In the Chamber -- Grant Mitchell's Blog

Cattle Manure Produces Green Energy

Posted 2/17/2009 by Grant Mitchell


There was a very important and interesting article in the Edmonton Journal on February 8th. It described an alternative energy project, a bio-refinery, being built in the Vegreville area. The project developers are Evan and Shane Chrapko, who are well known for their very successful computer software business, and their friends, Mike and Bert Kotelko.


It is called Highmark Renewables and it uses technology developed by scientist Xiaomei Li and the Alberta Research Council. It uses an enzyme technology that breaks down cattle manure to make a series of energy and feed products.


This bio-refinery “refines” cattle manure to produce energy and feed. It starts with poor grade wheat already used for feed at the neighboring feed lot and cycles it through four different uses:

- The starch is removed for ethanol production;

- The leftovers are fed to cattle;

- The manure is then used to make a bio gas not unlike natural gas which in turn is used to produce the electricity to power the ethanol plant;

- Anything left over at the end of this process can be used for fertilizer or for land reclamation by the oil industry which requires fibrous material.


Among many other environmental advantages, it takes the methane out of the cattle production process and methane is 21 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. It is also highly energy efficient in producing energy, measured by something called the energy balance: The oil sands’ balance is about 1.2 units of energy produced for every 1 unit of energy used in its production. This calculation of the oil sands balance does not even incorporate water usage. Corn based ethanol’s balance is 1.2 to 1.6 of energy produced to 1 unit of energy used. The Highmark process has a balance of 4.4!


This is a remarkable project that illustrates several points:

- That there need not be a trade off between environmental initiative and good business.

- Albertan ingenuity can take us into the future of alternative energies

- Ethanol production is moving beyond the criticism that it amounts to burning food. In fact, as one of the Chrapko brothers says: “Now it’s a food and fuel process, not food-versus-fuel”.

- This is a classic case of environmental processes leading to better and better technologies once the process is “kick-started”. This is similar to the argument I’ve made for pursuing the development of grain fed ethanol.


What is the potential of the Chrapko’s farm? Well, consider that Germany produces 1,270 megawatts of electricity with 3,700 farm waste plants. Alberta produces about 8,000 megawatts of electricity province wide and the Pembina Institute estimates about 1,000 megawatts of that could be produced from biomass.

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