For a team of University of Nebraska-Lincoln chemical and biomolecular engineering students, biogas refining isn’t just a senior design capstone project, it’s a potential means of supplying Nebraska’s rural communities with a renewable source of energy that comes from resources that are both local and plentiful.
Published in Anaerobic Digestion
Farm manure could be a viable source of renewable energy to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.

Researchers at the University of Waterloo are developing technology to produce renewable natural gas from manure so it can be added to the existing energy supply system for heating homes and powering industries. That would eliminate particularly harmful gases released by naturally decomposing manure when it is spread on farm fields as fertilizer and partially replace fossil natural gas, a significant contributor to global warming.

"There are multiple ways we can benefit from this single approach," said David Simakov, a professor of chemical engineering at Waterloo. "The potential is huge."

Simakov said the technology could be viable with several kinds of manure, particularly cow and pig manure, as well as at landfill sites.

In addition to being used by industries and in homes, renewable natural gas could replace diesel fuel for trucks in the transportation sector, a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.

To test the concept, researchers built a computer model of an actual 2,000-head dairy farm in Ontario that collects manure and converts it into biogas in anaerobic digesters. Some of that biogas is already used to produce electricity by burning it in generators, reducing the environmental impact of manure while also yielding about 30 to 40 percent of its energy potential.

Researchers want to take those benefits a significant step further by upgrading, or converting, biogas from manure into renewable natural gas. That would involve mixing it with hydrogen, then running it through a catalytic converter. A chemical reaction in the converter would produce methane from carbon dioxide in the biogas.

Known as methanation, the process would require electricity to produce hydrogen, but that power could be generated on-site by renewable wind or solar systems, or taken from the electrical grid at times of low demand. The net result would be renewable natural gas that yields almost all of manure's energy potential and also efficiently stores electricity, but has only a fraction of the greenhouse gas impact of manure used as fertilizer.

"This is how we can make the transition from fossil-based energy to renewable energy using existing infrastructure, which is a tremendous advantage," said Simakov, who collaborates with fellow chemical engineering professor Michael Fowler.

The modelling study showed that a $5-million investment in a methanation system at the Ontario farm would, with government price subsidies for renewable natural gas, have about a five-year payback period.

A paper on modelling of a renewable natural gas generation facility at the Ontario farm, which also involved a post-doctoral researcher and several Waterloo students, was recently published in the International Journal of Energy Research.
Published in Anaerobic Digestion
This February was the celebration of a great partnership of California dairies and California Bioenergy (CalBio).
Published in Anaerobic Digestion
February 8, 2018, Sacramento, CA – Renewable Dairy Fuels (RDF), a business unit of Amp Americas, recently announced that construction is underway on the country’s largest on-farm anaerobic digester-to- vehicle fuel operation.

Located in Fair Oaks, Indiana, the dairy project will be the company’s second biogas facility producing renewable natural gas from dairy waste for transportation fuel.

Amp Americas received the first dairy waste-to-vehicle fuel pathway certified by California's Air Resources Board (CARB) for its first RNG project at Fair Oaks Farms in northwest Indiana. The project was also awarded a Carbon Intensity (CI) score of -254.94 gCO2e/MJ, the lowest ever issued by CARB.

In addition to generating renewable American energy, on-farm anaerobic digester operations improve sustainability, environmental stewardship and energy independence.

The new facility will be 50 percent larger than RDF’s operation at Fair Oaks Farms and will be operational this summer. The site is located in Jasper County, IN, just a few miles from Fair Oaks Farms.

Every day, three digesters located at three dairy farms will convert 950 tons of dairy waste from 16,000 head of milking cows into 100 percent renewable transportation fuel. The RNG will then be injected into the NIPSCO pipeline.

Each of the digesters is a DVO, Inc. designed and built Mixed Plug Flow digester.

“Transportation is now the largest source of greenhouse gases in the U.S., and a major source of smog-causing pollution,” said Grant Zimmerman, CEO at Amp Americas. “It is more important than ever to drive further adoption of clean and efficient domestic RNG within the trucking industry. There isn’t enough RNG being produced to meet customer demand. Our new project will help make strong headway toward closing the supply gap.”

Amp Americas continues to expand its national footprint and to invest heavily in dairy RNG projects by partnering with dairy farmers across the country to bring more ultra-low CI gas to market. The company plans to more than double its dairy gas output by mid-2018, and aims to deliver Amp Renew, its 100 percent RNG product, to all 20 of its fueling stations as it brings on future projects.
Published in Biogas
January 10, 2017 – In a paper by Texas A&M scientists, biochar shows potential for increasing efficiency of the anaerobic digestion of animal manure.

In the study, digesters that are enhanced with the biochar saw a methane production increase of about 40 percent, with a reduction in production time of 50 to 70 percent. READ MORE

Published in Anaerobic Digestion
December 20, 2017, San Francisco, CA – The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) recently established a new program to reduce emissions of methane, a potent short-lived climate pollutant, from manure generated at dairies.

The pilot program will incentivize at least five projects where dairy digesters capture and process the biomethane gas from manure to produce renewable natural gas.

The program was adopted pursuant to Senate Bill (SB) 1383 (Lara, 2016) which authorizes funding of the dairy biomethane pilot projects to demonstrate interconnection to the gas pipeline system. The pipeline infrastructure is needed to inject renewable natural gas (after a conditioning process) into the utilities’ natural gas distribution system, where it may be sold to customers. SB 1383 established a goal of 40 percent reduction of methane emissions statewide by 2030. Emissions from manure represent approximately 26 percent of California’s methane emissions.

“This program helps turn a waste product into renewable energy,” said Commissioner Clifford Rechtschaffen. “In addition to reducing emissions of methane, the pilot projects will help improve air and water quality in the Central Valley and other regions. Strong interagency coordination has allowed us to implement this in a very short timeframe.”

Under the proposal, an interagency committee that includes the CPUC, the California Air Resources Board, and the California Department of Food and Agriculture will select the pilot projects. The committee will choose projects based on an evaluation of the proposed business model, likely greenhouse gas reductions realized and cost effectiveness of achieving these reductions, environmental benefits, disadvantaged community benefits, and project readiness.
Published in Anaerobic Digestion
December 19, 2017, Port Republic, VA – Glenn Rodes was born and raised on an 860-acre turkey farm in Port Republic, VA, just south of Harrisonburg in the Shenandoah Valley. Four generations of his family live there still, raising turkeys, cattle and row crops. With the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance; some of the trees look as old as the state itself.

But while Riverhill Farms may seem unchanged by time, Rodes and his family are looking to the future. They have been experimenting with turning manure into energy for several years. Rodes even calls himself a “fuel farmer” in his email address. READ MORE
Published in Poultry
December 1, 2017, Los Angeles, CA – Toyota plans to build a power plant in California that captures methane gas from dairy cattle manure to generate water, electricity and hydrogen.

The company announced the project Nov. 30 at the Los Angeles auto show. The Tri-Gen Project at the Port of Long Beach, Calif., will be the world’s first commercial-scale 100 percent renewable power and hydrogen generation plant. Toyota is betting heavily on fuel-cell technology, especially in Japan. READ MORE
Published in Anaerobic Digestion
Oil and gas wells and even cattle release methane gas into the atmosphere, and researchers are working on ways to not only capture this gas but also convert it into something useful and less polluting.
Published in Pyrolysis
November 13, 2017, Madison, WI – Dane County plans to stop making electricity with natural gas extracted from heaps of garbage and manure so that it can sell the gas through an interstate pipeline for use as environmentally-friendly automobile fuel.

The $23.5 million project at the county landfill would be the first of its kind in the state. READ MORE
Published in Anaerobic Digestion
August 11, 2017, Chicago, IL – AMP Americas – a renewable natural gas (RNG) producer and marketer, plus compressed natural gas (CNG) fuel and infrastructure operator – recently announced a $47 million equity commitment from equity firm EIV Capital.

The equity commitment will allow AMP Americas to pursue growth opportunities across its businesses.

AMP Americas is fueling the transformation of the nation’s heavy-duty trucking sector by providing clean, low cost natural gas and 100 percent renewable natural gas for vehicles. AMP Americas operates three business units – Renewable Dairy Fuels produces 100 percent renewable natural gas at its biogas facility at Fair Oaks Farms in Indiana, ampCNG owns and operates a nationwide network of 20 public-access, ultra-fast fill CNG fueling stations, and ampRenew sources RNG for partner CNG stations and ampCNG stations and provides risk management to help fleets and station owners reduce risk and save money. By taking advantage of an abundant domestic fuel source – dairy waste – and converting it into valuable, clean, carbon-negative transportation fuel, AMP Americas is saving fleets money, improving air quality and reducing GHG emissions.

“As an integrated clean energy company with production and distribution assets across the country, we wanted a partner with proven success in both the traditional and renewable energy sectors that could help us scale and execute our aggressive growth plans,” said Grant Zimmerman, CEO at AMP Americas. “EIV Capital has an excellent track record growing energy businesses and will help us as we invest in new biogas production, new fueling stations, and in growing our team.”

“We’re excited to partner with AMP Americas and to support them as they lead the way in CNG and RNG,” said Patti Melcher, managing partner at EIV Capital. “With its history of leadership and innovation, experienced management team and portfolio of high quality assets, AMP Americas is in an excellent position to flourish in this exciting and important market.”
Published in Companies
July 26, 2017, Petaluma, CA – Tesla, mooo-ve over: California dairy farmer Albert Straus, a pioneer in organic dairy and sustainable agriculture, announces the launch of the first full-scale electric truck – powered by cow manure.

This new full-scale-electric feed truck is the next step in Straus' quest to show that his Marin county organic dairy farm can be carbon positive, using agriculture as a solution to reversing climate change.

Straus, along with a local mechanic, spent eight years developing the 33,000 lb. gross weight truck to use as a feed truck on his farm. The truck measures, mixes and hauls feed before dropping it into the trough for his nearly 300 organic dairy cows.

An environmentally-friendly alternative to diesel-fueled trucks, the feed truck's motor is charged from electrical power generated from methane gas produced by the cows' own manure.

California dairy farmers are facing pressure to lower methane emissions under the state's ambitious new greenhouse gas reduction laws, which include methane emission reduction targets of 40 percent below 2013 levels by 2030.

The state's Air Resources Board says that much of the reduction should come from converting methane from cow manure into energy. Dairy manure accounts for about a quarter of the state's methane emissions.

"What I've tried to do is create a sustainable organic farming model that is good for the earth, the soil, the animals, and the people working on these farms, and helps revitalize rural communities," said Albert Straus, CEO and founder of Straus Family Creamery.

Straus added, "My electric feed truck is not only a practical tool for my organic farm. It is also a symbol of the resourcefulness we need to fight climate change, which threatens our business and the future of American farming."

Straus' methane digester has been powering his farm since 2004, fueling his all-electric Toyota RAV4 and Nissan Leaf plus smaller farm vehicles and machinery. Working with the Marin Carbon Project, his 500-acre farm is California's first dairy to develop a 20-year carbon farming plan to sequester 2,000 metric tons of carbon every year.

Straus' goal is to demonstrate to the farming community and public that farmers can implement and teach others practical solutions to climate change. Ultimately, Straus is working towards getting his farm off fossil fuels entirely.

United States plug-in electrical vehicle sales have increased nine-fold since 2011, per Inside EVs. Yet Straus believes he is the first to put a full-scale electric feed truck into use, getting the jump on Tesla Motor's electric semi-truck slated for September 2017 release.

Next, he plans to unveil an all-electric Farmers' Market truck to transport his company Straus Family Creamery's organic milk, cream, yogurt, ice cream and butter to local markets in San Francisco Bay Area.
Published in Energy
May 31, 2017, Orange County, Cali. - In the "Back to the Future" film franchise trilogy, Dr. Emmet Brown replaced the plutonium-based nuclear generator in the De Lorean time machine with a "Mr. Fusion" generator from the future that uses garbage as fuel.

CR & R Environmental Services has a similar dream for the future – turning waste into energy through an advanced technology called anaerobic digestion. Anaerobic digestion produces "biogas" from organic waste in a zero waste, 100 percent renewable process.

At a recent Economic Workforce Development Committee luncheon hosted by the Lake Elsinore Chamber of Commerce at the Diamond Club at Storm Stadium, Alex Braicovich, senior regional vice president at CR & R, shared the vision, the process and the progress of their initiative of "Turning Today's Waste into Tomorrow's Energy."

CR & R, a full service, privately held, integrated waste management company based in Orange County, California, was founded in 1963 with one truck in a waste-hauling operation and later added two recycling trucks.

Today, the company has grown to include 50 municipal contracts in Southern California and southwestern United States.

They have 12 processing contracts and utilize 1,000 trucks every day with 1,600 employees that serve 2.5 million residential customers and 50,000 commercial customers. They have two solid waste facilities, five transfer stations and two landfills – a large one in Yuma, Arizona, and a smaller one serving Catalina Island.

The company has always been on the leading edge, including having the first recycling buy-back center in Orange County, the first three-can, fully automated curbside collection system, the first network of Material Recovery Facilities and one of the first bio-filtration systems. READ MORE

Published in Companies
May 30, 2017, U.S. - A pair of federal efforts could make it more profitable to turn organic waste from agriculture and other sources into energy by taking advantage of the Renewable Fuel Standard.

One is a bill recently introduced in the U.S. Senate that would create a 30 percent investment tax credit for qualifying biogas and nutrient-recovery systems. That would put renewable compressed natural gas on a similar footing with solar and wind energy.

A separate approach, currently before the Environmental Protection Agency, aims to create a pathway that would pay biogas producers for providing power for electric vehicles.

An energy consultant from Des Moines is one of several people in the U.S. trying to devise a record-keeping system that ultimately would pay biogas producers much more than they now earn for generating electricity. READ MORE
Published in Biogas
May 15, 2017, Raleigh, NC – PrairieChar, a Kansas company developing a system to convert animal manure into useful products, won the $10,000 cash prize and $3,500 in legal and financial advice at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center's 2017 Ag Biotech Entrepreneurial Showcase.

PrairieChar Chairman and CEO Robert Herrington said he started the company because his wife made him buy her a horse farm.

He suffered a broken back when a tree fell on him as he was clearing a pasture. Lying in bed recuperating, he called friends in California and asked them to send him business plans to review. One caught his eye.

"We're in the manure business," Herrington said of what has become his new adventure. "We take something you don't want and turn it into something you do."

Manure is a cost center in the cattle, swine and poultry industries. It causes disposal and environmental problems.

In North Carolina, one of the top swine producers in the nation, manure from swine and poultry adds up to 40 billion pounds a year. Swine manure put into lagoons causes odor and environmental problems that Herrington believes can be solved with PrairieChar's technology.

PrairieChar, which Herrington said was engineered to be a scalable, cost-effective solution, is developing machines the size of cargo containers that can be placed next to a manure pile. The manure never has to be transported more than 300 feet. The company's revenue-share model means it gets the manure for nothing and farmers turn a cost center into a revenue stream.

The machines turn the manure into two valuable sterile products, he said. The process eliminates emissions into the air and removes soil and water hazards. One product produced is a "100 percent OMRI organic fertilizer that can reduce conventional fertilizer needs."

The other is a sustainable, renewable coal substitute that produces an ash that is actually valuable instead of being an environmental hazard like coal ash. It is 90 percent pure phosphate that can be sold for 25-cents to one-dollar a pound.

"We can change the way we're dealing with environmental issues," Herrington said. "We could convert manure into 33 million tons of our products annually."

It would also create jobs paying $50,000 to $70,000 annually in rural America, he added.

The machines cost $550,000 to build. The company recently opened a Series A round looking for $5 million. Although the company currently plans to begin operations on cattle manure in Kansas, Herrington said that if enough of its funding comes from North Carolina, it will target swine manure "sooner rather than later."
Published in Companies
May 8, 2017, Nigeria, Africa - Chicken is a favorite, inexpensive meat across the globe. But the bird's popularity results in a lot of waste that can pollute soil and water.

One strategy for dealing with poultry poop is to turn it into biofuel, and now scientists have developed a way to do this by mixing the waste with another environmental scourge, an invasive weed that is affecting agriculture in Africa. They report their approach in ACS' journal Energy & Fuels. 

Poultry sludge is sometimes turned into fertilizer, but recent trends in industrialized chicken farming have led to an increase in waste mismanagement and negative environmental impacts, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

Droppings can contain nutrients, hormones, antibiotics and heavy metals and can wash into the soil and surface water. To deal with this problem, scientists have been working on ways to convert the waste into fuel. But alone, poultry droppings don't transform well into biogas, so it's mixed with plant materials such as switch grass.

Samuel O. Dahunsi, Solomon U. Oranusi and colleagues wanted to see if they could combine the chicken waste with Tithonia diversifolia (Mexican sunflower), which was introduced to Africa as an ornamental plant decades ago and has become a major weed threatening agricultural production on the continent.

The researchers developed a process to pre-treat chicken droppings, and then have anaerobic microbes digest the waste and Mexican sunflowers together. Eight kilograms of poultry waste and sunflowers produced more than 3 kg of biogas — more than enough fuel to drive the reaction and have some leftover for other uses such as powering a generator. Also, the researchers say that the residual solids from the process could be applied as fertilizer or soil conditioner.

The authors acknowledge funding from Landmark University

Published in Biogas
May 5, 2017, Haverhill, MA – A local farm has received the go-ahead to begin turning animal waste into energy – and will save the city an estimated $300,000 as a result.

The city council inked a deal May 2 with Vanguard Renewables to purchase power generated by an anaerobic digester at Bradford's Crescent Farms for 13 cents a kilowatt hour. READ MORE
Published in Energy
May 1, 2017 Oshkosh, WI – This June, we're launching our hands-on Digester Operator Training Course at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh from June 13-15.

This is a must-attend event for any operator, owner, developer or anyone looking for hands-on digester operations experience. Attendees will have the opportunity learn from top digester operators to learn how to increase biogas production, digestate quality, revenue and avoid costly, time-consuming and smelly mistakes.

Over three days, digester operations experts from the American Biogas Council and UW-Oshkosh will start the morning with you in the classroom and ERIC lab to review topics from operations basics and safety to advanced topics like lab testing and operation software and remote monitoring. Then, we'll head to a digester to spend half or more of each day working with the operations team, turning valves, collecting samples and troubleshooting issues. We'll have three different types of digesters for you to experience – continuous mix, dry fermentation and plug flow.

Sign up before the class fills up.
Published in Anaerobic Digestion
April 25, 2017, Lincoln, NE – For a team of University of Nebraska-Lincoln chemical and biomolecular engineering students, biogas refining isn't just a senior design capstone project, it's a potential means of supplying Nebraska's rural communities with a renewable source of energy that comes from resources that are both local and plentiful.

Tasked with helping Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) turn biogas into a more-refined form of natural gas, the team of Meryl Bloomfield, Heather Newell, K.J. Hafer and Dave Hansen saw that the state was among the nation's leaders in not only cattle population but in manure production.

Using an anaerobic digestion process, the team proposes turning that manure not only into fertilizer for crops but natural gas that NPPD could also use to create electricity that powers farms and rural communities across the state.

"Compared to other renewable energy sources – like wind and solar – biogas is more consistent," said Bloomfield. "Cows are always going to produce manure. You don't have to rely on having a sunny day or a windy day, especially In Nebraska, where wind and solar plants might not be as reliable as in Arizona and California."

According to The Cattle Network, Nebraska ranked second nationally in 2015 with approximately 6.3 million cattle or about seven percent of the U.S. population. One of the biggest uses of the manure produced by the cattle is the production of fertilizer.

The student team worked to develop a method that would allow the production of natural gas and still maintain a viable supply for fertilizer production. But that led to it expanding on its goal by proposing a solution that could be an economic boost to the rural community – a biogas upgrade refinery that would be strategically located near Broken Bow.

The refined natural gas from the Nebraska Biogas Upgrading Refinery would then be piped to NPPD's Canaday Station southeast of Lexington, where it could be used to create electricity.

"It would be centralized to where the cows are," Hansen said. "After designing the plant, we determined we'd need about a quarter of a million head of cattle to achieve the manure supply sufficient to reach the capacity NPPD is looking for.

The natural gas that would be similar to the gas used in homes across the country, Hansen said, except it would be collected as part of a natural process rather than relying on traditional means of extracting the gas – such as fracking or refining fossil fuels.

Newell also said the process would be more beneficial to the ecology.

"In doing this, we're reducing greenhouse gases from the cow manure that sits out and naturally becomes fertilizer," Newell said. "We're reducing the carbon dioxide and creating something useful from it."

Though their proposal isn't guaranteed to be implemented, Bloomfield said thinking about the human impact made this senior capstone experience valuable for the entire team.

"Knowing that it could be even a stepping stone to something for NPPD changed how we approached it," Bloomfield said. "When you're thinking theoretically, you can go a lot of different directions. When you're thinking about how it affects people and their lives, that's when it gets real."
Published in Biogas
April 21, 2017, Richland, Wash. – Oil and gas wells and even cattle release methane gas into the atmosphere, and researchers are working on ways to not only capture this gas but also convert it into something useful and less-polluting.

Now scientists at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have developed a new system to convert methane into a deep green, energy-rich, gelatin-like substance that can be used as the basis for biofuels and other bioproducts, specialty chemicals — and even feed for cows that create the gas in the first place.

"We take a waste product that is normally an expense and upgrade it to microbial biomass which can be used to make fuel, fertilizer, animal feed, chemicals and other products," said Hans Bernstein, corresponding author of a recent paper in Bioresource Technology.

Methane is an unavoidable byproduct of our lifestyle. Manure from dairy cows, cattle and other livestock that provide us food often breaks down into methane. Drilling processes used to obtain the oil and natural gas we use to drive our cars and trucks or heat our homes often vent or burn off excess methane to the atmosphere, wasting an important energy resourcePNNL scientists approached the problem by getting two very different micro-organisms to live together in harmony.

One is a methane-loving methanotroph, found underground near rice paddies and landfills — where natural methane production typically occurs. The other is a photosynthetic cyanobacterium that resembles algae. Originally cultured from a lake in Siberia, it uses light along with carbon dioxide to produce oxygen.

The two aren't usually found together, but the two co-exist in harmony in a bioreactor at PNNL — thanks to a co-culture system created by Leo Kucek, Grigoriy E. Pinchuk, and Sergey Stolyar as well as Eric Hill and Alex Beliaev, who are two authors of the current paper.

PNNL scientist Hans Bernstein collected methane gas from a Washington dairy farm and Colorado oil fields and fed it to the microbes in the bioreactor.

One bacterium, Methylomicrobium alcaliphilum 20Z, ate the methane and produced carbon dioxide and energy-rich biomass made up largely of a form of carbon that can be used to produce energy.

But Methylomicrobium alcaliphilum 20Z can't do it alone. It needs the other micro-organism, Synechococcus species 7002, which uses light to produce the steady stream of oxygen its counterpart needs to carry out the methane-consuming reaction.

Each one accomplishes an important task while supplying the other with a substance it needs to survive. They keep each other happy and well fed — as Bernstein puts it, they're engaging in a "productive metabolic coupling." READ MORE

Published in Energy
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