Engineering a better future: Florence man patents green fertilizer

September 10, 2015

Some of the success stories that come out of the Shoals Entrepreneurial Center involve bright, motivated people with interesting ideas. But many of the ideas are concepts most people can grasp.

Then there’s Phil Badger, of Florence, a Tennessee Valley Authority retiree, who has created a thermal heating process to patent a technology that creates some pretty creative uses for animal manure and other organic materials at a time when federal regulations are reducing its use as farm fertilizer.

It’s the type of project that few can fathom, but has the potential to be transformative in keeping the earth cleaner and safer for future generations.

Badger’s Renewable Oil International, whose decomposition process was patented last week, can turn animal manure into bio-oil for a fuel additive or asphalt extender, a charcoal-like product for compost, synthetic gas that can create a heat source to dry poultry litter. Badger said it’s even proven to work as jet fuel.

And if that doesn’t impress you, this will: He recently was awarded a $1.2 million grant from the state of Maryland to demonstrate his project on a farm in the poultry-heavy eastern shore portion of the state.

The process is called fast-pyrolysis process, in which any organic material is placed in a vessel and heated “extremely fast to almost 1,000 degrees,” he said. “That causes it to decompose into gas, vapor and char.”

Once cooled, the product is primarily liquid, char mixed with biomass ash and non-condensable gases.

Badger — and the state of Maryland — believe it will help farms meet increasing phosphorus-discharge standards required by the Environmental Protection Agency.

While Badger has been working on his technology for a decade — and made impressive pitches and demonstrations for uses such as jet fuel — it resonated in Maryland because of a near-desperate situation involving eight eastern shore counties near Chesapeake Bay. The region is heavily dependent on the poultry industry, and accounts for 5 percent of the state’s personal wealth.

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