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When Pigs Fly – Making "black gold" out of Pig Manure

April 22, 2010

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - As Florida residents celebrate Earth Day, researchers continue to explore the realm of sustainable energy sources. Arcadia boasts the largest American solar plant, Kissimmee has a plant making biodiesel out of leftover cooking grease and the latest innovation is crude oil made out of pig manure.

A portion of a highway near St. Louis, Mo., recently has been paved with pig manure oil, which is used as a binder in the asphalt. It's a test project.

Dan Fitter, CCO of Innoventor, the company that processes the stuff, admits that when they transported the hot product it smelled odd at first, like burned coffee, but not after they rolled out the asphalt.

"Everyone out there put their nose to the ground and smelled it where we had our binder and where we did not have our hog binder (the bio-oil from the swine manure), and people couldn't tell the difference."

The man who invented the process, University of Illinois professor Dr. Yuanhui Zang, says that in the future, oil from pig manure could replace coal for electricity, and maybe some day it even could fuel cars.

Fitter, whose company has a sister aerospace company in Florida, sees this as one of the first steps in weaning America off foreign oil, and he says it proves progress has been made since the first Earth Day 40 years ago.

"Moving from people simply recycling to, now, using waste as a by-product to make this a better world and a cleaner environment, has huge implications."

Zang is working on other sources of bio-energy as well, and he is optimistic that addressing the nation's energy problem can protect the environment at the same time.

"My dream, my expectation, is we probably can solve this really well by about 2040."

Zang is hearing from many farmers interested in the manure oil process. Researchers say what they need to do now is make sure that the process of converting waste, such as pig manure, into oil remains friendly to the environment.



Gina Presson , Public News Service - FL