Turning manure into asphalt

Aug. 7, 2012 - At any farm, managing the manure from your livestock can be a major inconvenience and cost a lot of money to dispose. But, one company is looking at swine manure a different way.

NuVention Solutions Inc. is a company that takes swine manure and, through a thermochemical conversion process, has turned it into an advanced material known as Bio Resource Resin (BR2). The resulting resin, or bio-oil, is so versatile that it can be used as a petroleum alternative in asphalt, fertilizer coatings and anti-dusting agents, said Jim Sattler, president of NuVention Solutions.

The idea stemmed from the environmental problem that all farmers have – manure management, he said. "We saw a need to address a problem with concentrated animal waste in many agricultural areas that result in waste run that causes contamination our waterways with nitrates, phosphorus and pathogens."

Determining a solution required the need to find outlets for the so-called 'black goo' produced by the hydrothermal liquefaction process through heat and pressure in the absence of oxygen. However, contaminants were still present in the resulting bio-oil and needed to be removed. According to Sattler, that problem was remedied by using an algae-based technology from Advanced Algae Solutions to treat the wastewater and remove the nitrogen, phosphorus and other contaminant materials that could harm the environment.

The potential applications of the bio-oil were an issue, but "asphalt applications were a logical choice, where as fertilizer coatings was kind of a 'what if we try this' idea," he said.

Upon further investigation, NuVention Solutions found that BR2 could be used for roofing shingles as a partial petroleum replacement, saving money and creating a renewable source of product.

For asphalt, Sattler said that the BR2 could be used as an additive to replace up to 20 per cent of the petroleum products required. He added that, "the binder continues to rise in price and is becoming less available as we find ways to produce more gasoline and higher value products out of the barrel of oil. Adding BR2 compounds to the asphalt also lowers the hardness of the binder, which enables the addition of more stiff recycled asphalt pavement (RAP), which is taken up before the new pavement is laid."

The technology is still in development, but the company has applied for a variety of patents pending and is pursuing in-depth experiments to further boost the total yield of BR2. Other research includes further refinement of the bio-oil into base chemicals, treating the remaining wastewater to produce additional algae products and an economically viable source of drinking water.

"We have also designed a ¼ scale-processing unit large enough to service 2,500 hogs in cooperation with the Ohio Agricultural Research & Development Center and the Ohio Bio Innovation Center, which should be operational by year-end," said Sattler. Once that is complete, NuVention plans to scale to a 2,500 hog unit to prove its efficiency at such a scale by mid-2013.

"From there," he said, "we will scale to a full size bio refinery servicing 30,000 hogs."

 

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