice on nitrogen effect 1. There must always be a floating cover on the slurry tank 2. Be aware of the nitrogen content (analysis) and the exact amount of slurry 3. When planning to which crops digested slurry should be applied, the succession should be as such: spring-sown crops, winter crops, grass 4. Slurry must be injected or harrowed into the soil/ploughed in immediately after it has been spread onto the bare soil. 5. Slurry must be spread evenly onto the field 6. Avoid spreading slurry onto the ground in warm, sunny, windy or dry weather. 10

11 Digested slurry smells less All countryside residents know the unpleasant and acrid smell of slurry. Especially during and after the spreading of slurry the obnoxious smell is often very strong. When degassing slurry many odorants in unprocessed slurry are decomposed. Experiences of many farmers and neighbours of farmers who use digested slurry show that the obnoxious smells have been reduced considerably after the farmer has started to use digested slurry. Thus the risk of neighbour complaints is far less when using digested slurry instead of untreated slurry. The farmer obtains both a larger freedom of action when spreading slurry and a better reputation in the local community, if he chooses to use digested instead of untreated slurry. The figure illustrates how, dependent on whether the slurry is untreated or digested, the obnoxious smells spread after the slurry has been spread on a field in north-western wind. After 12 hours the smell has almost disappeared, if digested slurry is used. It is easier to plan the spreading of digested slurry because: The slurry smell is less pungent The smell diminishes rapidly after the spreading. Wind direction Untreated slurry Digested slurry 5 minutes 12 hours 11

12 Reduction of germs in slurry Most centralised biogas plants guarantee that their digested slurry is sanitised. In reality this means that the slurry does not contain any germs and weed seeds capable of germinating. Sanitation means that the slurry has been heated to a temperature of at least 70 C for an hour, or that the guaranteed reactor retention time (the time between pumpings) is minimum 10 hours at a temperature of 52 C. This is observed by most biogas plants today. When farmers transport slurry between properties there is always a risk that infection is spread from one farm to another. The infection can be carried with the slurry and with the vehicles that transport the slurry. If digested slurry is used, the risk of spreading infection is very modest. Firstly because of the sanitation and secondly because requisite cleaning of the transport vehicles is always carried out. 12

13 In order to monitor that the sanitation process is efficient enough, many centralised biogas plants effect laboratory control of the slurry germ content. Among other things the so-called FS method (faecal streptococci) is applied. The content of innocuous faecal streptococci is always very high in untreated slurry. The reduction of these germs indicates that the amount of other germs has also been brought down. The table shows the test results from Ribe Biogas Plant over a period of time. Even though the content of streptococci may be very high before the slurry is degassed, the amount is always less than 5 germs per gramme slurry after the slurry is degassed. Number of faecal streptococci per gramme slurry Date Before degassing After degassing 18/03/98 1,300,000 <5 13/05/98 140,000 <5 15/07/98 690,000 <5 09/09/98 9,000,000 <5 11/11/98 62,000 <5 13

14 Storage and transport optimisation Most farmers which handle animal manure know that the slurry storage and transport expenses may be very high indeed. The establishment of centralised biogas plants brings about an exceptional opportunity of gaining total storage and transport cost savings. The organisation of the biogas plant can also contribute to these savings. The prerequisite for these savings is that the slurry transport is coordinated carefully. The usual transport procedure is that the transport vehicle arrives at the farm with a load of digested slurry, which is pumped into the storage tank. Subsequently a load of fresh raw slurry is extracted from the pretank and the transport vehicle returns to the biogas plant where the raw slurry is exchanged with a new load of digested slurry. In this way the transport vehicle never drives with an empty tank. Normally, it is the farmer who must transport the slurry to his fields. However, if the transport route is long the farmer may ask the biogas plant to deliver the digested slurry at another location than where the raw slurry is collected. Thus the digested slurry may e.g. be delivered to a storage tank that is built closer to his fields. Similarly several farmers may jointly own a slurry storage tank either located on one of the farms or centrally in relation to the respective fields. 14

15 Sale of slurry The many advantages of digested slurry facilitate the sale of slurry to e.g. plant growers. Especially, large plant growers prefer to buy slurry from a biogas plant rather than directly from farmers, as they can buy a big, homogeneous amount of slurry, which is declared at delivery. Mediated by the biogas plant this reallocation can be made flexible and more efficient if a sort of intermediary body for the management of the slurry surplus is established at the centralised biogas plant. In this way the production manager can assist livestock farmers in creating contact with plant growers and vice versa. The transport vehicles carry out the transport even though the distance between livestock farmer and plant grower is long at times. Decentralised tanks Many centralised biogas plants own a number of slurry storage tanks, which they have located in the total supplying area. Thus it is possible for receivers of digested slurry to rent tank storage capacity at a competitive price. This is especially a great advantage, if a farmer only needs storage capacity for a small amount of slurry and it therefore would have been excessively expensive for him to establish the lacking capacity on his own. 15

16 Relevant addresses The Danish Energy Authority The Biomass Section Amaliegade 44 DK-1256 Copenhagen Tel Offers guidance and financial support for biogas projects. Danish Research Institute of Food Economics Rolighedsvej 25 DK-1958 Frederiksberg Tel Has financial expertise within biogas production. Biogas Association of Denmark Axelborg Axeltorv 3 DK-1609 Copenhagen Tel A trade association that aims at improving the conditions of biogas plants in Denmark. The Danish Agricultural Advisory Centre The National Department of Crop Production Disseminates knowledge on Udkaersvej 15, Skejby the nutrient utilisation of e.g. DK-8200 Aarhus N digested slurry. Tel The Danish Biogas Association Chairman Andreas L. Andreasen Vester Bjergevej 2 DK-6760 Ribe Tel An organisation for biogas plant owners in Denmark. Provides among others new biogas plants with experience from previous projects. The Danish Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries The Danish Plant Directorate Skovbrynet 20 Dk-2800 Lyngby Tel Administers rules on manure use in connection with biogas plants. Bioenergy Group University of Southern Denmark Niels Bohrsvej 9 DK-6700 Esbjerg Tel The Bioenergy Group has technical and organisational knowhow within biogas production. BioPress Vestre Skovvej 8 Dk-8240 Risskov Tel Publishes a periodical (Dansk BioEnergi) about all the varieties of bioenergy including biogas. ISBN

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