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Feedlot Waste

Growing environmental concerns, coupled with higher energy prices, have led to a renewed interest in using animal manure to produce power. This can be accomplished either by burning manure directly for fuel, gasifying it with heat or by turning it into “biogas” through biological decomposition. Each of these methods disposes of massive accumulations of manure while mitigating its potentially negative environmental effects.

Manure-based power plants can boost rural economic development and provide dairy producers and beef cattle feedlot operators with another source of revenue, or at least cut their disposal costs.193

Texas is the nation’s leading cattle state and has significant potential resources for the use of manure to create energy. Thus far, however, such uses are relatively rare in the state. Some ethanol plants currently being developed in the Panhandle will use manure as a fuel. Other plants are planned, but the industry is still in its early stages in Texas. In addition, Microgy’s Huckabay Ridge Plant near Stephenville converts dairy manure into gas for sale to the Lower Colorado River Authority, which uses it for electricity generation.


Per Million Btu (2005) $0.82 for electricity (wood and waste biomass).194
Direct Subsidy Share of Total Consumer Spending Federal: 0.4 percent (wood and waste biomass); State and Local: none.195
Notes The transportation of animal manure by truck, rail or water entails costs. Electricity generated from manure would involve transmission costs.

Economic Impact and Viability

Wages and Jobs No estimate of the economic impact of turning manure into energy is available; at present, its effects are small compared to fossil fuels and other renewables. A Huckabay Ridge plant that turns dairy waste and restaurant grease into natural gas supports seven full-time jobs. An ethanol plant under construction in Hereford will use manure for fuel and have 61 employees.196
Regulatory Climate Manure-to-energy plants are required to obtain air and wastewater permits from TCEQ, a process that usually takes about one year.197
Texas Competitive Advantage Substantial supplies of manure, concentrated in areas with major feedlot and dairy operations such as the Texas Panhandle, might make it economically feasible to produce energy from this fuel source.
Notes Using manure for energy can help cattle feeders with environmental compliance issues. It may have other positive economic results for animal feeders including the prospect of electricity sales, providing electricity or gas for farm use, or lower disposal costs.

Availability and Current Infrastructure

Estimated Resources in Texas Texas, as a livestock-producing state, has access to large amounts of animal waste that could be used to generate electricity. A study by the Houston Advanced Research Center estimates that Texas beef and dairy cattle manure could produce 107.1 MW of electricity, enough to power 67,366 homes.198
Current Fuel Production The Huckabay Ridge plant expects to produce one billion cubic feet of natural gas per year, or about 650,000 million Btu, enough energy for 10,000 homes.199
Consumption in Texas Minimal for energy production.
Notes The plant at Huckabay Ridge is producing gas from dairy manure that is in turn used to generate electricity. Similar plants are in the planning stages.

Environment, Health and Safety

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Although feedlot biomass releases carbon dioxide when burned, these emissions are considered part of the earth’s natural carbon cycle and represent no net increase in CO2. Using animal manure for energy production also reduces methane emissions that would occur from natural decomposition.200
Air Pollution (Non-Greenhouse Gas) Although feedlot biomass produces some NOX and SO2 when burned, these emissions are significantly lower than those from fossil fuels.201
Solid Waste Using animal manure for energy production can reduce the absolute volume of waste.202
Land Use Land is required for plant sites. Combustion of feedlot biomass can reduce the area of land needed for waste disposal.
Water Withdrawal Depending upon the plant type, electricity generation from feedlot biomass requires withdrawals of between zero and 14,658 gallons per million Btu of heat produced.203
Water Consumption Requires between zero and 150 gallons per million Btu of energy generated.204
Water Quality Plant discharge is heated and contains pollutants, potentially harming aquatic life and reducing water quality. TCEQ regulates and permits these discharges.205
Notes Combustion of feedlot biomass can reduce the area of land needed for waste disposal.206

Fuel Characteristics

Energy Content 8,500 Btu produced per pound of dry, ash-free poultry and livestock manure. The heat value decreases with increasing moisture and noncombustible ash content.207
Renewability Feedlot biomass is a renewable resource.

Other Issues

Dependence on Foreign Suppliers No significant issues.
Price and Supply Risks Supply is abundant but dispersed, entailing some costs related to transportation and processing.
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