Poop to Power. The future of Alternative Energy. How ordinary animal waste can be used to make crude oil.
As we all know the "Gulf Oil Spill" has been a deadly, environmental and financial disaster of monumental proportions. First, and foremost, we can't forget the lost of life that occurred when the oil rig first exploded. Now, millions of gallons of oil have been gushing from the ocean floor daily. Billions of dollars of commerce have been lost, family owned business's that have been in existence for decades have been forced to shut their doors forever, wildlife and eco-systems have been injured or destroyed, and thousands of miles of coastline have been coated with oil.
For me, this disaster made me realize how important it is for us to change our ways. They may have capped the well, harvested the oil and that is wonderful but..... That does not change our need for oil. We will still continue to drill, and buy oil from countries with questionable motives. We as a society need to pay attention to this wake up call and find a better way to do things.
However, in our quest for finding and using renewable sources of energy we often hear from "Those in the Know", that hydrogen powered cars will work but, we don't have the infrastructure, the battery technology isn't available, there cost of production would be more than it is worth and the list of excuses go on and on.
But what if I told you that at the University of Illinois they have found a way to make crude oil. This oil isn't drilled, isn't bought from hostile nations, or does it harm the environment in anyway. The base matemrial is all organic, naturally occurring, and is readily available in large quantities daily all over the country.
Yuanhui Zhang, an agricultural engineering professor at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, in 2004 found that by cooking PIG POOP in basically a giant pressure cooker, could make crude oil. The same stuff that we are drilling and buying from other countries. This process per Zhang took only about 15 minutes per conversion and for each portion of energy in you would get 3 out. Per his National Geographic interview in 2004.
So, this article was written six years ago and (no pun intended) no one has made a big stink about it yet. Per the USDA as of June of 2010 there were approximately 64.4 million pigs in the US. So, per the 2004 National Geographic article a pig during it's lifetime can produce about 21 gallons of "pig oil" during it's life time. So conceivably all the pigs in the US could produce approximately 1352.4 billion gallons of refine-able crude oil during the current pig population lifetime. This alone won't entirely solve our demand for crude oil, but it will certainly help.
Just think of the possibilities of this source of fuel. Particularly if they can expand the "poop cooker" to use other sources of manure such as chicken, cow, horse and even human waste. If we could set up poop processing plants around the country, have farmers and local municaplities donate or recycle their poop so that it could be processed into oil, what a wonderful thing that would be. Not to mention, it might just make the world smell a little better.