The Sweet Smell of Success
By Mark Norfolk on Sunday, June 6th, 2010
The EWI Energy Center looks at every method to reduce energy use, improve manufacturing efficiency, and lower our collective carbon footprint by supporting companies be more competitive and move technologies towards commercialization. Towards that goal Kimberly Gibson and I visited Quasar Energy Group at The Ohio State University’s Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) campus located in Wooster, Ohio. This working demonstration site showcases the technology to take a wide variety of biomass; restaurant waste, municipal waste, and dead crops, to name a few, to make methane gas.
The heart of the process is the digester. Think in terms of a cow’s stomach and how it moves (moooves??) food through a series of chambers. In this case the cow’s “output” might be the input or feedstock, to produce the desired end product, methane. The beauty of the Quasar system is that it is highly flexible in what you can feed it. Once the waste material is fed into the input hopper, it is ground and mixed with bacteria that then digests it and produces gas and liquid that can be used as fertilizer and soil additives. Remarkably, the output is of a much lower odor than the input, and has taken on a new life and benefit.
At OARDC, the methane is 98% pure and is burned to generate about 33% of the campus’ electrical needs. This substantial reduction in energy needs translates to savings for OSU and the environment. With more refinement, the methane can be made 99% pure and suitable for transmission in a natural gas pipeline system for use in our homes and businesses.
We need to support all forms of alternative energy generation. There is no one answer to energy independence from oil, but collectively, technologies like biomass will change how we treat waste materials and how we impact our environment.
Kevin Arnold, P.E.
Business Development Manager – Advanced Energy
EWI Energy Center