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Illinois Hog Farmers May Have Struck "Black Gold"

April 22, 2010

URBANA, Ill. - As Midwest residents celebrate Earth Day, researchers continue to explore the realm of sustainable energy sources. Windmills are harnessing energy in downstate Illinois, and the latest innovation is crude oil made out of pig manure. A portion of the outer road on Interstate 44 on the way to Six Flags near St. Louis, Mo., recently was 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 manure, 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 who was out there would put their nose to the ground and smell 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, we may see oil from pig manure replacing coal for electricity, and maybe someday it even could fuel our cars.

Fitter sees this as one of the first steps in weaning America off foreign oil, and he says it proves that we have made progress since the first Earth Day 40 years ago.

"Moving from people 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 some day the U.S. will solve its energy problem and at the same time protect the environment.

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

Zang is hearing from many Illinois 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.

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - IL