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Online AgSTAR Digest: Summer 2007

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AgSTAR released FarmWare version 3.1 on September 7, 2007. FarmWare is an analytical tool designed to provide a preliminary assessment on the feasibility of integrating anaerobic digestion into an existing or planned manure management system. The new version contains updated computations for biogas energy generation and revenues from on-site electricity use. The software can be downloaded free at the AgSTAR website.

Welcome to the New AgSTAR Digest

AgSTAR has developed this web-based update to highlight recent news about digester projects and other items of interest in the field. Many of these articles are summaries of online news stories, with hyperlinks you can follow to the original sources. Through this update, we can also provide timely postings about applicable grants and calls for proposals, noteworthy events, and applicable regulatory policy changes. If you have any suggestions for items that could be included in a future issue or suggestions for improvements, please send an email to agstar@erg.com.

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Excitement Builds for 2007 AgSTAR Conference

AgSTAR is pleased to announce its Annual Conference will be held on November 27 and 28, 2007, in Sacramento, California.

Interest in manure digesters and associated energy production is on the rise. At the last AgSTAR Conference in Madison, Wisconsin, 300 attendees and 30 exhibitors discussed new technologies, identified potential projects, and networked with others in the industry. We fully expect these numbers to increase at this year's event. Technical presentations, poster sessions, exhibits, a tour, and networking opportunities will be provided.

Registration is open on the AgSTAR Conference Web page. Details regarding conference location and hotels are also available on that page.

For more information, or if you would like to be placed on the email list to receive the conference registration announcement, please contact Katherine Moore (meetings@erg.com), ERG, at 781-674-7272. She can also provide details regarding exhibitor and sponsor opportunities.

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Digester Project News

Photo of men near digester

Bacteria in the biodigester (the tank on the left) produce methane gas, which is piped underground, and into a system to cool it (on the right) before the gas enters the building (behind the cooler) which houses the engine that burns the methane and turns a generator to create electricity. Photo credit: RENEW.

Crave Brothers' Farm Digester Operational

On June 25, 2007, Wisconsin governor Jim Doyle flipped the ceremonial switch to start a new anaerobic digester project at Crave Brothers' Farm in Waterloo. The digester (a $2 million biogas system owned and operated by Clear Horizons, LLC) converts manure from the farm's 750 cows and waste from an onsite cheese plant into electricity. The system also produces a liquid fertilizer, bedding for the cows, and organic potting soil.

Source: Bill Glauber, "Farm's New Juice Isn't Moo," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, June 26, 2007.

New Ethanol Plant to Use Methane Power

On June 28, 2007, E3 BioFuels launched its Genesis Plant in Mead, Nebraska, as the world's first closed-loop ethanol plant fueled in part by methane from cow manure. The patented system produces energy by combining manure, collected from the adjacent Mead Cattle Company's 28,000-head feedlot, with thin stillage, a byproduct of ethanol refining. The hot liquid mixture is decomposed inside an anaerobic digester, where bacteria produce methane-rich biogas that is used to fire the plant's ethanol boilers. The use of biogas displaces natural gas purchases. Ted Mathews, Anaerobic Digester Manager at the plant, is scheduled to discuss the project at the AgSTAR conference.

Source: E3 Biofuels, "E3 BioFuels Launches Its Genesis Plant in Mead, Nebraska," June 28, 2007.

Photo of tanks

View of top of anaerobic digesters at Whitesides expansion project. Photo credit: ITR.

Whitesides Biogas Expansion

This summer, Intrepid Technologies and Resources (ITR) completed the expansion of its anaerobic digester project at Whitesides Dairy in Rupert, Idaho. The facility, which became operational in 2004, initially produced 10 million cubic feet of methane annually. This year's expansion adds eight more digesters to more fully utilize the manure produced from the dairy's 6,300 cows. ITR's system is designed to convert the manure into high-purity gas that can be fed into the local gas utility pipeline system for commercial/industrial distribution and sale. ITR expects to produce an estimated 270,000 cubic feet daily of gas, which will be sold to Idaho Intermountain Gas. Currently, ITR is conducting sampling to verify that its product consistently meets or exceeds pipeline-quality standards over a prolonged period of time.

Source: Michelle Blank, "Cow Power," High Country News, May 14, 2007, and Lynn Smith, Denis Keiser, and Jake Dustin, "Letter to Stakeholders," ITR, July 11, 2007.

Bison Renewable Energy Breaks Ground

On July 17, 2007, Bison Renewable Energy broke ground on the Cornerstone Biogas Regional Anaerobic Digester (BRAD) facility near Hull in Sioux County, Iowa. The company plans to contract with a number of livestock producers to supply manure, which will represent half of the raw materials for the plant. The remainder will come from food waste, such as animal fat, from area plants. The company expects to produce about 5 billion cubic feet of gas by the second year of operation, which will make it one of the largest methane facilities in the country. The methane produced at the plant will be compressed and inserted into nearby natural gas pipelines for distribution. The plant is expected to create 70 jobs and become operational in December 2008.

Source: Dave Dreeszan, "Construction Begins on Hull Methane Plant," Sioux City Journal.com, July 19, 2007.

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EPA Engages Agriculture Leaders

On July 12, 2007, as part of a new and closer relationship that EPA seeks with the farm community, Administrator Stephen L. Johnson presided over the agency's first-ever dialogue with leaders of the agriculture industry. Johnson discussed three primary issues with attendees: (1) environmental issues facing agriculture in the next 10 years; (2) how the changing face of agriculture will impact the environment; and, (3) how EPA can improve its relationship with agricultural producers and get them more involved in environmental protection. Participants offered support for EPA's idea of establishing a permanent advisory group to advise the administrator on regulations and policy from a rural perspective. The leaders also expressed enthusiasm for the role they are beginning to play in domestic energy production and their desire to see this opportunity develop in an environmentally sustainable manner. For more information about this initiative, please visit EPA's National Agriculture Compliance Assistance Center website.

Source: EPA Headquarters, "EPA Holds First-Ever Dialogue with Agriculture Leaders," July 12, 2007.

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Funding Opportunities

NYSERDA PON 1146, Deadline: May 30, 2009

To expand the supply of clean energy, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has issued PON 1146 to offer $11 million in incentives for electricity generation using anaerobic digester gas produced from manure, food wastes, municipal wastewater, and other biomass feedstocks. Incentives will be offered based on kilowatt capacity of biogas and the kilowatt-hours actually generated each year for 3 years. The program is part of the new Customer-Sited Tier (CST) of the State's renewable portfolio standard. Details regarding Program Opportunity Notice (PON) 1146, including eligibility and application requirements are posted on NYSERDA's funding opportunities Web page.

Wisconsin Dairy Farm Anaerobic Digester Grant, Deadline: September 26, 2007

Focus on Energy, a public-private partnership in Wisconsin, aims to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy, improve the environment, and ensure the future supply of energy in the state. Currently Focus on Energy is offering competitive grants of up to $250,000 for the installation of a commercially available anaerobic digester system at eligible Wisconsin dairy farms. Eligible systems can produce energy in the form of electricity, thermal energy, or biogas. The actual grant award is based on an estimate of the quantity of electricity, utilized heat, and/or biogas for sale that the anaerobic digester system will produce in one year. These grants cannot exceed 25 percent of the cost of the digester system.

USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, Deadlines: November and December 2007

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program in four regions—North Central, Northeast, South, and West. Each region administers separate grant programs with its own priorities and audiences.

SARE regional map

Each SARE region sets policies and goals, makes funding decisions, and administers grant projects.

The Northeast, North Central, and West regions have issued their call for proposals for selected grants. Potential grants available (though not necessarily in all regions) include:

For examples of awarded proposals, review SARE's national database, which features project summaries.

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Manure Pit Safety Concerns

The recent deaths at a Virginia dairy farm are a grim reminder of the dangers from confined-spaced manure pits—and of how we all need to work together to try to avoid future tragedies. As the Washington Post reports, the Virginia farmer was apparently transferring manure from one small pit into a larger holding pond when he climbed into the enclosure to fix a clog and was overcome. A hired hand and three of the farmer's family members also died in an attempt to save him. According to the coroner's report, all died due to exposure to hydrogen sulfide.

Accumulations of methane, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, and ammonia can pose a life-threatening risk of suffocation and other dangers. The immediacy and magnitude of the hazard may not be readily apparent. Both methane and carbon dioxide are odorless and displace oxygen to cause death by asphyxiation. At high concentrations, hydrogen sulfide is a fast-acting poison. Although hydrogen sulfide has an unpleasant, "rotten egg" odor, sense of smell may become quickly fatigued and fail to give warning of high concentrations. Collapse, coma, and death from respiratory failure may come within a few minutes of one or two inhalations. Ammonia concentrations in manure pits rarely are high enough to cause asphyxiation but can seriously damage the respiratory tract.

To prevent death or serious injury, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends:

Manure pits that had been entered without incident in the past, can quickly become filled with lethal concentrations of gases.

For more details on NIOSH findings and recommendations, please review NIOSH Alert: Request for Assistance in Preventing Deaths of Farm Workers in Manure Pits. This year's AgSTAR conference will also include a presentation on safety.

As anaerobic digester systems become more prevalent in this country and around the world, it will be imperative for us to make sure that proper training is provided to those individuals who operate and maintain these facilities to avoid future tragedies.

Sources: Fred Blosser, NIOSH Update: Preventing Deaths of Farm Workers in Manure Pits, July 3, 2007, and Bill Brubaker, "Four Family Members, Farmhand Killed by Gas Fumes in Manure Pit," Washington Post, July 4, 2007.

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Upcoming Events

International Symposium on Air Quality and Waste Management for Agriculture
September 15-19, 2007
Broomfield, Colorado
The International Symposium for Animal, Agricultural and Food Processing Wastes and Air Pollution from Agricultural Operations are being combined, giving attendees with interest and expertise in both areas the opportunity to participate in both events. If you would like to meet with AgSTAR at the event, please contact Chris Voell (voell.christopher@epa.gov), AgSTAR.

International Conference "Progress in Biogas"
September 19-21, 2007
Stuttgart, Germany
The international event will give an overview of the developments, latest technology reviews, and economic viability of biogas production.

Value of Manure in Energy Production Webcast
September 21, 2007
The Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center is hosting online presentations by Jeff Porter, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Kelly Zering, North Carolina State University. The archived presentations will also be available on their website later in September.

Energy from Biomass and Waste Expo and Conference
September 25-27, 2007
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
This event includes the agriculture sector in its coverage of renewable energy production from biomass. If you would like to meet with AgSTAR at the event, please contact Chris Voell (voell.christopher@epa.gov), AgSTAR.

7th Annual Biocycle Conference on Renewable Energy
October 1-3, 2007
Indianapolis, Indiana
In addition to a variety of topics related to digesters, the event offers a tour of a large-scale farm digester servicing multiple dairy operations.

Overview of Alternative Treatments—Matching the Treatment System to the Environmental Concern Webcast
October 19, 2007
The Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center is hosting an online presentation by Robert Burns, Iowa State University.

Methane to Markets Partnership Expo
October 30-November 1, 2007
Beijing, China
The Methane to Markets Partnership Expo is the premier international forum for promoting methane recovery and use project opportunities and technologies. This event will also provide the opportunity to meet with project financiers, learn about new technologies, and explore technical, policy, and financial issues. The Expo's technical program will include an agriculture-specific track, as well as other presentations, training sessions, and more. For more information about the event, please contact the Methane to Markets Administrative Support Group (asg@globalmethane.org) at 202-343-9683.

2007 AgSTAR National Conference
November 27-28, 2007
Sacramento, California

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Online Resources

Report Detailing Regulatory Challenges Associated with Biogas Production

In August 2007, the Energy Policy Initiatives Center (EPIC), a nonprofit research center at the University of San Diego School of Law, released a report that provides a detailed review of the regulatory challenges facing California's dairy farmers who want to produce renewable biogas using manure and other agricultural materials. The report provides background information on how biogas is produced and used; identifies challenges or issues of uncertainty related to air quality, water quality, solid waste management, electricity, and natural gas regulation; and recommends ways to encourage biogas production in California. To download the executive summary or full report, please see the EPIC website.

Presentations from the Workshop for the Ohio Livestock & Food Processing Industries

At the request of the Ohio State Energy Office, the Midwest Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Application Center developed and implemented the Waste-to-Energy Workshop for the Ohio Livestock & Food Processing Industries. The workshop was held in Wooster, Ohio, on January 31, 2007. The Ohio workshop attracted more than 180 attendees, including representatives from the Ohio livestock industry, academia, utility industry, engineering and manufacturing industry, and state government. Among the many highlights of the workshop was the active participation of Ohio State Senator Ron Amstutz and the newly appointed Governor's Energy Advisor, Mark Shanahan. Examples of presentations from the event available online include:

Presentations from NYSERDA's Innovations in Agriculture

Sponsored by NYSERDA, Cornell University, New York Farm Bureau, Northeast Agriculture Technology Corp., New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, and USDA Rural Development, this two-day conference was held on April 17-18, 2007 in Syracuse, New York. Half of the event was dedicated to biogas presentations, which included such topics as anaerobic digesters, funding opportunities, dairy farm case studies, and safety discussions. These presentations are available on the NYSERDA website.

Presentations from the Methane Recovery from Farm and Food Processing Waste Workshop

The Midwest CHP Application Center, under the direction of the Indiana Office of Energy and Defense Development and the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, held a workshop titled Methane Recovery from Farm and Food Processing Waste in Richmond, Indiana, on May 31, 2007. Approximately 100 representatives from the livestock and food processing industries, the electric utility industry, state government, academia, and manufacturers attended the one-day workshop. Presentations from the event that are available online include:

Economic Analysis of NC Hog Waste Systems

In July, Environmental Defense released an economic analysis that shows North Carolina can gain the equivalent of 7,000 jobs and add $10 billion to its economy if the hog industry moves from open-air lagoons to innovative systems for treating swine waste. The study confirms that public and private investment in innovative waste systems will bring economic benefits for both farmers and the communities that surround them. The study provides further evidence that incentives and cost-share programs can help make new systems that protect the environment and public health affordable for farmers. Although the analysis did not include aerobic digesters and their potential energy benefits, the report does indicate the economic ripple effect that such projects can have.

Grants in 2002 Farm Bill Spurred Efficiency Investments in States

In July, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), an independent, nonprofit organization, released a report showing that states with existing agricultural energy programs were able to effectively utilize energy efficiency and renewable energy grants provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under Section 9006 of the 2002 Farm Bill. The new report, Agricultural Energy Efficiency Infrastructure: Leveraging the 2002 Farm Bill and Steps for the Future, reviews a selection of programs across the country. ACEEE examined the strengths and weaknesses of the numerous energy efficiency programs in the agricultural sector, and identified emerging trends across the country.

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Policy Updates

CA PUC Approves First Large Scale Dairy Biogas Project

The California Public Utilities Commission (CA PUC) approved an agreement for BioEnergy Solutions to supply up to 3 billion cubic feet of methane extracted from cow manure to Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E). BioEnergy Solutions' first project will be its founder David Albers' Vintage Dairy, located in Fresno County, California. Manure from the farm's 3,000 dairy cows will be flushed into covered lagoons that will trap the methane gas produced as the manure decomposes. The methane will be "scrubbed" to remove carbon dioxide and corrosive materials to meet PG&E standards for power plants, then delivered to PG&E through the utility's pipeline and used to produce renewable energy for consumers. PG&E is required by the state's renewable energy portfolio standard to obtain 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, such as biogas, by 2010.

Vintage Dairy estimates that its 3,000 dairy cows will produce approximately 190 MMBtu/day once the system is operational later this year. To reach the full contract capacity of 8,000 MMBtu/day by May 2010, BioEnergy will contract with other dairies in the region to site additional digester facilities and pressurization equipment.

Sources: BioEnergy Solutions, "BioEnergy Solutions Announces Agreement to Provide Renewable Natural Gas to PG&E," February 12, 2007, and CA PUC, "Energy Division Resolution E-4076," May 24, 2007.

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Methane to Markets Partnership

The Methane to Markets Partnership, launched by President Bush in November 2004, is an international public-private partnership to advance economically beneficial methane recovery and use projects in four sectors: agriculture (manure management), coal mines, landfills, and oil and gas systems. Twenty countries are Partners. Central to the success of the Partnership is the active involvement of the private sector and other nongovernmental organizations. To facilitate interaction, a Project Network was developed that serves as an informal mechanism to facilitate communication, project development, and implementation. Project network members are private firms, development banks, or other governmental and nongovernmental entities with an interest in methane recovery and use projects. More information on the Partnership, including an application for the Project Network, is available on the Methane to Markets website.

AgSTAR will be participating in the Methane to Markets Partnership Expo, to be held on October 30 through November 1, 2007, in Beijing, China. The Expo's agriculture program will focus on the global status of anaerobic digestion of livestock manure. Topics may include the economics of anaerobic digestion as a pollution control alternative, biogas as a cooking fuel alternative, profiles of existing projects, examples of national programs that develop sustainable markets and mechanisms for deploying anaerobic digestion technologies, examples of emerging waste management and pollution control programs, rural household/small-scale digesters and gas uses, unheated covered lagoons for milder climates, digesters using commingled waste, and centralized operations.

Exhibit booths are still available at the event, although space is limited. Consider showcasing your organization's expertise at the Expo and take advantage of the largest international gathering dedicated to methane recovery and use projects and technologies. For information about Methane to Markets, please contact Erin Birgfeld (birgfeld.erin@epa.gov), Methane to Markets, at 202-343-9683.

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Research and Development: Methane-Powered Vehicles

People, Prosperity, and the Planet Grant

Twelve Western Washington University (WWU) students developed the Viking 32, a vehicle that can be powered entirely by biogas derived from livestock waste, as part of EPA's third annual People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) competition. This national competition, sponsored by EPA's Office of Research and Development, enables college students to create sustainable solutions to environmental problems through technology innovation. The hybrid-electric vehicle uses refined and compressed methane from 17 cows to obtain up to 50 miles per gallon and travel up to 400 miles per day, according to its developers.

Students from Western Washington University show off their biogas-powered vehicle during a visit to accept an EPA P3 grant to continue their research.

Students from Western Washington University show off their biogas-powered vehicle during a visit to accept an EPA P3 grant to continue their research.

The group, working with WWU's Vehicle Research Institute, has been developing technology to remove the hydrogen sulfide and excess carbon dioxide from the raw biogas they receive from the Vander Haak Dairy in Lynden, Washington. The farm, which installed a methane digester in late 2004 with partial Section 9006 Farm Bill funding, uses most of the methane to drive an electric generator that feeds 285 kilowatts of power into the Puget Sound Energy grid. However, the farm was able to siphon off 3,000 cubic feet of methane for vehicle purposes without impacting its electricity production. EPA awarded the group with one of its top prizes, which includes funding up to $75,000 to develop a pilot transportation system that uses methane to power buses.

Source: Calvin Bratt, "Lyden Cows Fuel WWU Vehicle," Lynden Tribune, hosted at EPA's P3 Newsroom, May 2, 2007.

EPA Region 10 Grant

Earlier this year, EPA Region 10 awarded Western United Resource Development, Inc. (WURD) a $400,000 grant for an innovative project that will convert biogas into vehicle fuel. WURD will collaborate with Western United Dairymen, Sustainable Conservation, the University of California-Davis, CalStart, Hilarides Dairy, Hilmar Cheese Company, the California Department of Food and Agriculture, and the Swedish Environmental Technology Council to convert four heavy-duty diesel-powered milk trucks to run on methane. Project partners will also develop engineering design plans and conduct a financial feasibility analysis for constructing a biomethane upgrading plant and refueling station at a later date.

Source: WURD, "Biomethane for Vehicle Fuel Project."

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EPA is providing the information in this AgSTAR Digest as a service but does not endorse or verify the information or opinions included therein.
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