Poultry Litter Industry

Poultry Litter Industry

The poultry industry has long treated poultry litter as a waste product, as it is a heterogeneous mixture of bedding, animal manure, feed scraps, feathers, liquids, and their complex microbiota. Poultry litter management is a growing issue as poultry production expands worldwide.

Technologies have emerged as a solution to transforming poultry litter into sustainable alternative energies. Learn more about the common uses of poultry litter and the process that turns the waste into renewable energy.

Common Uses of Poultry Litter: Fertilizer and Waste Fuel

Organic Fertilizer

Poultry litter is an ideal fertilizer, particularly due to the manure content, which contains high levels of the most important plant nutrients:

  • Nitrogen
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium

Studies into the efficacy of poultry litter fertilization show higher crop yields. By sourcing fertilizer from their poultry farms or other local farms, farmers can reduce the costs associated with hiring transportation and disposal services for their poultry litter.

Waste Fuel

Poultry litter uses also extend to energy production. Low-moisture poultry litter is easy to incinerate and convert into energy, such as on-site lighting in poultry sheds. Emissions from poultry litter combustion are far less harmful to the environment than legacy fuel sources. This waste conversion process particularly benefits remote, grid-independent operations and developing regions.

Using poultry litter as fuel is a good example of circular economics, optimizing the value of local resources over their lifespan. By reducing landfill waste, poultry litter conversion also reduces a significant source of off-gassing and leeching into the environment.

Biomass System ORC Panama Manure System

Poultry Litter Used for Process Heating

Biomass Energy

Poultry litter can also be used in biomass energy production. The most efficient form of biomass poultry litter contains lower amounts of:

  • Sodium
  • Sulfur
  • Moisture
  • Nitrogen
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium

The best use for poultry litter is as fertilizer, but if there is an oversupply of poultry litter in a localized area it’s best to combust it. Using poultry waste in biomass energy production is possible through several thermal processes, including combustion, gasification, and pyrolysis. The result is multiple efficient methods for producing on-site heat, electricity, and fuel gas with low emissions.

Gasification and Pyrolysis

Depending on a facility’s poultry litter uses, the raw materials undergo one of three types of conversions: combustion (as for waste fuel), gasification, and pyrolysis.

  • Gasification: Compared to combustion, gasification is considered more flexible because its product gas can be used in a greater variety of applications, such as power and heat generation, chemical processing, and biofuel production. Gasification occurs when an oxidizing gas medium (typically oxygen, air, and/or steam) dissociates the carbon-rich feed at temperatures ranging from 700 °C to 1500 °C in sub-stoichiometric conditions. This process turns poultry litter into combustible gas products (known as syngas or product gas), primarily:
    • H₂
    • CO
    • CO₂
    • CH₄
    • Trace amounts of C₂+ compounds and tar, alkali metals, and other impurities
  • Pyrolysis: By heating biomass in an oxygen-starved environment at around 500 °C or more, pyrolysis breaks down the biopolymer bonds of poultry litter. Unlike combustion, pyrolysis is a form of thermal decomposition that produces both biochar and combustible gases. Most of these gases can then be condensed into pyrolysis oils (called bio-oils), while the rest—H₂, CO, CO₂, and light hydrocarbons—can be combusted to regenerate the heat for pyrolysis.

Contact Sigma Thermal for Poultry Litter Process Heating Solutions

Traditionally, poultry waste has been disposed of in the environment or used only as organic fertilizer. However, these practices have typically been performed indiscriminately, causing environmental and social harm. Therefore, converting poultry litter from a waste product to a valuable resource requires careful consideration of the health and safety of farmers, surrounding populations, and the environment.

Sigma Thermal is a leading provider of process heating systems for diverse industry applications.  We can help you develop a poultry litter management solution that works for your needs and benefits the environment. We design, engineer, manufacture, and service all our solutions, which include thermal fluid heating systems, electric process heaters, biomass energy systems, and more. Contact us to learn more about poultry litter uses, or request a quote for any of our industrial heating solutions.