Pig waste is a pungent problem for many neighbors of large livestock farms. The feces can also pollute waterways and carry disease. And with more than 65 million pigs in the United States—each one producing about 8 pounds of manure daily—the country has a lot of swine excrement.
Enough that a Missouri town has begun paving roads with it (so much for gold…).
Yes, pig feces currently comprises about 500 yards of North Outer Rd. nearby Interstate-44. Not in its pure form, but as an asphalt binder. This is thanks to researchers at the University of Illinois who have learned how to make crude oil from it.
Yuanhui Zhang, a professor of bio-environmental engineering, is reforming the organic compounds of swine manure into oil through thermochemical conversion (TCC). By applying the right temperature and pressure to the feces, Zhang and his research team can accomplish in 40 minutes what takes nature millions of years to do (though at a much smaller scale).
Steve Giegerich reports for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
Researchers achieved an average of 70 percent conversion from swine manure volatile solids to oil. At that conversion efficiency, the manure excreted by one pig during the production cycle could produce up to 21 gallons of crude oil.
What’s more, a swine farm producing 10,000 market hogs per year could produce 5,000 barrels of crude oil per year.
Via multiple TCC reactors, the excrement (which does not need to be dried) becomes crude oil. Engineering company Innoventor has made asphalt from it. But according to Zhang, they can further process and refine the oil to having a heating capacity of 80 percent of diesel fuel.
More research and a pilot plant are needed before discerning whether the financial inputs will justify hog outputs as an energy source.