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WATER RESOURCES RESEARCH GRANT PROPOSAL

Title: Technical and Economic Evaluation of Alternatives for Animal Waste Management in North Carolina

Focus Categories: WQ, ECON, TRT

Keywords: Animal Waste, Economics, Life Cycle Inventory, Multi-Objective Planning, Water Quality Management, Treatment Technology

Duration: March 1, 2000 to February 28, 2001

Federal Funds: $40,000

Non-Federal Funds: $10,000

Principal Investigators:

Michael Overcash, Kelly Zering, Mitch Renkow,
North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695

Congressional District Number: 4

Need for Research

The livestock waste management issue has a strong relation to water resources quality, both scientifically and in public perceptions. Thus it is important to bring the strategic analysis skills of University research to bear on this topic and to provide greater, objective information to the decisions being made in North Carolina. If the answers were simple, the livestock industry and government would have adopted a new strategy and thus there is a strong need for research analysis of these complex decisions that are vital for North Carolina. However, this is not just a livestock production matter, it directly impacts water quality, both surface and subsurface. These water quality impacts will occur with new as well as current livestock waste management technologies. It is also clear that solving water quality problems with a transfer of these issues to air quality or land is not in the best interests of the environment. The proposed research will provide direct information on these total economic and environment influences and for such basic questions as Aare most environmental/economic impacts on-farm or off-farm?@

Expected Benefits of Project

Environmental improvement for large livestock facilities involves complex environmental and economic choices among new or alternative technologies for the effective management of the byproducts or wastes from such facilities. This complexity makes decisions for improved water quality and cost-effectiveness very difficult without research aimed at understanding and quantifying these choices. The results of this project will measure Awhat are the net environmental emissions@ for new or alternative technologies and what is a full picture of the economic consequences of environmental technology changes at livestock facilities. The benefits of this project will be to help make more informed decisions about future waste management alternatives and hence better decisions.

The information this project will establish the life cycle and the economic frameworks needed by various decision-makers. With our emphasis on transparency of such overall environmental profiles, the review can assure that a complete picture of the most significant factors is obtained. The review will enhance the effectiveness of the subsequent detailed research to compare livestock waste management technologies. Decision-makers include well-known livestock waste management researchers throughout the U.S., personnel of state and federal government, rural community members, and agribusiness.

Related Research

Environmental issues and livestock production have been coupled for at least thirty years. In the 60's it was feedlots that represented challenges to agriculture as environmental standards were implemented. Today it is concentrated swine operations that are the focus of new regulation. Throughout all of these years, a recurring concept has been that utilization of agricultural wastes as beneficial byproducts should be the overall goal. In that sense environmental management or waste management had the potential for benefits.

The technologies for livestock waste management have been developed from research and demonstration efforts beginning in the early 1970's (Loehr 1974 ; Overcash, et. al 1983, Midwest Plan Service, 1975). Basic data, engineering calculations, and field trials were often collected at a large number of universities and regional projects. Since then, technologies have advanced as the waste treatment field took advantage of new concepts. Anaerobic upflow filters, wetlands, computer control, etc. were initiated and are now being developed also at multiple universities. Thus there has been a steady evaluation of technology alternatives for the management of livestock wastes. In general categories these are,

1) aerobic systems

2) anaerobic treatment or conversion to byproducts

3) combined aerobic/anaerobic systems

4) physical separations

5) natural systems for nutrient recovery

6) dewatering.

These categories represent a general framework for any review or evaluation of new technologies for livestock waste management. Within each category, some technologies can be viewed as obtaining beneficial value, while others are primarily treatment.

If we examine this mix of technologies and possible changes in implementation, it is clear that these systems are complex and often large. For example, greater treatment using more energy for aeration also leads to more electricity power plant emissions, hundreds of kilometers away. Also, greater treatment can reduce odor and thus influence the economics of property values.

These examples illustrate that environmental and economic effects occur both at the livestock facility and throughout a much larger system.

The cascading effects on environmental emissions (direct and from energy use) can be analyzed using life cycle as a tool. Life cycle was developed for such analyses. Basically life cycle tools were developed to analyze the kind of multi-location, energy and emission profiles, and multi-year impacts found with the cascading effects of environmental improvements in making products or providing services. The output from a life cycle evaluation is a profile of the chemical process emissions plus the energy consumption emissions that extend from materials as resources in nature to some endpoint such as the output from a livestock production and waste management facility.

The economic evaluations mirror this complex system of potential changes in livestock waste management. Use of on-site and off-site costs/benefits is a useful means to describe this full system. Economic comparisons must be made on a similar basis (apples-to-apples results) among alternative waste management technologies on-site, but also a similar basis must be used when comparing on-site to off-site effects. At this stage it is even difficult to know whether the major economic effects of new alternative technologies are on-site or off-site. DEHNR has built an early data set through the Animal and Poultry Waste Management Center to develop a valid on-site economic comparison of technology. This is still underway and will focus on a core of four technologies considered to be the most technically proven, as a start to evaluating further technologies. It is important to develop the full economic system picture, integrating off-site factors to these on-site costs evaluated by DEHNR. This is vital to avoid major unintended economic effects of regulatory decisions.

The technical issues of direct emissions and impact on the environment from the full life cycle system for livestock waste management facilities are important to understand. The economics of these diverse elements which comprise the full network associated with animal production will also influence decision-making. In addition, there are non-technical issues that are a part of this broader political and social debate. Decision-making surrounding the complex issues of livestock production, water resources, and environment can only be improved by better information about this complex system. Thus we seek to provide greater information to allow better decisions by business, government, and citizens. The goals of this decision-making include the following:

1) establishing technologies to protect the environment at the local, regional, and global levels

2) assuring that these technologies are managed correctly

3) maintaining a cost-effective animal production industry from small scale to large.

An evaluation of the current environmental research directly related to the concepts of life cycle, net environmental effects, or economic assessment for the new livestock waste management technologies was conducted. No current work was found. On further examination, the life cycle field has looked at products and some technologies, but animal waste management has not been a funded topic. This may be, in part, because the pressure to understand the choices and to phase out lagoons is the highest in North Carolina. Thus others have not addressed this in the life cycle field. Economic studies of these new technologies were only found with the DEHNR effort and that is referenced extensively herein (Lewis, 1999). Again, the new technologies that are the subject of this research project are being developed and field tested by the Poultry and Animal Waste Management Center as the lead organization in the U.S. Thus few, if any, places in the U.S. have any on-going research on the specific new livestock waste management technologies that we will investigate. A recent review for the Poultry and Animal Waste Management Center (Williams, 1999) does summarize the prior literature on related new technology areas to be studied in this project. The matching support by the PAWMC is a recognition that the life cycle and economic studies proposed herein are not underway elsewhere.

Nature, Scope and Objectives of Research

Objectives

The overall goal of this proposal is to provide more complete information on the full environmental impact and the broad economic consequences of changing the waste management technologies for livestock production industry. We seek to accomplish this through tools that provide an Aapples-to-apples@ comparison of current and developing waste management technologies. The comparisons will be for

a) all environmental emissions and

b) the broader economic costs.

 

Specific goals are,

1) to tailor a life cycle framework and an economic framework to the unique challenges of evaluating technologies for waste management in the livestock industry of North Carolina. The specific rules, assumptions, and ultimate data will assure that a reasonable apples-to-apples comparison can be made of each current and new technology. Developing these frameworks will streamline future work and direct research to areas of inadequate understanding.

2) to conduct life cycle comparison of four technologies currently being evaluated in direct economic terms by DEHNR as potential candidates for change .

3) to utilize analogous literature information to expand the economic analyses currently undertaken at DEHNR in order to begin to move from direct costs (on-site) to the significant total systems economics that will be influenced by proposed waste management technology changes at livestock facilities. This will improve the cost/benefit analyses (on-going at DEHNR), but will not be able (during this one year project) to represent the complete economic analysis. Thus only certain economic modules will be developed.

4) to provide environmental and economic information to decision-makers as a means of better understanding the complex system of livestock waste management. These individuals include agribusiness, government, and communities. The results of this project will lead to help in making more informed decisions about future waste management alternatives and hence better decisions.

Research Plan

 

Methods, Procedures and Facilities

Research Tasks

There are important links between the technology issues that create environmental emissions and the economic consequences of such technologies. These links will be maintained with the joint PI efforts in this project. The following description provides separate life cycle and economic descriptions to provide clarity and to explain what is needed in both fields.

Task 1 The Framework for Economic and Environmental Comparisons

A life cycle framework will be developed to meet several needs of this research project. For this study, the emphasis is on both the direct comparisons of new alternative livestock waste management technologies to the conventional anaerobic/land application systems, but also on understanding the general magnitude of the indirect or off-site components versus the on-site environmental emissions. This allows one to begin generalizing the results to future alternative technologies or to locations elsewhere in North Carolina or the U.S.

The life cycle boundary must be specified in this overall framework. We seek to have similar boundaries for each case and comparison, so that direct and second-level interpretations will be possible. This is referred to as an apples-to-apples comparison. The livestock waste management technology comparisons are between alternatives that produce the same products - clean environment and food products from animals. Thus all alternatives must be in compliance with environmental regulations and represent fixed levels of animal production. Since the same products are the output of each of the waste management technology comparisons, the boundary will be from natural resources to livestock production facilities (cradle-to-farm gate). The further environmental influences of feed production as input to the animals, animal product use, or post-consumer disposal are assumed to be the same regardless of the livestock waste management system. Since the same natural resource-to-farm gate boundary will be used, comparisons can thus be made among these technology alternatives.

Other life cycle framework issues will also be met. The framework will be highly transparent, so that others may take the information produced and adjust for different conditions, predict future changes, or query variables for improvement. The framework will also be flexible to modifications based on science and input from DEHNR or the Animal and Poultry Waste Management Center. It is a major part of this first year effort to develop the tools to allow clear and uniform comparisons of environmental emissions from the full systems associated with each alternative livestock waste management technology.

As an example of the on- and off-site comparisons consider the technology alternative that livestock production facilities choose to connect and discharge to a municipal publicly owned treatment works (POTW). This is already done with some animal processing plants (such as poultry process, egg processing, vegetable processing, etc.). In this case, the new technology is illustrated in Figure 1. The existing livestock production facility would then have few if any on-site environmental emissions. If these occurred, the influence would be on the nearby watershed and area (including possibly a community). The full emissions then must be evaluated first at the municipal conventional biological treatment plant, which includes discharge to a river and the production of biosolids. This is the new alternative and would be evaluated for economics by the DEHNR approach as a direct cost. Beyond the POTW, emissions would occur at the electricity production plant (actually a grid of plants), Figure 1. In addition the biosolids would be land applied for beneficial reuse. This leads to avoided emissions at the chemical plants producing N, P, and K materials for fertilizers. Thus in this conceptual example, we can see distinct improvements on-site, the occurrence of further emissions at two off-site facilities (the POTW and the power plant), some change in local emissions to the watershed and community, and a beneficial reduction in emissions from fertilizer manufacturing plants. By creating a repeatable framework we can strive for a better apples-to-apples comparisons of each new technology. For example, the electricity generation module must be developed to give reproducible emissions (per wh of electricity used), regardless of the livestock waste management technology studied. This will facilitate future comparisons when as many as 25 technologies (under investigation at the Animal and Poultry Waste Management Center) are to be evaluated.

Adequately accounting for the full economic effects of alternative waste management systems requires knowledge of costs and benefits accruing both on- and off-site. Measurement of on-site net costs, usually requires analysis of required investments in capital equipment, system operating costs, indirect costs of the system to other on-farm activities, as well as revenues generated. The on-site direct costs for the actual new waste management technology are being estimated by DEHNR. However the indirect costs on-farm are not a central emphasis of the DEHNR study.

Off-site costs and benefits fall into two categories,

1) those incurred by individuals or businesses in close proximity to the livestock farms, e.g. odor, local community impacts of changes in profitability of livestock farms, nitrogen emissions affecting groundwater and local surface water quality, Figure 1.

2) more distant off-site costs relate to electricity needs, avoidance of fertilizer manufacturing costs, and the effects of uneven adoption of livestock waste management technology.

Clearly an economic framework must be developed to include on-farm direct and indirect costs, local costs/benefits, and more distant off-site economic considerations. The proposed one year research focuses first on obtaining the framework, but will not be able to quantify or even estimate all the details in this larger picture. However, development of the economic framework will yield two important benefits. First it will illuminate the complexities involved in establishing the cumulative economic impacts of various technologies, both individually and relative to one another. Second, it will provide a guide for utilization of existing information on specific technologies in making comparative assessments. Finally, it will provide a sort of road map for determining where more economic information is needed. As covered in Task 2, we will begin to develop some of the more significant factors in this overall economic framework during year 1.

An important component for Task 1 will be an early review of the life cycle and the economic frameworks by various decision-makers. With our emphasis on transparency of such overall environmental profiles, the review can assure that a complete picture of the most significant factors is obtained. Less significant factors can be eliminated for the first set of studies. The review will enhance the effectiveness of the subsequent detailed research to compare livestock waste management technologies. Decision-makers include well-known livestock waste management researchers throughout the U.S., personnel of State and Federal government, rural community members, and agribusiness.

Task 2: Life Cycle Inventory and System Economics Evaluations of Technologies

Whether one considers the net environmental emissions or the full economic costs, there must be specific and detailed comparisons of technology alternatives for livestock waste management. That is the focus of the research in Task 2. In each life cycle comparison, there is a single Anew@ livestock waste management technology and the standard current technology of anaerobic storage/land treatment, for farms with the same product (environmental protection and food from livestock). The four livestock waste management technologies selected based on current DEHNR and Animal and Poultry Waste Management Center priorities are,

1) upflow biofilters (general class of aerobic treatment)

2) sequencing batch reactors (general class of combined aerobic/anaerobic treatment)

3) covered lagoon (general class of anaerobic treatment)

4) constructed wetlands (general class of natural systems treatment)

Thus the four priority technologies represent four of the six general categories of livestock waste management approaches and thus provide us with a good representation. Each comparison is between the conventional anaerobic storage/land treatment and one of these four replacement technologies. The data can be analyzed to represent the various contributions to key environmental emissions such as COD, nutrients, CO2, NOx, SOx, VOC, etc. As an illustration , the CO2 emissions for each stage of a life cycle in a complex drug manufacturing scenario are shown in Figure 2. In this proposed research, the profile in Figure 2 would represent all the elements represented in Figure 1, when applied to the new livestock waste management technologies.

Another important environmental comparison we will conduct is the assessment of shifts in emissions among the receiving media, water, air, and land. Such shifts are critical to decision-making to protect the total environment. These shifts can be seen easily with the outputs of the life cycle research on these livestock waste management technologies. A third comparison we seek to evaluate is between local and extra-local emissions, again a challenge for equity in decision-making. The full life cycle picture allows for the identification of geographic location for emissions and thus the overall comparison. The final comparison is the absolute differences between the overall environmental emissions of current livestock waste management technology (anaerobic storage/land treatment) and the proposed new alternatives.

The economic studies will begin with the direct on-farm costs as established by DEHNR (results are expected in early December 1999). With the framework from Task 1, we will use the remainder of the first year to begin estimating certain of the significant non-direct on-farm economic parameters. These cost estimates will be based on literature evaluation, since direct field research is outside the budget scope. The advantage of the full economic framework (Task 1) is that we can start Task 2 with a sound understanding of the gaps in current knowledge. Then a priority setting effort will suggest where to devote further work in Task 2. Thus the results of the priority setting among the identified gaps will be used for Task 2. The following are some examples of areas which would be considered in priority setting of non-direct on-farm or off-farm costs of new livestock waste management technologies.

The deployment of certain waste management alternatives may provide indirect benefits to the livestock production efficiency. These might be improved herd health, reduced ventilation needs, changes in medication requirements, and changes in equipment usage (such as lower tractor use with reduced nitrogen content of animal waste). These produce economic effects and marginal cost changes that can impact the decisions on new technology.

Odor control may provide certain on-farm benefits as described above for herd health and ventilation. It also influences local property value. Literature on general nuisances and the economic effects, such as those associated with the brief periods for land application is another subtle factor for which management options may exist.

Thus after year one we will have a detailed life cycle database and will have applied this to four new technologies and the current livestock waste management approach. The economic framework will contain further information beyond the DEHNR report as we strive to obtain a full cost/benefit evaluation for new livestock waste management technologies.

Task 3: Information for Decision-makers

Utilizing the input from several peer review groups in Task 1 will establish both a network and the mechanism to share the detailed information generated in Task 2. It is possible that new decision-makers will emerge as this study progresses and thus the peer review network is expanded. We seek not to make decisions, but to provide more and broader information that reflects the complexity of the effects of new technology for livestock waste management on

1) net environmental emissions

2) full economic cost/benefits.

A series of information documents will be prepared for distribution in this review process conducted by decision-makers for the livestock waste management field. We expect to not have a complete environmental or economic assessment after year one, but to have made significant progress. Thus we can expect to provide greater information, than is currently available, from this research project. As a University research effort, we are also committed to the dissemination of this information as a part of the University education process. Materials for undergraduate courses in environment, economics, and engineering can be logically developed.

WATER RESOURCES GOALS AND FUNDING

The livestock waste management issue has a strong relation to water resources quality, both scientifically and in public perceptions. Thus it is important to bring the strategic analysis skills of University research to bear on this topic and to provide greater, objective information to the decisions being made in North Carolina. If the answers were simple, the livestock industry and government would have adopted a new strategy and thus there is a strong need for research analysis of these complex decisions that are vital for North Carolina. However, this is not just a livestock production matter, it directly impacts water quality, both surface and subsurface. These water quality impacts will occur with new as well as current livestock waste management technologies. It is also clear that solving water quality problems with a transfer of these issues to air quality or land is not in the best interests of the environment. The proposed research will provide direct information on these total economic and environment influences and for such basic questions as Aare most environmental/economic impacts on-farm or off-farm?@ Issues of livestock waste management are also addressed in North Carolina by the Animal and Poultry Waste Management Center. Most of their work is direct technology research on-farm and thus this proposal represents research beyond their current scope. In fact, this proposal addresses water quality issues that can be generalized throughout the U.S., also outside the scope of the NCSU Center. However, because of the impact of the proposed research, the Center has committed $10,000 matching funds to this project as a partnership with WRRI on this issue of water quality, environment, and economics of livestock waste management, see attached letter.

The budget is principally for the support of the research associates and to meet the research requirements of the Colleges of Engineering and Agriculture and Life Sciences.

References

1) Lewis, D. Economic analysis of lagoon conversion plan, DEHNR, Raleigh, NC, ongoing, 1999.

2) Loehr, R., Agricultural Waste Management, Academic Press, 1974.

3) Midwest Plan Service, Livestock Waste Management with Pollution control, Iowa State University, MWPS-19, Ames, Iowa, 89p., 1975.

4) Overcash, M., F. Humenik, and J. Miner, Livestock Waste Management, CRC Press, Inc., west Palm Beach, FL, Vol 1 and 2, 537p., 1983.

5) Williams, M., Technology reports for new animal waste management projects, Poultry and Animal Waste Management Center, NCSU, Raleigh, NC. 27695, 1999.

Information Transfer

Our technology transfer goal is to provide environmental and economic information to decision-makers as a means of better understanding the complex system of livestock waste management. These individuals include agribusiness, government, an communities. The results of this project will lead to help in making more informed decisions about future waste management decisions and hence better decisions.

As a mechanism for information transfer, we will initiate an early review of the life cycle and the economic frameworks by various decision-makers. With our emphasis on transparency of such overall environmental profiles, the review can assure that a complete picture of the most significant factors is obtained. This review will enhance the effectiveness of the subsequent detailed research to compare livestock waste management technologies. Decision-makers include well-known livestock waste management researchers throughout the U.S., personnel of State and federal government, rural community members, and agribusiness.

Then with the results produced, a series of information documents will be prepared for distribution. This information transfer process will involve the same decision-makers, described above, for the livestock waste management field. With the Animal and Poultry Waste Management Center as a primary cooperating organization, and with the relationships with DEHNR, we will gain increased information dissemination as the results of this research emerge. All of the travel and publications budgets are aimed at information transfer. The project time schedule identifies the first 4 - 5 months as the period for the first information review. Then the last month of the first year is to prepare results documents for the next level of technology transfer.


U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
URL: http://water.usgs.gov/wrri/00grants/NCwaste.html
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