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Saving the P from livestock!

August 9, 2011

In a review paper just published in the journal Chemosphere, Bruce Rittmann (of ASU) noted that, globally, the P “lost” in animal waste amounts to about 40% of the P mined for fertilizer production every year.  And, of course, this P results in massive water quality degradation in both lakes and estuaries and coastal oceans So, how to get this stuff back, thus keeping it out of our precious water supply?

A press release from Bion Environmental Technologies, Inc, describes their nutrient recovery technologies coming on line for on-site nutrient recovery from feedlot & dairy operations.   The company claims 85% recovery of nitrogen and 100% recovery of P.  Impressive indeed.  The press release emphasizes the benefits to water quality as well as the renewable energy produced from the biogas part of the technology.  However, note from the diagram that the process also recovers the nutrients into solid and liquid form for reapplication to agricultural fields.

One thing I do wonder however is if the biosolid and liquid nutrient recovery means that the recovered nutrients are heavy and thus can’t be shipped very far. (This is the same problem that raw manure has.)  Better to recover into struvite or other forms that can be more readily shipped and used like dry fertilizer?  In any case, looks like a very promising approach indeed, and “just what the doctor ordered” for the Chesapeake.  And this kind of thing could go a long way towards diversifying the P supply for fertilizer production.

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