Manure Manager

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Gas from cow manure can provide renewable fuel for vehicles


April 30, 2008
By Manure Manager

Methane gas derived from dairy
manure offers a substitute for natural gas that can power motor
vehicles, according to a study recently completed by a collaboration of
energy, dairy and environmental groups. Biomethane is entirely
renewable and environmentally friendly, and can be produced locally.

    Methane gas derived from dairy manure offers a substitute for natural gas that can power motor vehicles, according to a study recently completed by a collaboration of energy, dairy and environmental groups. Biomethane is entirely renewable and environmentally friendly, and can be produced locally.

    “There are 8.5 million cows in the United States, each producing enough manure to potentially generate about 30 cubic feet of biomethane per day, which could replace significant amounts of natural gas at today’s prices,” said Allen Dusault, biofuels project manager for Sustainable Conservation. “If used as vehicle fuel, biomethane could power a million cars.”

    The new study, “Biomethane from Dairy Waste: A Sourcebook for the Production and Use of Renewable Natural Gas in California,” is said to offer the most effective and economical technologies for producing biomethane, as well as specific applications and markets for the gas.

    “This is no ‘cow-pie in the sky’ solution,” said Dusault. “The technologies for converting dairy manure to biomethane are already used at several landfills around the United States. Sweden has 20 plants producing biomethane and runs 2,300 buses on it. As natural gas prices continue to rise, biomethane fuel is becoming cost-competitive with natural gas and diesel, and is much cheaper than hydrogen. Switching to biomethane improves air quality, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, improves water quality and strengthens rural economies.”

    Currently, some of the methane produced on dairy farms is used to generate electricity. However, the methane digesters can be upgraded to make biomethane for vehicle fuel. As technology advances, market forces evolve and infrastructure is created, biomethane may become a viable vehicle fuel on the farm and/or for local sale and distribution. The study is available at www.suscon.org/news/biomethane_report/index.asp and www.westernuniteddairymen.com/USDA%20Grant/USDAgrantfinalreport.htm.


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