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Diesel Pickup Gets 70 Mpg On "Manure Gas"
Danny Kluthe has a 6,000 head hog finishing operation in Eastern Nebraska, but he’s producing a lot more than pork. Six years ago he built a methane digester with the idea of selling electricity produced by the system. He’s doing that, but is also using compressed methane gas to power his farm vehicles and equipment.
    “When we first built this system I thought the payback over 15 years was going to be from income for the electrical power,” says Kluthe. “But we’re now burning methane gas in my diesel pickup and getting 70 miles to the gallon. I’m also using a 90/10 methane/diesel mixture in my farm equipment and getting a 30 percent boost in torque, cleaner exhaust and smoother running engines.”
    Kluthe’s hog operation produces about 9,000 gal. of liquid manure every day, resulting in about 30,000 to 40,000 cu. ft. of compressed methane gas. It takes 128 cu. ft. of methane to equal a gallon of diesel, so that means Kluthe’s daily methane production is about 230 to just over 300 gal. Multiply that by the price of natural gas, which is comparable to methane, and the resulting $400 to $600 numbers are reason for excitement. The methane is produced in a system that in some respects uses more gravity power than manpower.
    At Kluthe’s farm, manure from his hog operation flows down a slope into a 14-ft. deep air-tight digester. It remains there for 21 days, gurgling and belching gas. The digester is kept at a constant 120 degrees to help bacteria break down the sludge. During that time, methane is produced and transferred to a storage tank where it’s used to fuel a stationary diesel engine. That engine runs a generator, which produces electricity that’s sold to the local power district. His system produces enough electricity to power about 40 homes a day. Excess methane used to be burned off, but now Kluthe compresses and stores it for use in vehicles. That portion of the system was designed and built with the help of Kevin Kenney, ag engineer and president of Grassroots Energy in Lincoln, Neb.
    “My hogs are now supplying all the fuel I need for my farming operation,” Kluthe says.
    Kluthe says another benefit from his system is that once methane is removed from the manure, the sludge is odorless. Nutrients in that sludge are also more readily available for his crops, so he’s getting a more efficient fertilizer.
    The cost of Kluthe’s methane system was considerable, with the largest investment being the stationary Cat engine for a power source. “I probably could have gotten by with a smaller engine just for compressing gas, but I didn’t know that at the time,” Kluthe says. Still, he feels the system is more than worthwhile, because he’s removing odor from his operation and powering vehicles and equipment with an environmentally-friendly fuel. He has a patent pending on his compressed gas collection system and hopes to market products for methane production from manure in the near future.
    “Hog producers will soon be energy sufficient, producing electricity and fuel for their own operations and having excess products available for sale to others,” Kluthe says.
    Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Danny Kluthe, Olean Energy, 2416 Road 17, Dodge, Neb. 68633 (ph 402 693-2833).

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2013 - Volume #37, Issue #2