Producing Clean Energy from Pigsties in Brazil

Claudinei Stein is a farmer who produces biogas using the manure of his 7,300 pigs, which he breeds and sells to a pork processing plant in southern Brazil when they reach 23 kilos of weight. To his right is the biofertiliser pond, with the manure used to produce biogas in a biodigester. At the far left are the pigsties. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Claudinei Stein is a farmer who produces biogas using the manure
of his 7,300 pigs, which he breeds and sells to a pork processing
plant in southern Brazil when they reach 23 kilos of weight. To his
right is the biofertiliser pond, with the manure used to produce
biogas in a biodigester. At the far left are the pigsties. Credit:
Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
ENTRE RIOS DO OESTE, Brazil, Aug 6 2019 (IPS)

Pigs, already the main source of income in this small
municipality in southwestern Brazil, now have even more value as a
source of electricity.

The mini-thermal power plant of Entre Rios do Oeste, inaugurated
on Jul. 24, uses the biogas provided by 18 farms, in a pioneering
technical-commercial agreement in Brazil involving pig farmers, the
city government, the Paraná Energy
Company
(Copel), the Itaipu
Technological Park
(PTI) and the International Center for Renewable
Energies-Biogas
(CIBiogas).

The project was executed by PTI – the Brazilian-Paraguayan
hydroelectric power plant
Itaipu
‘s centre for teaching and development research – and
CIBiogás, a non-profit association of 27 international, national
and local institutions, which operates at the PTI headquarters.

The Entre Rios city government will benefit by generating
electricity with the biogas it buys from the pig farmers. The
electricity is injected into Copel’s distribution network,
reducing the energy costs paid by 72 municipal office buildings and
schools.

“It will produce savings that we will invest in health and
education,” said Mayor Jones Heiden.

His municipality, in the western part of the southern state of
Paraná and on the shores of the Itaipú reservoir that separates
Brazil from Paraguay, was a natural choice for the project, as
there are some 155,000 pigs, or 35 animals for each of the 4,400
local inhabitants.

Rafael González, CIBiogás’ director of technological
development, told IPS in his offices that the city government also
took an interest in the project and offered the area for the plant
to be installed, resources for its operation and support for the
pig farmers.

Of the more than 100 pig farmers in the municipality, only 18
who are located where the 20-km network of gas pipelines was
installed are participating, after accepting the conditions for
financing the biodigester, which converts the waste into
biofertiliser while extracting the biogas.

“Some didn’t want to because it would take them more than 10
years to pay off the loan. There were 19 who were going to take
part, but one pulled out after deciding to build his own
biodigester and generator” in an individual business, taking
advantage of the abundant manure produced by his 4,000 pigs, one of
the participants, Claudinei Stein, told IPS.

The Mini-Thermoelectric Plant of Entre Rios do Oeste will generate 250 megawatt-hours, 43 percent more than the top consumption of all municipal government facilities. The plant will reduce their energy bill to almost zero in this municipality in southern Brazil, on the border with Paraguay. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The Mini-Thermoelectric Plant of Entre Rios do Oeste will
generate 250 megawatt-hours, 43 percent more than the top
consumption of all municipal government facilities. The plant will
reduce their energy bill to almost zero in this municipality in
southern Brazil, on the border with Paraguay. Credit: Mario
Osava/IPS

“That was the beginning, the second step will be public
lighting,” opening up opportunities for other producers, said the
mayor.

The mini-thermal power plant, with a capacity of 480 kilowatts,
can generate 250 megawatts/hour per month, 43 percent more than the
city government’s maximum consumption. It involves 215 tons of
manure and 4,600 cubic metres of biogas produced daily by 39,000
pigs.

Stein has 7,300 feeder pigs which he receives from the Friella company when they weigh
about seven kilos, fattens them, and returns them when they reach
22 or 23 kilos.

Friella is the main company in town, with three meat-packing
plants where pork is processed and sold fresh or industrially
processed, as well as an animal feed factory and its own
hogpens.

But it outsources the breeding and fattening of most of the
pigs. Stein explained that while it entails transportation costs,
the company saves on installations, space and labour power.

Specialising in the second stage, in which each animal produces
less than half of the manure from the entire fattening process,
Stein estimates that he will earn an income of 1,800 to 2,000 reais
(375 to 430 dollars) a month, enough to pay off the credit for the
biodigester, which cost him 75,000 reais (19,800 dollars), in eight
years.

The Mini-Thermoelectric Plant of Entre Rios do Oeste will generate 250 megawatt-hours, 43 percent more than the top consumption of all municipal government facilities. The plant will reduce their energy bill to almost zero in this municipality in southern Brazil, on the border with Paraguay. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The Mini-Thermoelectric Plant of Entre Rios do Oeste will
generate 250 megawatt-hours, 43 percent more than the top
consumption of all municipal government facilities. The plant will
reduce their energy bill to almost zero in this municipality in
southern Brazil, on the border with Paraguay. Credit: Mario
Osava/IPS

But he joined the project for other reasons: to produce
biofertiliser and improve the environment. Biodigestion eliminates
odors, mosquitoes and contamination of groundwater on his
13-hectare property and improves manure as fertiliser for planting
corn and soybeans.

“This way I save money on chemical fertilisers,” he
explained. “I also like bold initiatives,” said the 39-year-old
farmer, who learned about the benefits of biodigesters at a young
age, because there was one on a cousin’s farm where he
worked.

But the installation of the Entre Rios plant was plagued by
delays, despite the recognised advantages of biogas and its
potential for expansion in the western part of the state, due to
the heavy presence of pig and poultry farming.

The idea emerged in 2008, Mayor Heiden told IPS.

But the opportunity to bring it to fruition arose in 2012, when
the National Electric Energy
Agency
– the regulator of the sector – outlined strategies
and criteria for biogas projects, calling for proposals to be
presented.

The projects for Paraná depend on funds that the Copel
distributor must allocate to research and development projects,
equivalent to 0.5 percent of its turnover.

“We registered the Entre Rios do Oeste project,” but the
contract with Copel was not signed until 2016, Gonzalez said.

Difficulties then arose with energy and tax regulations, which
blocked the city government from purchasing the biogas, defined as
a processed industrial good produced by farmers, the director of
CIBiogas explained.

View of a row of gas holders, large containers for storing the biogas that will fuel the mini-thermal power plant of Entre Rios do Oeste, which generates electricity using the gas extracted from the manure of part of the 155,000 pigs raised in this municipality in the southern Brazilian state of Paraná, on the border with Paraguay. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

View of a row of gas holders, large containers for storing the
biogas that will fuel the mini-thermal power plant of Entre Rios do
Oeste, which generates electricity using the gas extracted from the
manure of part of the 155,000 pigs raised in this municipality in
the southern Brazilian state of Paraná, on the border with
Paraguay. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

New regulations were necessary, with a different interpretation,
that recognises biogas as an unprocessed agricultural product, in
order to design the business model for the mini-thermoelectric
plant fueled by biogas, which is in the category of distributed
generation by consumers.

The project then took on its definitive shape, with the city
government buying biogas from the pig farmers who installed the
biodigester.

But opening up credit lines to finance the equipment required
more lengthy negotiations, to come up with a model replicable in
other municipalities and regions and with different
arrangements.

There was a precedent for the construction of a mini biogas
power plant in the municipality of Marechal Cândido Rondon, 34 km
northeast of Entre Rios. The Agroenergy Condominium for Family
Farming of the Ajuricaba River Basin, later called Coperbiogas,
emerged there in 2009.

In 2014 it began to generate electricity, as part of another
CIBiogas project. But it didn’t last long. Today, only 15 of the
33 members remain in the cooperative, the mini thermoelectric plant
was closed down, and the biogas is sold to a neighbouring poultry
plant belonging to the Rondon Limited Mixed Agroindustrial
Cooperative
(Copagril).

“It was a successful project” and not a failure as some
people saw it, according to González. “Its objective was not to
become economically profitable, but to clean up the environment,
clean up the river,” he argued.

In fact, it was part of
Itaipu’s Cultivating Good Water Programme
, which sought to
prevent pollution of rivers from sewage that would end up in the
reservoir created by the hydroelectric dam.

The project remains active: 250 cubic metres of biogas are
transported daily through the 25-km network of pipelines to three
gasometers, while a filtering system removes the hydrogen sulfide
that causes corrosion.

The families continue to use gas in their homes and some use the
gas for milking, thanks to which at least one of the farms has
improved the quality of their milk, using biogas in the
pasteurisation process, Daiana Martinez, a biogas information
analyst at CIBiogás, told IPS.

In Ajuricaba, unlike Entre Rios, biogas is made from both cattle
and pig manure. But the scale of production and the biodigesters
are much smaller, which makes electricity generation economically
unfeasible, said Pedro Kohler, owner of a local biodigester
factory.

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Producing Clean Energy from Pigsties in Brazil
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Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Producing Clean Energy from Pigsties in Brazil