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Anaerobic digesters not feasible in Manitoba


March 23, 2016, Winnipeg, Man – The manager of sustainable development with Manitoba Pork says the inability of anaerobic digesters to function in cold weather and their high up-front construction costs have made the technology a non-viable option for treating livestock manure in Manitoba.

Anaerobic digesters, which use bacteria to break down livestock manure producing methane, have been touted as a possible alternative source of energy on the farm.

Mike Teillet, manager of sustainable development with Manitoba Pork, says, while the technology may be applicable in warmer climates, it simply isn’t feasible in Manitoba.

“Anaerobic digesters are extremely expensive,” he says. “The ones that we’re aware of in Manitoba have been in excess of a million dollars and some of them as high as exceeding two million in initial cost to set them up.”

“Then there’s the ongoing maintenance, which isn’t huge but, as with any machinery, they also break down,” says Teillet. “We are aware of a few situations in other provinces where something breaks on an anaerobic digester and the producer was highly subsidized to build a digester in the first place and then something breaks down and it costs $150,000 to $200,000 to replace and they just don’t replace it cause it’s not worth it.”

“Then the other issue with anaerobic digesters is they don’t work particularly well in cold climates so, from our perspective, anaerobic digesters are very problematic and that’s one of the reasons why you just don’t see them here without enormous government subsidies or public subsidies.”

Teillet notes the bacteria that make anaerobic digestion happen simply can’t tolerate the cold.