31. Biogas: Closing the loop on cow poop
Blog: From poop to power: The story of biogas
French fry oil, molasses, donuts and cow manure. No, it’s not the grossest Tim Horton’s ever, it’s called biogas and Canadian farmers are starting to wrap their heads around this farm diversification idea.
Growing up in Alberta it’s pretty hard to forget the smell of fresh manure being spread on a nearby field. That’s why when James Callaghan, a dairy farmer from Lindsay Ontario, first heard about biogas he was intrigued. Not only was it a way to deal with environmental concerns about local water and animal waste but he could diversify his farming operation by generating heat, electricity, animal bedding and a near-odourless fertilizer.
If you haven’t been to a working dairy farm in the past ten years you might be surprised at the technological whizbangery of it all. Stainless steel is everywhere, cows are brought into automated milking stalls on an elevated platform at milking time and in the barn slow moving, automated pooper-scoopers carry the manure away.
This is how it all works at Maryland Farms, a fifth generation dairy farm about two hours east of Toronto. Callaghan is a genial guy who can crack a joke about the last time the Leafs won a Stanley Cup and then in the next minute get into the intricacies of running an underground cooling field with pipes full of hot gas. He runs the farm with his two brothers and two of his sons, who are getting into the business as well. More…
Podcast: Farming for biogas
Dairy farmers usually stick to milk and crops. Electricity is just a big bill you pay every month. Well, farmers in Ontario are diversifying into farming for biogas. It uses cow manure and grease from the restauraunt industry to create methane which is then burned for heat and power. James Callaghan is a fifth generation dairy farmer who is about two hours east of Toronto. He never thought he would be selling electricity to the grid as part of his business but Ontario's feed-in tariff makes it easier for him to implement this technology.
What is anaerobic digestion?
Anaerobic digestion is the process by which organic materials in an enclosed vessel are broken down by micro-organisms, in the absence of oxygen. Anaerobic digestion produces biogas (consisting primarily of methane and carbon dioxide). AD systems are also often referred to as "biogas systems."
Depending on the system design, biogas can be combusted to run a generator producing electricity and heat (called a co-generation system), burned as a fuel in a boiler or furnace, or cleaned and used as a natural gas replacement.
The AD process also produces a liquid effluent (called digestate) that contains all the water, all the minerals and approximately half of the carbon from the incoming materials.
Information from the Government of Ontario
Biogas across Canada
- Approximately 30 operating on-farm biogas systems in Ontario
- Ontario biogas projects have a capacity of 15 megawatts
- There are 49 additional biogas application with the Ontario Power Authority
- There are also biogas projects in B.C., Alberta, Quebec and New Brunswick
Information from the Biogas Association
These resources relate to this episode. They may be helpful in many ways, but we list them only for your information. This is not an endorsement of any of these programs, services or organizations and we make no guarantees about the products or services these companies or organizations may offer.
Infosheet: Energy Yields from a Farm-Based Anaerobic Digestion System
Infosheet: Energy Yields from a Farm-Based Anaerobic Digestion System provides basic information required to calculate the type, amount and economic value of energy that could be expected to be produced from a farm-based anaerobic digestion system. It also provides an example of an energy balance for a digester. GO >
Tags: Renewable Energy
Anaerobic Digestion Basics
Anaerobic Digestion Basics provides basic information on anaerobic digestion and different types of anaerobic digestion system configurations suitable for agri-food systems in Canada. The Factsheet also outlines some of the factors involved in deciding whether to add an anaerobic digester to a farming or food processing operation. GO >
Tags: Renewable Energy
Government of Ontario's Fact Sheet on Biogas
Tags: Renewable Energy
Harvesting Clean Energy on Ontario Farms (Report)
“Harvesting Clean Energy on Ontario Farms” presents a comparison of clean energy policies and incentives between Germany and Ontario and offers suggestions for further research and action to help Canadian farmers embrace renewable energy, including biogas. The report was written in collaboration with the Pembina Institute, Heinrich Boell Foundation, the United Church of Canada and Climate Action Network Canada. GO >
- A clickable map of all of the biogas projects in Ontario - Biogas Association
- OMAFRA's Biogas (Anaerobic Digestion) website is an excellent source of information on biogas (anaerobic digestion) technology and the biogas sector in Ontario.
- Factsheet: Anaerobic Digestion Basics provides basic information on anaerobic digestion and different types of anaerobic digestion system configurations suitable for agri-food systems in Canada. The Factsheet also outlines some of the factors involved in deciding whether to add an anaerobic digester to a farming or food processing operation.
- Factsheet: Biogas Incentives and Requirements: Building a Farm-Based Biogas System in Ontario presents some key opportunities and issues to consider by farmers who are looking at ways to finance and build AD systems.
- Infosheet: Energy Yields from a Farm-Based Anaerobic Digestion System provides basic information required to calculate the type, amount and economic value of energy that could be expected to be produced from a farm-based anaerobic digestion system. It also provides an example of an energy balance for a digester.
- Factsheet: Feed-In Tariff, Green Energy Act and Regulated Mixed Anaerobic Digestion Facility Rules outlines the new and improved opportunities for biogas systems, summarizing the basic components and details of the programs, policies, and regulations.
Also, ManureNet, a website for bioenergy and manure management information, provides links to a variety of resources with background information on manure digesters as well as issues related to on-farm anaerobic digestion.