Pig poo to help solve global energy crisis?

June 13th, 2008 - 2:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, June 13 (IANS) Pig manure has been successfully converted into fuel that could be used in vehicles - but a lot more needs to be done before you can buy it at the neighbourhood petrol pump. University of Illinois researcher Yuanhui Zhang has developed a system that uses heat and pressure to transform organic compounds such as manure into oil - and he has used pig manure as it is a common waste in US farms.

A sample of this fuel has been submitted to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for examination, and the initial verdict of the examiners is - it smells bad.

NIST scientist Tom Bruno determined that pig manure crude contained at least 83 compounds, including those would need to be removed, like 15 percent water by volume, sulphur and char waste containing heavy metals.

While the thick black liquid resembles real crude-based counterparts, the NIST study shows that looks can indeed be deceptive.

“The fact that pig manure crude oil contains a lot of water is unfavourable. They would need to get the water out,” said Bruno.

The examination of pig poo crude was made with a new NIST test method and apparatus, the advanced distillation curve, which provides highly detailed and accurate data on the make-up and performance of complex fluids.

NIST researchers analysed the graphite-like char remaining after the distillation by bombarding it with neutrons, a non-destructive way of identifying the types and amounts of elements present. Two complementary neutron methods detected the heavy metals listed above.

Bruno and colleagues currently spend much of their time analysing military jet fuels and are not planning a major foray into pig manure.

But Bruno concedes that the effort may have a payoff, even if it does not exactly cut US oil imports.

“Who knows, it might help decrease the nuisance of manure piles.”

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