Alternatives for shipping liquid manure

New research looks at feasibility of pipeline and other means

Researchers are looking for the best ways to transport excess phosphorus.

It's one of those coffee shop conversations: maybe it makes sense to build a pipeline to ship liquid manure from a part of the province where they have too much phosphorus to another area that could use some?

It may sound far-fetched, but it's one possible way to address a serious issue for pork producers in southeastern Manitoba meeting regulations that limit the amount of phosphorus that can be applied to land.

"Redistributing phosphorus is a major issue, and a pipeline had been tossed about as an idea," said John Carney, executive director of the Manitoba Livestock Manure Management Initiative (MLMMI). "We wanted to determine if it was even feasible but also wanted to look at all the possible options. We're turning over every stone and will keep looking for potential solutions to the problem."

Using funding from Growing Innovation, the MLMMI commissioned DGH Engineering to conduct a feasibility study on various methods of managing excess liquid manure.

The study looked at the potential for building a 14" pipeline to carry liquid manure from the Hanover and La Broquerie area to an area in need of the phosphorus. Construction costs alone for a 35 mile long pipeline would be approximately $42 million, but the study also concluded that it would cost a minimum of two cents per gallon to operate. That figure would rise to seven cents per gallon if the project had to be financed by debt.

"It's very expensive," said Doug Small, vice president with DGH, but the money isn't the only problem with it. "In addition to the cost, you could expect significant public opposition to something like this. It would have to cross watercourses, for example. The public would be concerned about perceived risks."

Small's report identified tanker trucks as the least costly and most effective option for producers. The increased truck traffic would lead to some wear and tear on roads but those costs and the risks associated with trucking liquid manure were both considered far more manageable.

MLMMI has looked at a number of other options over the years, including systems that separate the phosphorus and nitrogen in the manure.

"The equipment to separate manure is expensive," said Harvey Chorney, vice president of Manitoba operations with Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute. "Because we have to operate in very cold temperatures, it gets to be a very expensive installation, and the operating costs turn out to be very high as well."

Small says that it may be more cost effective to operate a two cell earthen manure storage system. Over time the phosphorus will settle naturally to the bottom, making it easier to remove. That solution would result in additional costs including a larger storage.

Even though the research didn't point to a new, cost effective solution, Chorney says it's important to study the alternatives.

"If we didn't study it and evaluate it properly, then there would have been investments made by producers where they'd be trying a whole number of things at their expense and failing," said Chorney. "I think it's very valuable research."