Livestock manure could someday provide a value-added bioenergy fuel for on-farm heating and power, according to Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists. ARS researchers are studying how to use a technique called wet gasification to convert wet manure slurry into energy-rich gases while producing relatively clean water. The team developed a cost-benefit model of a wet gasification technology patented by the U.S. Department of Energy to calculate estimated returns. They concluded that liquid swine wastes can generate a net energy potential comparable to brown coal.

The ARS researchers are also investigating methods for producing a type of charcoal, or biochar, called “green coal” from manure. Green coal can be burned on-farm for energy or transported offsite to coal plants for fuel. It can also be added to the soil, a practice that would reduce greenhouse gases by permanently sequestering carbon in the soil in the form of the green coal.

More information is available about this research in the October 2008 issue of Agricultural Research magazine online.