Manure may fuel experiment station


Susan Smith-Community News Service Editor

PIERRE (CNS) – South Dakota State University may soon be able to build a facility that uses manure to create heat and light.

The Senate passed SB217 Feb. 11, which allows construction of an anaerobic manure digestion system at the South Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station located near the South Dakota State University campus.

The system takes manure, table scraps, frying grease, waste products from slaughter houses and breaks it down into methane gas, Sen. Paul Symens, D-Amherst, said.

The experiment station operates animal units for sheep, dairy cows and pigs and each year spends $30,000-$35,000 disposing of the manure they produce, said Kevin Kephart of the experiment station.

Symens initially got the idea for a state system when he sat on the board of the Dakota Valley Capture Coop.

They were trying to build a stockyard, ethanol plant and one of the manure systems.

The stockyard waste would be filtered through the system and the methane produced from it would be used to fuel the ethanol plant.

Bankers would not fund the project, because they had not seen proof it would work, Symens said.

He hopes that by implementing the project with SDSU that DVCC will eventually be able to develop an ethanol plant combination.

“We want to build a project next to an ethanol plant to prove the theory of methane (and its use for fueling the plant),” Symens said.

The DVCC received a grant through the Department of Agriculture to build the manure system.

Since the rest of the project didn’t get funded they still have the grant money.

That’s when Kephart got involved.

Kephart toured similar facilities in Europe and was very excited to get one started at SDSU. He thinks the facility at SDSU could spawn similar ventures in the private sector.

“I believe the facility is a stepping stone to larger private facilities,” Kephart said. “That’s exactly what I saw in Denmark and Germany.”

Symens expects the system to be operational by the end of 2004 or the beginning of 2005.

The project requires no state funding since money from grants and other sources is available, Symens said.

The system may end up saving the state money if methane produced can heat and provide electricity to the experiment station.

Each year it costs $50,000 for electricity and $38,000 for the station’s natural gas, Kephart said.

“My hope is we will be offsetting energy costs to the experiment station and manure disposal,” he said.

Kephart said that the research done with the digestion system could also help control manure odor.

This would be welcome news to residents of a development downwind from the animal units.

“When they’re pumping the dairy lagoons my phone rings,” he said.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.