BioStar Systems and local officials announced on Wednesday that Pettis County will be the home of a new biogas production facility that will convert chicken manure from poultry farm Rose Acres into biogas and organic fertilizer.
The company will invest $60 million in the plant which will create 23 jobs upon completion as well as 80 to 100 jobs through construction and logistics. Construction is set to commence this fall and production will begin in the latter part of 2015.
“BioStar is excited to open our new company in Pettis County,” said Bill Love, co-owner and Chief Executive Officer of BioStar Systems. “We found Missouri’s business-friendly environment and the cooperation of local and state partners to be second to none. With our raw material source nearby at Rose Acres, we will enjoy a great atmosphere for our company.”
Simply put, BioStar Systems will pipe chicken manure from Rose Acre Farms into a holding tank at the nearby, soon to be constructed, facility. The manure will release gas through natural processes, which will be used to power a generator and produce electricity. The residuals from the process will be converted into organic fertilizer and other products through a multi-step process.
“From an environmental standpoint it’s a great project. From a commercial standpoint it’s a great project,” said BioStar Systems Chief Technical Officer Dennis Crabtree. “The manure that’s generated there is a huge amount of manure. If you have 2 million chickens and you generate about two–tenths of a pound of manure a day for laying hens, you’re generating about 200 tons a day of waste product.”
Company officials stressed the process is environmentally friendly and does not emit odor. They said that because the manure is collected on a daily basis, it will enhance the air in the chicken houses too.
“We are taking that waste product immediately from the chicken houses, it never sees the light of day, and it goes straight into a series of conventional wastewater treatment technologies closed to the air and produces biogas,” Crabtree explained. “We use the biogas to generate electricity and capture residual nutrients from the process and convert them into organic fertilizer.”
The residuals will be converted into three products: a dry-granular product, a soil conditioner and a liquid fertilizer. The fertilizer is free of any pathogens, which are eliminated in the process according to the company, and will be used primarily in organic farming operations.
From the plant, the products will be transported to distribution points by tractor-trailer and railcar. Company officials said no health risks are posed in the material’s transportation, as the product will be sealed multiple times.
“The granular products will be shipped by trucks in our distributor’s trailers, so even if there were a problem it won’t be going through town,” Crabtree said. “This material is pathogen free. When we were developing sales of our products there was a huge concern in the organic food industry about food safety. You hear horror stories about the liabilities associated with fecal contamination, or salmonella or listeria and consumers dying.
“Earth Bound Farms actually sent a food safety consultant back to us and said ‘look you have to have a food safety plan with these products.’ They actually inoculated our product with salmonella, fecal, ecoli and listeria, saying ‘we don’t care if it’s pathogen free now, if it becomes contaminated we want to make sure those bacteria don’t survive more than a week.’ Within 24 hours everything they inoculated that sample with had died, so not only is it pathogen free, it won’t sustain pathogen growth.”
As the product is deemed safe and few risks are associated with its transportation, what are the risks associated with the actual manufacture of the fertilizer and the biogas production? Company officials said the process is completed at a very low pressure, thereby negating the risk of explosion. A fire is a minor possibility, but the company said every possible safety measure will be put in place. The federal and state permitting process in itself is extensive and can take months, if not years.
“This is not a mom and pop facility,” Crabtree said. “This is a full-blown commercial facility that comes with all the safeguards that ordinarily require inspection. I was in the commercial explosive business for 20 years and safety is paramount. You can’t even afford a little mistake in an explosives facility and we don’t want any mistakes at this facility or any of the other facilities we manage.”
Waste to Energy (WTE) systems are growing in popularity worldwide, with 8,000 facilities in Germany alone. Essentially, they are the process of converting waste to electricity or heat. While many systems emit greenhouse gas in that process, BioStar Systems uses the unique technology called anaerobic digestion to eliminate that type of pollution.
“(Anaerobic digestion) is coming about very slowly in the Unites States,” Crabtree said. “Originally, Germany was the leader in the development and that occurred when the Soviets cut off the natural gas supply back in the ’70s and they were looking for alternative ways to survive. So, they were using anaerobic digestion on a commercial scale.”
Officials said the process works much like the human digestive system.
“Anaerobic digestion is a system that works just like your stomach, microbiologically breaking down food/organic sources in a closed atmosphere, like your stomach,” Crabtree explained. “These happen to be million gallon tanks that are closed to the atmosphere. They are heated and stirred on a regular basis. Biogas is produced by volatile solids into a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide.”
To assist BioStar Systems with its expansion in Pettis County, the Missouri Department of Economic Development has offered a strategic incentive package that the company can receive if it meets strict job creation and investment criteria. Economic Development Sedalia-Pettis County also partnered with BioStar Systems to help make its expansion possible.
“We are elated to have this announcement of a new company decide on Pettis County,” said Economic Development Board President Rusty Kahrs. “We have been working with BioStar for many years. Our enhanced enterprise zone and the state’s incentive program were some of the key decision-makers for this company to be able to bring this to fruition.”
For more information on BioStar Systems and the production, visit the company’s website and view the production video at biostarsystems.com.