November 25, 2005 | General

BioCycle World

BioCycle November 2005, Vol. 46, No. 11, p 6

Writing from Shanghai, Thomas Friedman of The New York Times cites a report in The China Daily that says “we no longer have abundant forest cover, our land is no longer that green, our water tables are depleting, and our numbers are expanding faster than ever … China itself uses 45 billion pairs of disposable chopsticks a year, or 1.66 million cubic meters of timber, or 25 million full-grown trees.” The China Daily column made the point that China’s nine percent growth rate is reaching environmental limits and it may be time to replace wood with reusable steel when making chopsticks. “Not only is China not a communist country anymore,” Friedman points out, “but it may also now be the world’s most capitalist country in terms of raw energy. …. While villagers crave jobs, they resent the deforestation, dams and polluted rivers that have already been dumped on them by the big cities.” In a later column titled “Green Dreams in Shangri-La” (10/28/05), Friedman stresses how much the villagers are coming up with their own green growth solutions. “The village has the finest public toilet I’ve ever used, a solar-powered composting toilet with an automated plastic green seat cover – in the middle of nowhere! It was labeled ‘The Lavatory of Environmental Protection of the Travel.’ And from a vice president of an organization working in China called Conservation International comes this observation: ‘What we hope to see here is a new paradigm, where China, itself a developing country, offers a new model of sustainable development to other developing countries.”
“High rates of biosolids application increased the carbon concentration in soil horizons for both treed and grassy sites,” writes Sally Brown of the University of Washington. “Increase in organic matter seems to be proportional to the application rate.” Her research report appears in the November 2005 Biosolids Bulletin of the Northwest Biosolids Management Association. Increasing total carbon (C) concentration in soils is generally recognized as one of the best things you can do for soil health, improving both tilth and fertility, Brown explains. Organic matter increases seem to be proportional to application rates. With concerns over excess nitrogen, it will be necessary to mix biosolids with high carbon materials to achieve similar results. In an earlier report in BioCycle (Sept. 2004) titled “Building Carbon Credits with Biosolids Recycling”, Brown and coauthor Peggy Leonard noted that beneficial biosolids use offers an opportunity for municipalities to gain credits for greenhouse gas reductions. Substantial additional savings can accrue when energy associated with anaerobic decomposition is harvested. This can occur at the treatment plant in a system where methane generated during anaerobic digestion is harvested. They conclude: “By developing a biosolids program with global warming as a consideration, maximum carbon credits can be realized. It is important to note that the benefits associated with use of biosolids for carbon sequestration are in addition to other, well-recognized benefits of land application of biosolids.”
Agricultural Research Service scientists are finding ways to use water treatment residuals to increase the soil’s capacity to bond phosphorus instead of landfilling the material. The studies are being done at watershed research centers in Florence, South Carolina and University Park, Pennsylvania. States may benefit along the Atlantic Seaboard where sandy soils generally take up and hold less phosphorus than finer-textured soils. Increased adsorption of phosphorus would curb runoff from farms that can lower oxygen content of water. Similar problems occur from large livestock operations. A separate study at the ARS Byproducts Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland found that treatment has no negative effect on plants once roots grow beyond the six-inch-deep layer that treatment creates in soil. In lab tests with sandy soil the treatment increased phosphorus binding potential four to fivefold over untreated soil. If further research is successful, water treatment processing residuals will become a resource holding phosphorus on the land until a crop uses it.
As oil prices stay above $60/barrel and gasoline prices remain high at local stations, companies that are making equipment that generate alternative fuels make headlines. Latest example is The Wall Street Journal (front page, 10/28/05) “Turkey in the Tank: High Price of Gasoline Is A Boon for Biofuels.” Writes WSJ: “A little processing can make fuel out of all sorts of commodities, and today people are proving it not just with turkey-farm leftovers but with used cooking oil, coconut meat and cow dung.” One company featured is a Carthage, Missouri diesel plant owned by Changing World Technologies, Inc. which uses a feedstock of turkey processing residuals. CEO Brian Appel claims that turkey diesel is competitive with petroleum-based products because of recent federal tax incentives for renewable energy. ConAgra Foods has a minority interest in the Changing World company. Coming issues of BioCycle will have special reports on emerging green enterprises in North America and throughout the international scene that are helping to solve waste management problems by turning them into power feedstocks. The BioCycle West Coast Conference 2006 – March 20-22, 2006 in Portland, Oregon – will have more than 15 session on processing organic residuals into renewable power. To get advance notice on upcoming articles and West Coast Conference session, contact Ann Miller by e-mail at
On October 28, 2005, the House Agriculture Committee zeroed out funding for FY 07 for Sec. 9006 Renewable Energy Program and Sec. 6401 Value-Add Program. Committee cuts included conservation and rural development, and the measure now goes to the House floor. The Committee action is in stark contrast to the approach of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee which did not touch the Renewable Energy program. The differences will have to be worked out in a joining conference. “These programs have had strong bipartisan support because they looked to the future and promoted innovations and homegrown clean energy alternatives,” said Carol Werner of the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) based in Washington.
“This $1.6 million wastewater pretreatment system, started in August 2004, is lowering costs through anaerobic digestion of sugars and organic waste solids,” says Mike Emigh, president of Valley Fig Growers in Fresno, California. “This system will free up capacity for the city’s residential needs, enough for 2,500 homes as well as improve the bottom line of our grower/members.” Officially dedicated last month, the system consists of a digester (covered, lined lagoon), microturbine electrical generator (Ingersoll-Rand Energy System), heat exchangers and related equipment. Gas is captured and used as fuel in the 70 microturbine generator. The project was funded by a $476,000 grant from the California Energy Commission’s Public Interest Energy Research program. Explained the consultant who helped design the system: “The pretreatment and renewable energy benefits will motivate other food processors to address the challenges of high disposal costs and energy costs in an environmentally friendly manner.” The Valley Fig Growers cooperative of 35 grower/members is a worldwide leader in dried figs as well as fig paste, concentrate, pieces and powders. It produces 8,500 tons of figs and raisins annually; generates 40,000 gallons of effluent daily on a seven-day per week basis; digester lagoon consists of 26,500 sq ft (0.6 acre) with a capacity of 1.8 million gallons; retention time is 45 days; initial gas production is 2,500 cu ft/hr.
In his new book, Biodiesel Power, Lyle Estill tells the story of how a small co-op went “from the classroom to the backyard to commercial production.” He emphasizes the sustainability part of biodiesel – that while soy is the popular feedstock, “all we need to make biodiesel is fat. Beef tallow, used vegetable oils, peanut oil or liposuction remains.” Most of Estill’s work at Piedmont Biofuels in Pittsboro, North Carolina has been done with waste vegetable oil, but sunflower seeds, mustard and oilseed radish are also being tested. The worker members of Piedmont Biofuels sign a membership agreement, pay $50 a year and commit to working five hours a week. Because their worker contribution can be seen as “making their own fuel,” they are able to put homemade fuel in their tanks and drive on-road. The author compares the current actors in biodiesel to those of the solar movement. “Indeed many who have been preaching renewable energy for decades are now hitching their wagons to biofuels.” The North Carolina Solar Center, for example, has opened an Alternative Fuels Garage. Biodiesel Power has been published by New Society Publishers; price is $16.95. Contact for information on purchasing a copy. Author Lyle Estill of Piedmont Fuels can be e-mailed Estill also spoke at the BioCycle Southeast Conference this month in Charlotte in a session on biofuels as petroleum alternatives.
“We need to have a more stable data base on anaerobic digesters so interested persons can compare systems and make decisions about which digesters to select,” notes Joseph Visalli, Energy Resources Director for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). To achieve this goal of standardizing performance evaluations of systems for biogas utilization, organizations that belong to ASERTTI – the Association of State Energy Research and Technology Transfer Institutions – have contracted with John Mart of Hall Associates in Georgetown, Delaware. As explained in the data base proposal, currently there is “uncertainty about process performance and the ability to recover capital invested.” The primary problem is what appears to be conflicting information about process performance and incomplete data about costs and revenues. “This is a reflection of the lack of generally accepted methodology or protocol for characterizing performance and financial viability. To overcome the problems of investment and rating design options, and get more support from lending institutions, we must gain the objective data on using livestock manures as a renewable energy source and the environmental quality benefits associated with these units.” The first project task will be to prepare protocols for performance assessments for review by a select group of stakeholders at a special workshop. One of the draft protocols will be for comprehensive assessments (case studies) of new design strategies. The second will focus on assessing performance stability and reliability over several years. As explained by Visalli, the state organizations cofunding this project – New York, California , Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, North Carolina, Mississippi, Washington, and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District – all are members of ASERTTI which is directed by David Terry. USEPA is a cofounder, and USDA will be participating. For more details about the protocols and performance data base, Visalli can be e-mailed at
Michael Crooke, president and CEO of Patagonia, Inc. – a leading apparel company – is asking his customers to return worn-out clothing which can then be made into new garments. Starting this month, old Patagonia clothing can be mailed back to its Ventura, California headquarters or taken to any of the firm’s 20 retail stores. According to Crooke, energy use could be cut about 75 percent along with carbon dioxide emissions by recycling, compared with what it takes to make clothing from virgin materials. As planned, Patagonia will ship returned apparel to the Teijin Group, a fabric manufacturer in Japan which will then make new polyester fiber. More details are available from Patagonia. Visit
Latest developments in moving food residuals from restaurants, cafeterias, institutions and households into composting sites are coming along well. One example comes from Chapel Hill, North Carolina where last year more than 1,500 tons were diverted from 22 collection points by the Orange County Solid Waste Management program. According to Rob Taylor, actual collection is being done by Brooks Contractors whose vehicles include grab hooks and cart tippers. Working with generators at the University of North Carolina, Orange County also arranges to pick up almost 400 tons of animal bedding that are taken to the compost facility. Further north, in the Canadian community of Markham, Ontario that participates in the Mission Green project, residential organics have become the target for diversion. Starting last September, when 13-gallon green wheeled carts arrived from Norseman Plastics, acceptable materials included all food scraps, soiled paper towels and packaging, household plants, diapers, etc. Residents are encouraged to set materials inside the cart in bags and to line their container with a bag, explains Peter Veiga, waste operations supervisor for Markham.
In the October issue of BioCycle, a partial listing of anaerobic digesters was highlighted from A Guide to Anaerobic Digestion, published by The Composting Association of the United Kingdom. The listing continues below: Krieg & Fischer Ingenieure GmbH ( – Built first biogas plant in 1986. Extensive experience with different process techniques and input materials – from complex biowaste pretreatment to fermentation techniques. Reference plants are located in Schlötter, Tu Hamburg-Hamburg, Böckermann, Wietzendorf, Fabel, Uelzen, Cudworth Pork, Obernjesa and Grimm + Schöndienst. Methanogen UK Ltd. (Info@methan – A producer of digester equipment such as mixing systems, gas holders and digester vessels which incorporate pasteurization to meet ABPR standards. Their digesters handle a variety of wastes such as cow and pig slurry, poultry litter, biosolids, shredded green residuals, blood, grease trap waste and food residuals. Plants include Trevor Lea, Weishampton; Exeter and Redditch. Monsal Ltd. ( – Over 100 Monsal digestion systems are operating in the UK, incorporating thermal pasteurization and biological hydrolysis pretreatment. SBR systems produce high quality effluent suitable for recycling. Plants can process from 20 m3/d to 3,000 m3/d (7,000 to over 1 million wet metric tons). Organic Power Ltd. (enquiries@organic – Bubbling biogas from central cusp of low energy tank shape creates opposing circulation patterns within tank. Adding liquid material at center of circulation pattern and removing it from opposite end gives a continuous plug flow. Commercial demo plant is at company headquarters in Somerset. Organic Waste Systems nv (OWS), ( – The DRANCO process in Belgium features one phase thermophilic AD for treatment of catering residuals and municipal waste. Full-scale plants include Brecht, Belgium for biowaste/paper (20,000 ty); Salzburg, Austria for biowaste (20,000 t/y); Bassum, Germany for residual waste (13,500 t/y); Pusan, South Korea for food waste (75,000 t/y); and Vitoria, Spain for mixed waste (20,000 t/y). Ros Roca Internacional (korz@ – Plants treat biowaste, renewable ag products, and organic industrial residuals. AD process is based on wet technology, working independently from the humidity of the waste. Biogas is used to produce vehicle fuel. Operational plants are in Saars Maakond, Estonia; Vasteras, Sweden; Avila, Spain; Dietrichsdorf, Germany and elsewhere. Purac Ltd. ( – Supplied over 20 major AD-based sludge treatment systems in the UK over the past 15 years with project values from £3 million to £25 million. Licensee in UK for BTA Process. Plants process green waste, manure, sewage sludge and MSW. Stewart Thermal ( – AD systems for slurries and manures with solids content less than three percent; typical HRTs are in excess of 20 days . New designs operate at ambient temperatures with low hydraulic retention time.

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