Himark bioGas Inc

Empowering Alberta: Pioneering spirit gives boost to province`s alternative energy projects

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Courtesy of Himark bioGas Inc

While biofuels are getting plenty of attention these days, biorefining - the process of converting biomass into biofuels and bioproducts that may also produce energy - is evolving. It's now at a point where organizations such as Alberta Life Sciences Institute, Alberta Agricultural Research Institute and the Alberta Forestry Research Institute are focused on positioning the provinces as a global leader in this area.

An ambitious example of this potential is being demonstrated at the Growing Power Hairy Hill biorefinery in east-central Alberta. Work is underway to convert animal waste from Highland Feeders, one of the largest feedlots in Canada, into green power using a patented anaerobic digestion technology developed under the name Highmark Renewables Research.

Traditionally, 95 per cent of the manure produced in feedlots is used as fertilizer for agricultural land, but direct runoff can lead to water contamination, especially for cattle farms next to watersheds. Highmark's technology separates solids and liquids and kills off pathogens sufficiently to make the water contained in manure reusable.

'Due to the large amount of dirt, clay, rock, straw and wood chips and even municipal garbage mixed in with cattle manure, we were told it couldn't be done,' says Highmark's CEO Shane Chrapko. Highmark has developed the technology, however, whereby what goes in as mass comes out as biogas, a renewable substitute for natural gas comprised of methane and carbon dioxide.

The biogas is used to generate electricity, steam and hot water to manufacture ethanol and a renewable bio-based fertilizer. By 2012, a major expansion of the feedlot facility will be complete and feasibility studies are underway in several countries interested in implementing the technology.'

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