They're Turning Manure Into Oil

Peter Fransham of Advanced BioRefinery Inc., of Ottawa, Ont., says he's close to perfecting a cost-effective system that will extract oil from biomass such as chicken manure or other biomass like waste wood.

The company was awarded a $1.2 million grant from a government research group to develop a commercially viable system. "The system extracts a useable bio-fuel and at the same time produces a beneficial fertilizer product," says Fransham.

He has been working hard for the past 17 years to find a feasible way to accomplish his goal, and currently has two prototypes. These units will be in operation later this year.

"Our objective is to start producing a commercial prototype by the end of this year," he says. "We hope to start taking orders by the end of this year. However, it could be two years down the road before we actually start manufacturing them."

Fransham says his pyrolysis system operates at 378 to 380 degrees C. It works by vaporizing and condensing the biomass in the absence of air.

He believes he can build cost-effective systems that could easily be tailored to the needs of the client. The current prototypes can process about a ton of dry poultry manure per day.

The end products include burnable oil, some gas, and a phosphorus and potassium-rich charcoal which he says makes a good fertilizer.

"We've found that we're also making some very high value chemicals from chicken manure that could be used in pharmaceutical drugs. Our systems could synthesize those chemicals on a large scale."

Currently, electricity is required to get the pyrolysis process started, but Fransham says that down the road, it may be possible to capture and use the gas generated by the system.

Fransham says the oil produced from his process has about half the energy of regular heating oil, and that one ton of chicken manure yields about 990 lbs. of oil.

"We want our systems to be economically feasible, so we want to make sure it works before we get people too excited," he says. "We don't want to disappoint farmers or anyone else, so that's why it could be a couple years before we start waving our arms confidently."

Fransham has filed for patents on certain aspects of the technology, and expects them to be granted sometime next year. He says he's also "open to developing business relationships in the U.S., but I would need someone local to conduct the business."