Frye Poultry is a 700,000 plus broiler operation established in 1991. In 2006 - 2007, the company ventured into biomass energy using a fixed bed gasifier to convert the litter produced into energy,some 5million btu per hour, per 1,000 lbs of litter.
Problem with chicken litter is it's normally 20% - 40% moisture, sometimes higher. Shipping the byproduct nutrients to areas which are nutrient poor and/or carbon poor, which many soils are, is restricted due to high transport cost.
How can poultry farmers have a higher value added by product? How can they cut cost associated with doing business?
Turning poultry or biomass products into a fixed black carbon is extremely advantageous with regards to conserving limited natural resources, soil health, remediation or capturing of heavy metals, toxins and pollutants. It is a dry condensed product. It can be used to make clean energy.
I started about converting poultry litter into energy, after reading in the earlier 90’s of a test using pyrolysis and chicken litter to produce heat. The thought of turning litter or biomass products or byproducts into heat or energy has probably crossed most farmers minds at some point and time. My friend, Matt Harper, asked if I would accompany him on a road trip to visit Coaltec Inc, during a test run, using turkey litter as fuel, in their fixed bed gasifier. I’m glad I did and I was impressed…, to the point that I had a dream that night of owning a unit. I do not dream much at least not to point of having a vivid memory of it. Working with Mike McGolden of Coaltec , a CIG grant was obtained and the rest has been history in the making.
Turning poultry litter into energy is not so easy, like other biomass byproducts such as wood, coconut, switch grass, cow manure etc.. Poultry litter does not produce methane, it has a low calorific value or low energy value and it has a relatively high moisture content to boot.
The unit I use is a two staged fixed bed gasifiser. This unit has addressed several issues such as klinkering, or the addition of sand to get the litter/fuel to flow which is common for some pyrolysis units.
The by product at first was ash, and all though high in phosphorus calcium and some potash these nutrients were too insoluble for plant or animal uptake. A real concern for me was taking a very good fertilizer which many locale farmers rely on to stay in business and destroying it.
Tom Basden a WVU extension agent, mentioned if I could char it, I might one day be raising chicken for the litter. That hasn’t happened yet… but the potential is there and making poultry carbon or BioChar is the Best Management Practice (BMP) and the most sound practice to conserve limited natural resources like phosphorus which some scientist have estimated may only be left for 100 years.
So several problems can be solved by converting the litter to a fixed carbon Biochar. From a fertilizer or, soil amendment point of view. It is sterile. It is dry. The nutrients are condensed and water insoluble making it long lasting and less leaching, The microbial life in the soils is being fed a fixed carbon as well as nutrients, which they need in order to flourish. Plants need the microbes to break down the nutrients so the root system can absorb, or digest them. Again a long term slow release food source for the soil. Perhaps just as important is the remediation aspect of the Poultry Carbon ability to remove hard to capture heavy metals and polluants from the soil, water and air.
From an energy output heat, electric, cooling can be addressed. The use of heat being the most cost effective approach. It is simple and less expensive to install. Fuel bills can be the biggest over head at times for broiler poultry farmers in this region of the central Appalachians. Preheating outside air, to target temps and maintain a positive pressure airflow changes the condensation point of the barns from the inside to the outside, with dramatic changes to the growing environment. No fans or vent machines are needed when the unit is running. Humidity levels in the barns are lowered but not to extremes unless the humidity outdoors is low which is a rarity in the region..
After consulting with experts in the field of biochar such as Johannes Lehmann Cornell University and Isabel Lima USDA ARS the gasification process was modified to produce a nutrient rich carbon or biochar.
Poultry char is unlike other biochars due to the fact that the char is loaded with nutrients, some of which are fixed within the carbon, becoming a slow release food for the soil microbes which convert the nutrients into usable food source for the plants. Poultry Carbon Biochar also has a negative surface charge.
Frye Poultry Featured In
- West Virginia Success Story
- Using Chicken Litter for Biochar
- Frye Poultry Manure Gasifier
- Could chicken manure help curb climate change?
- Carbon: The Biochar Solution