Pig manure: it’s good for more than just smelling up pig pens. Researchers from the University of Illinois and Innoventor have figured out a way to make crude oil out of the pungent stuff — and one day, the process could even yield pig manure-derived biodiesel. Instead of taking 10,000 years to produce oil the old-fashioned way, the researchers have managed to produce their bio-oil in just one hour. We’re not the biggest fans of light, sweet crude in general, but it’s better than taking oil out of the ground, right?
The secret: a reactor that applies pressure and heat to the manure in order to generate fuel. The process uses a considerable amount of energy, but researchers claim that most of it can be recovered with a heat exchanger.
So far, the researchers have been able to yield an average of 70% conversion from pig manure volatile solids to oil. For some perspective, that means the manure taken from a single pig during production could generate 21 gallons of crude. A whole farm full of 10,000 pigs could produce 5,000 barrels of oil each year.
Pig manure oil hasn’t gone into mass production quite yet. The manure oil is currently being tested as a binder for asphalt on a piece of road near Illinois’ I-44 highway. The 500-foot stretch of road is heavily trafficked, so researchers will be watching in the coming months to see how the asphalt binder performs.
There are still some kinks to work out. Researchers aren’t yet positive that the net energy output exceeds the electricity use and other resources needed to produce the oil. And remember: even pig-derived crude produces emissions. Still, we’re always excited to see new and exciting uses for poo power.