Biomethane an alternative to natural gas

Methane gas derived from dairy manure offers a substitute for natural gas that can power motor vehicles, according to a study released by a collaboration of energy, dairy, and environmental groups.
Known as biomethane, the gas is entirely renewable and environmentally-friendly—and can be produced locally.
The new study, “Biomethane from Dairy Waste: A Sourcebook for the Production and Use of Renewable Natural Gas in California,” offers the most effective and economical technologies for producing biomethane, as well as specific applications and markets for the gas.
The technologies for converting dairy manure to biomethane already are 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.
“It is not actually the manure we’ll put in the tank,” noted Paul Martin, Environmental Services director of Western United Dairymen. “We’ll use the gas that forms when manure is processed in a methane digester and then upgraded to vehicle fuel quality.
“More than a dozen methane digesters are operating or under construction on dairy farms in California alone,” he said.
“Dairy farmers in New York, Wisconsin, and other states are also discovering the economic, environmental, and community benefits of locally-produced energy,” Martin added.
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.
California has particularly good reasons for using biomethane. The state is home to more than 1.7 million dairy cows, with a technically-feasible potential for producing about 18 billion cubic feet of methane a year (equivalent to more than 150 million gallons of gasoline).
The complete study is available at www.suscon.org

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