A pilot gasification plant at North Carolina State University is now converting pig manure to gas which ultimately can make ethanol, diesel fuel or electricity. And a second unit, utilizing a different technology, is scheduled to start operating next month..

Manure supplying the gasifier comes from an under-slat, belt-collection system. It air dries to about 50 percent moisture, is shredded and screened before going into the gasifier.

NCSU scientists are working with Louisiana State University on a catalytic converter which will further process the gas into either ethanol or diesel. "The diesel fuel will be ready to use in a truck, tractor or other engine," project director Jeanne Koger told PORK. She said the second gasification unit will be capable of handling other agricultural wastes, including mortalities. It will handle a swine carcass of any size.

Pig-feeding trials show that the residue from gas production is a highly digestible feed ingredient. The ash is a particularly good source of phosphorus, calcium and magnesium. Also, Koger said that studies of pigs in the belt-equipped building lead researchers to believe that performance may be significantly superior to that in other types of housing.

The energy-recovery research is one of the manure-handling technologies funded by Smithfield Foods and Premium Standard Farms under agreements with the state attorney general. The gasifier project also received a grant from the N. C. Energy Office.

Like the other 17 technologies, gasification will be evaluated from an economic standpoint. For a full-scale gasifier to be feasible, Koger and co-investigator Theo van Kempen believe it would need to process manure from 500,000 hogs from farms within trucking distance of the central facility.