A University of Illinois (U of I) research project that converts swine manure to crude oil could be a surprising key to reduced crude oil imports and could possibly create a new industry in the U.S.

U of I agricultural engineer Yuanhui Zwang has refined a thermochemical conversion (TCC) process to make it more efficient and faster.

“If 50% of swine farms adopted this technology, we could see a $1.5 billion reduction in crude oil imports every year,” he projects. “And swine producers could see a 10% increase in their income, about $10-15 per hog.”

Other pluses are that minerals are preserved in the after-treatment stream, odor is reduced and the oxygen demand of manure is reduced by 70%.

Using a batch reactor, researchers achieved an average of 70% conversion from swine manure volatile solids to oil. At that conversion rate, the manure excreted by one hog during the production cycle could produce up to 21 gal. of crude oil. A farm raising 10,000 market hogs/year could produce 5,000 barrels of crude oil/year.

Zhang is further refining the conversion process and hopes to develop a pilot plant to analyze the oil properties and seek alternative applications of the TCC oil.