Jay Ford and Eastern Shorekeeper hosted a presentation by Kristen Hughes Evans, Executive Director and founder of Sustainable Chesapeake, a non-profit environmental organization supporting the Farm Manure-to-Energy Initiative, “a regional effort to evaluate the potential for manure-to-energy technologies to provide alternative markets for excess poultry litter nutrients.” The Farm Manure-to-Energy Initiative has evaluated the performance of thermal technologies that convert surplus poultry litter to electricity or heat, such as the Bio-Burner 500 project in Rockingham County, VA. Jane Lassiter also noted that she is working with Ms. Evans on multiple grants designed to save the Chesapeake Bay from manure run off, and said they were working on manure to energy projects.
Ken Dufty was on hand, and provides his notes and first person analysis of the presentation.
During her one hour presentation Evans said she is driven partly by watching children get sickened by poor water quality, and worked with California farmers to expand low and no till farming. She said she wanted to solve these water quality problems here on the Shore (run off from manure) and then export this technology around the world. Note she later repeated this saying “We are water quality people” and she is very excited “to be here at the epicenter of (manure) technology development—we will solve the world’s problems” and export the thermal manure technology we develop right here on the Eastern Shore “around the world”.
Shortly into the presentation, I raised my hand and asked if she is not talking about incineration, where did Dr. Reiter (who was sitting behind me) get his ash from for the USDA grant given to ESRC&D (note: he got it from a project that incinerated chicken manure to heat a poultry house. The project was a dismal failure, could not pass emission tests, and could not even run a week to even make the tests).
The President of Shorekeeper, George Reiger told of his trip to a West Virginia poultry manure gasification project where (he said) the whole valley received its electricity from this one farm that burned (whoops…heated) poultry manure. He indicated that despite his desire to bring that technology to the Eastern Shore to solve the poultry manure problem here (that the industry created but will not solve), they would not come here because of the amount of miles they would have to travel to get the manure from various chicken houses to the combustion facility.
Hughes went on later to talk about “circulating fluidized bed” technology which is the direct injection of fuel into a high temperature incinerator.
Note: During the presentation, Hughes’ denial that she was talking about incineration is misleading and I am absolutely shocked that Mr. Ford allowed this information to stand unchallenged after his introductory remarks that SHOREKEEPER simply wants to bring credible information to Shore residents so they can decide for themselves the merits of the issue. Here is the definition in Wikipedia of incineration: “incineration is a waste treatment process that involves the combustion of organic substances contained in waste materials”. In short, when you heat something that produces an ash, it is being incinerated.
David Kabler who referenced Hughes’ multiple references to “combustion sources asked if she thought that EPA regulations would be lessened once the new federal administration was seated. Hughes said that lessening standards probably would not be forthcoming, but she thought that existing standards would probably not be enforced once the new administration takes our environmental reigns. Kabler recommended that we all keep an eye on that pending issue.
I asked Hughes to talk about the 2 projects that were funded with public money through a Conservation Grant written by Sarah Reiter for the ES RC&D and in which Mark Reiter analyzed the ash from one of the projects. All of a sudden, Kristen knew very little about those projects…. even though later she went on to extol the benefits of the Virginia incinerator (whoops, there I go again!) and seemed to know quite a bit about the grant, even explaining why the projects never materialized on the Eastern Shore, where they were supposed to be conducted.
Evans said there is a 3-tier test for the viability of thermal treatment (a much more sanitized term) of poultry manure. They must meet environmental standards, be feasible from a technological perspective, and be profitable. She said there is no project YET that meets all three. Then another gentleman raised his hand and asked if she could name the projects that came close. Evans referenced the Glenn Roads project where a farmer burned wood in a boiler next to a chicken house and then experimented with chicken manure as a fuel in that boiler. While Evans said it worked beautifully, however he was no longer using chicken manure in his wood incinerator. This was due, she said to the farmer caring too much about his neighbors and the beautiful view shed, and the smoke that comes out the stack was too visible.
I did ask the question “isn’t it true that the ash from these incinerators has a very high concentration of phosphorous (actually 2-12 times more concentrated than chicken manure) and isn’t it true that this phosphorous is not readily available to plants, thereby causing even higher loads of phosphorous to surrounding waters like the Chesapeake?” Evans responded that this phosphorous is even more available to plants than that in chicken manure…and the uptake is sometimes being 10 times more available to plants. She then asked Dr. Reiter who was introduced by Evans as the world’s foremost expert on ash from poultry thermal treatment if that was true, and Dr. Reiter hesitated and then seemingly reluctantly said…”sometimes”.
Note: other studies on ash from poultry manure incinerators, including Dr. Reiter’s own study in the recent grant initiative, concludes that the phosphorous contained in the ash is highly concentrated and indeed is not readily available for plant uptake, therefore requiring more ash to be spread on the fields to meet the plant’s needs than organic manure itself.