Researchers at West Virginia University
have concocted a "fowl" substance they believe will help fuel the
world's energy needs and relieve a growing problem with agricultural
waste. The mixture of diesel fuel and pressure-treated chicken litter creates
up to 35 percent more fuel without diminishing its fuel properties, said Al
Stiller, a chemical engineering professor in the College of Engineering and
"We have an opportunity to decrease
our dependence on foreign fossil fuels and rid our environment of potential
hazards in the form of animal waste," Dr. Stiller said.
To produce the fuel, the researchers
first mix chicken manure and water at a high temperature and high pressure
to convert the waste to a liquid, Stiller said. They then add the agricultural
wastewater mixture to diesel fuel.
The new mixture of treated chicken
manure and diesel has the same heat value as diesel fuel alone, and the animal
waste has the proper viscosity and vapor pressure to blend with the gas, he
Recently the scientists tested 1.5
gallons of their new fuel in an engine at the National Energy Technology Laboratory
in Morgantown. They started running the engine on standard diesel fuel, then
substituted their fuel.
"To everyone's surprise,
there was no significant difference in performance," Stiller said. "This
is like hitting a home run your first time at the plate."
But how does the diesel fuel with manure
additive smell? "Not good, but neither does standard fuel," Stiller
said. "It doesn't smell like manure. It smells like wet cigarette
The fuel actually could become a "green"
energy source because it would reduce the rate at which greenhouse gases are
released into the air, he added. Bacteria feed off manure and create carbon
dioxide - a greenhouse gas. The more manure used for fuel means less
for bacteria to convert into carbon dioxide. Eric Johnson, one of Stiller's
research partners, said the fuel could be used in trucks, buses, home heating
and power plants.
The researchers' next step is
to convert the chicken manure into fuel without having to transport it from
the farm. They are working with Louis Hamrick of Northco Corp. of Morgantown
to design and build the necessary equipment to install on a local farm.
Stiller has been working on the project
for several years. The research evolved from a project to liquefy coal using
various waste products, including animal manure. He eventually eliminated
coal from the project.
While the fuel, if perfected, would
help alleviate energy concerns, Stiller predicts the product could have profound
implications on the agricultural industry. Although the researchers have experimented
with chicken manure so far, other animal waste would yield the same results.
"I think agricultural sciences
will change," he said. "Instead of animal manure being a waste to
be disposed of, it will be a source of fuel. These changes will be global
because every society produces the same kind of material."