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Comprehensive Engineering and Socioeconomic Assessment of Using Poultry Litter as a Primary Fuel


The Maryland Environmental Service (MES), operates a cogeneration facility which provides electricity and steam to the Eastern Correctional Institution (ECI) in Princess Anne, Maryland. Since 1995, MES has been considering alternatives for expanding capacity at the ECI cogen facility because the existing boilers are not capable of meeting the current electric and thermal demands of the ECI prison. Additionally, design and operating constraints of the boilers require high-quality wood chips, the primary fuel, which are high in cost relative to lower-grade fuels.

In 1995, PPRP was engaged by MES to assist in the evaluation of alternate fuels as a means of increasing capacity and/or reducing operating costs at the ECI cogen facility. A number of fuels were evaluated from 1995 through 1997, but none were determined to be economically feasible or sufficiently reliable.

In the fall of 1997, coincident with Pfiesteria outbreaks in portions of the Chesapeake Bay, MES requested that PPRP evaluate the use of poultry litter as a possible fuel. If feasible, the use of poultry litter as the primary fuel at the ECI cogen facility would not only result in reduced operating costs for the cogen facility, but its consumption as a fuel would contribute to a reduction in the amount of litter that is applied as fertilizer on the lower Eastern Shore of Maryland, a practice that has been identified as having a possible link to the Pfiesteria outbreaks.

This report describes the work performed by MES and PPRP to examine the technical feasibility and socioeconomic impacts of converting the existing cogen facility to burn poultry litter as a primary fuel. Initial phases of the study focused on the availability and suitability of poultry litter as a fuel. Subsequently, a detailed, comprehensive engineering and socioeconomic assessment was performed. This assessment included the identification of physical modifications that would need to be made to the existing cogen facility to successfully burn poultry litter. These modifications were segregated into two separate groups or levels. The "Level 1 Modifications", which are considered prerequisites for converting the facility to fire poultry litter, were intended to address operating and maintenance-related problems that exist under current conditions. In comparison, the "Level 2 Modifications" are modifications or additions to the existing cogen facility that are specific to the firing of poultry litter. Life-cycle cost estimates were also developed to compare the economics of current operating conditions to those of converting the existing system.

The final phase of the assessment - the first ever full-scale test burn of poultry litter in the US - was performed in November 1999, and confirmed the viability of poultry litter as a fuel, but determined that significant additional modifications to the ECICF would be necessary to burn poultry litter. Collectively, the modifications deemed to be necessary to reliably burn poultry litter caused the project team to conclude that it would be difficult to predict the performance of the converted facility with an acceptable degree of certainty. In addition, the cost of the necessary modifications made the conversion of the existing cogen facility economically questionable.

In light of these findings, and the critical role of the ECICF in providing heat and electricity to the ECI prison, conversion of the ECICF boilers to fire poultry litter is not recommended. However, Level 1 modifications should be considered to improve existing operational problems, and reduce 20-year life-cycle costs related to wood-firing.

The complete scope of study, methods, and findings of the comprehensive assessment are presented in Volume I of this report and the detailed appendices are included in Volume II.

Above is the abstract. The entire report (3.2MB) is available on-line in pdf format (you will need the Adobe Acrobat reader to view it.)

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This page was updated on December 4, 2000.