ENTRE RIOS DO OESTE, Brazil – Pigs have become the latest allies of renewable energy in Brazil, with a growing number of farmers producing biogas using animal waste.
In the town of Sao Miguel do Iguaçu, in the State of Parana, pigs have always been a source of income for the Colombari family, but they have acquired a new value thanks to gas produced by the decomposition of their manure.
Pig excrement had become an environmental threat, especially for rivers and reservoirs in the region, but the installation in 2006 of a biodigester, an airtight container where waste is deposited, has transformed the liability into an asset.
In addition to reducing odors and pollution, the biodigester has allowed the farm, where more than 5,000 pigs are raised, to be able to generate its own energy and produce a biofertilizer which is more effective than natural fertilizer.
Pedro Antonio Colombari, 28, one of the partners of the family farm, said: “The remains used to be deposited in open-air pools and that produced a very strong smell and attracted a lot of flies.
“With the biodigester that has been reduced and now we have greater environmental and energy security.”
The Colombari farm is also a pioneer in Brazil in distributing biogas energy thanks to a partnership with Itaipu Technological Park, which allows it to supply electricity to a small region using micro-networks for distribution.
Colombari said he could not imagine his farm without biogas, which has also been used in the town of Entre Rios do Oeste, one of the main pig-producing regions in Brazil.
The council in the town, home to 4,600 people and 250,000 animals, built a thermoelectric power plant to supply electricity to 62 of its 71 public buildings.
Local authorities have also started buying the biogas produced by 18 pig farms in the region and it is transferred to the plant through a network of gas pipelines.
Luis Thiago Lucio, environmental engineer of the International Center of Renewable Energies-Biogas (CIBiogas), said: “The gas produced in the properties is injected into the gas network.
“In the plant, the gas is used as fuel to generate power and the supplier receives a credit for the gas injected into the network.”
Romario Schaefer, owner of a ceramics factory in the region, found that pigs were the answer to his problems when he faced an energy crisis in 2013 that was making his production unsustainable due to high electricity prices.
He invested in 3,000 pigs to generate biogas, which has allowed him to increase production and turnover at the factory and cut his energy bill in half.
Rafael Gonzalez, CIBiogas director of technological development, said biogas represents 0.1 percent of energy in Brazil but is expected to reach between two and three percent in the coming years.
As well as being lucrative for businesses, biogas is also an ally of the environment.
Daiana Gotardo, environmental engineer and at the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, said biodigesters also capture methane, a gas that is 21 times more polluting than CO2, and convert it into energy.
“When we convert it into energy we emit CO2 instead of methane and minimize the emission of greenhouse gases,” Gotardo added.