Bioenergy Plant Begins Operations in Alberta

The Alberta Research Council (ARC) and Highmark Renewables were on hand to mark the official opening of a new pilot plant at Highland Feeders, one of Canada’s largest feedlot operations. The plant demonstrates new technology developed jointly by ARC and Highmark Renewables to transform manure into energy, bio-based fertilizers and reusable water, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts associated with land application of manure.

The Integrated Manure Utilization System, or IMUS, combines anaerobic digestion, biogas utilization, liquid/solid separation, nutrient recovery and enrichment processes. Methane gas produced through anaerobic digestion is used to generate green power and heat. Most notable is that IMUS is designed to overcome challenges associated with high-solid manure typical of most outdoor feedlots in North America. Other currently existing biogas facilities are geared to indoor feedlot operations and focus only on liquid manure. Highly efficient processes also recover and concentrate nutrients from the digested liquid to produce pathogen-free bio-based fertilizers. Water recovered from this process is used for irrigation purposes. “This project is a significant development in the field of renewable resource technologies,” says John McDougall, president and CEO of ARC. “Companies such as Highland Feeders are constantly being challenged to operate in an environmentally sustainable fashion and to be socially responsible. At the same time, they need to be economically viable to survive.” Highland Feeders is located in the farming community of Vegreville, which is about 100 kilometres east of Edmonton, Alberta. Currently, the IMUS plant produces just under one MW of electricity. Some of this power, about 200 to 300 kW, is being used to power the feedlot operation. The remaining power, about 700 kW, services about 700 households in the farming communities of Vegreville and Two Hills. Future development of the plant will triple the energy output to three megawatts of power. “It’s very exciting to be on the leading edge of new technology that can generate multiple benefits to Canada’s agriculture industry,” said Mike Kotelko, vice president of Highland Feeders and manager of Highmark Renewables. Through the project, Kotelko said they are able to demonstrate that this process works in a tough outdoor environment, involving extreme temperature fluctuations, and with a raw material – high-solid manure – that, in itself, presents many challenges. “Our goal is to continue to refine this process to fit different scales and types of livestock operations and food processing industries,” Kotelko said. ARC is currently adapting this technology to include other biomass sources, such as liquid manure, food-processing waste, livestock mortalities, rendering materials and municipal wastes.
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