Chicken Feces Becoming Vehicle Fuel in Brazilian Farm Project

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By Michael Kepp

A Brazilian/Paraguayan firm will soon begin producing automotive fuel from fermented chicken feces.

Itaipu Binacional in February also co-launched, with Italian farm-equipment maker New Holland, the world’s first biomethane-fueled tractor to help promote sustainability in the farming and ranching sectors. New Holland developed the tractor in Italy and is now testing it on farmland in Brazil’s southern Parana state.

The tractor runs on biomethane from biodegraded chicken feces and emits 80 percent less carbon dioxide than conventional, diesel-fueled tractors at a consumption cost that is 40 percent less than diesel fuel. In the next three to five years, New Holland plans to manufacture the tractor at its Parana factory.

Animal waste emits methane, a greenhouse gas, as it decomposes. Even though it doesn’t linger as long in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, it is initially far more devastating to the climate because of how effectively it absorbs heat.

Brazilian poultry and pig farms as well as cattle ranches currently don’t treat animal waste, Herlon Goelzer, director of renewable energies at Itaipu Binacional, told Bloomberg BNA Feb. 21.

“If those farms and ranches treated all the methane released by their animal feces, they could generate 9 billion cubic meters per year of biomethane, whose use as a vehicular fuel would greatly cut the country’s greenhouse gas emissions,” Goelzer said.

Itaipu Binacional built and runs the Itaipu Dam, the world’s second-largest hydroelectric plant in installed capacity, located on the river border between Brazil and Paraguay.

The company in March will complete construction of a $600,000 biodigestor in Parana state that biodegrades fermenting chicken feces, supplied by a local poultry producer, to generate 1,000 cubic meters (35,314 cubic feet) of biomethane per day.

The biomethane produced by the biodigestor will power 57 cars of Itaipu Binacional’s 250-car fleet, making it the largest biomethane-fueled fleet in Latin America, Goelzer said.

The Sao Paulo state water company (Sabesp) currently uses small biodigestors to biodegrade sewage sludge, highly-concentrated organic waste which accounts for up to 2 percent of the sewage it treats, into biogas used to fuel part of its much smaller car fleet.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael Kepp in Rio de Janeiro at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Greg Henderson at

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