Cornell University Looks to Cow Manure to Meet Campus Heating Needs

Cornell University is developing a system to extract energy from cattle manure to meet the campus’s peak demands for heat in the winter months. In the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy, by AIP Publishing, scientists involved with the project give a detailed analysis of the issues required to make this work, including scientific, economic, and energy policy considerations. Investigators are proposing a system to convert manure from the school’s 600 dairy cows to methane and other products. The method employs a three-stage process, where the manure is first biologically digested with microbes to produce biogas, then converted into a type of biocrude oil plus a substance called hydrochar that makes a good soil amendment. The final stage combines the carbon dioxide generated in the first step with hydrogen gas produced by renewable electrolysis of lake water to biologically generate renewable natural gas, RNG. The scientists believe this will produce enough energy to cover 97% of the school’s total annual peak heating demand.