Producing energy from pig and poultry waste in Brazil


Romário Schaefer, 65, stands between the biodigester buried in the ground on the right and the blue tank holding whey that is mixed with the manure of the pigs he fattens in a row of pig pens (top left) to produce biogas, in the southern Brazilian municipality of Entre Rios do Oeste. In the background is his brick factory, which saves about 6,500 dollars a month in electricity by using biogas. PHOTO/Mario Osava/IPS

Romário Schaefer is fattening up 3,300 pigs that he receives when they weigh around 22 kg and returns when they reach 130 to 160 kg – a huge increase in meat and profits for their owner, a local meat-processing plant in this city in Brazil.

Schaefer is not interested in the pork meat business. What he wants is the manure, which he uses to produce biogas and electricity that fuel his brick-making factory.

“I’m not a farmer,” he says as he shows us around his Stein Ceramics company in the middle of a 38-hectare rural property on the outskirts of Entre Rios do Oeste, a farming town of 4,400 people in western Paraná, one of three states in Brazil’s southern region, on the border with Paraguay.

He is explaining the difference between himself and neighbouring pig farmers who produce biogas and sell it to the Mini-Thermoelectric Plant inaugurated on Jul. 24 to generate energy that serves the Entre Rios municipal government and all of its facilities in the town itself and the rest of the municipality.

For them it is a new agricultural product, and has been recognised as such in Paraná for commercial and tax purposes. But for Schaefer it’s an input for his factory, which makes bricks.

Animal waste, which pollutes the soil and rivers, is becoming an important by-product in southwestern Brazil, where pig and poultry farming has expanded widely in recent decades.

The Haacke farm, in the municipality of Santa Helena, south of Entre Rios, uses the waste produced by its tens of thousands of hens and hundreds of cattle to produce biogas, electricity and biomethane.

Its biomethane, a fuel derived from the refining of biogas which is employed as a substitute for natural gas, is used in vehicles at the giant Itaipú hydroelectric plant shared by Brazil and Paraguay on the Paraná River, which forms part of the border between the two countries.

In Mariscal Cándido Rondon, a few kilometres to the north, the Kohler family, pioneers in the use of biogas on their large farm, took on another role in the chain of this energy which is more than just clean – it actually cleans the environment.

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