(952) 829-0731
Downward Arrow

Anaerobic Digestion

January 13, 2020

Anaerobic DigestionThe process of anaerobic digestion allows for the conversion of methane into renewable natural gas. Domestic American dairy farms produce high volumes of methane, and this process means that it can be turned into RNG useful in fueling vehicles, powering businesses, and heating homes.

Many dairy farmers from coast to coast are considering the addition of anaerobic digesters to their broader operations.

Another Part To Broader Movement Towards Sustainability

One of the nation’s biggest utility companies provides its customer base with natural gas and electricity. This company has nearly 8 million customers living across 18 different states.

Not long ago, this company joined with others to create country’s biggest agriculturally based natural gas partnership. The intended goal of this partnership is the conversion of methane coming from hog farms into usable energy that local customers can take advantage of.

The agricultural, environmental, and consumer advantages to be gained from projects such as these are innovative and monumental. In one fell swoop, we can drastically curtail the greenhouse gas emissions that American dairy farms produce while providing new clean energy sources to domestic customers, all while offering family farmers a novel source of ongoing revenue.

When the methane of American dairy farms is captured and then converted into renewable natural gas, there is the potential for a reduction of CO2 emissions equal to roughly half a million metric tons every single year. This is approximately identical in effect to planting almost 8 million trees in one year or getting 100,000 automobiles off of the roads.

Make Or Break For Anaerobic Digesters?

Anaerobic digesters, in essence, are big and sealed tanks. They’re void of oxygen inside, and they produce gas from a stockpile of organic waste composed of leftover crops, livestock manure, and excess food scraps. In the last few years, DFA members have shown rapidly increasing interest in anaerobic digester systems and their success.

Historically speaking, it has been dairy farmers themselves that have been responsible for both the financing and operation of anaerobic digesters. These digesters do represent a considerable financial investment, and managing them takes a lot of work too. These are both common barriers to more farmers adopting them, leaving many operations without one or more in place.

Even with the high level of interest, certain producers don’t always see digesters as an obvious home run. Some dairy producers look at digester projects as being rather volatile investments, which makes them cautious about considering them for their own operations.

Having said this, anaerobic digester technology is rapidly improving. So, too, is the overall business model, as it makes the move from electricity over to natural gas. This is why working with those who have done this sort of thing before is a good idea for dairy farmers who want to take advantage of the steadily improving technology so they can be better stewards of the environment and offer renewable energy to consumers in the market.

Are You Thinking About Building A Digester?

Dairy farmers that want to do this wind up leasing some of the land they have on the property to one of the anaerobic digester outfits on the market. The farmer also works out arrangements for giving the digester a source of manure. That diary farmer then receives compensation for the volume of manure they feed the digester with.

Dairy farmers get to take advantage of a new revenue stream. Also, having a digester offers new operational efficiencies. On top of all this, these farmers become more responsible stewards of their own land, while helping the world become more sustainable.

Dairy farmers have enough trouble as it is trying to squeeze profitability out of their farms in the current industry. A digester can offer some financial diversification, and it’s one option that doesn’t involve more work for them.

If you’re a dairy producer that arranges for an anaerobic digester on your land, then the only thing you have to supply is the manure.

Manure-Specific Projects

At the time of writing, manure-specific digester projects have started their permitted processes in only five states. They are New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Nevada, and Georgia.

Building an actual digester takes around half a year. It can also take anywhere from three to six months to get any requisite gas conditioning equipment permissions lined up properly. That means it can take roughly just under a year to get the very first molecules of RNG ready for selling into the pipeline.

Manure-only projects are ideal for bigger dairies, ones in the range of 3,500 or more cows. Most of the energy content is removed. In order to get a decent volume of gas produced, the dairy needs to be rather sizable.

Ask Good Questions

There are concerns that digestion is currently enjoying a boom phase with a bust looming. Given that, fairy farmers have to ask good questions prior to jumping into this. Anaerobic digestion gets plenty of attention from a lot of businesses just due to the welcoming market of California with its low carbon credits.

If you’re a dairy farmer and thinking about a digester deal via a third party, then talk to any other dairies you know first. Find out who owns and operates each system. Think hard about anyone that avoids the question.