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Anaerobic Digestion in the US Shows Growth Despite Low Electricity Prices

Anaerobic Digestion in the US is expanding despite no subsidies, in most cases. Many opinion-formers suggest that Anaerobic Digestion technology needs strong subsidies to have a chance of being developed to meet its potential.

Biogas in America illustration.
Biogas digester plants are easy to recognize no matter where you are in the world! Image: CC0 Lapavision Productions

However, US AD site “Biocycle”, has posted an article which suggests the contrary. It says that's not the case in the US, where new AD capacity is coming on-stream on large farms without significant external funding or fiscal incentives, and with more to follow. Scroll down to the article “Anaerobic Digestion In The US Northwest” below.

Until 2018 the amount of energy produced from biomass energy sector remained remarkably constant, as shown in the Statista data below:

Find more statistics at Statista

The biggest expansion has been in dairy farm biogas plants. For them the big advantage is that dairy farms can be very large on the open plains of the US. There is much more manure and slurry to make their biogas from. This brings the cost down per unit of electricity produced, making the US large farm much better able to profit from biogas plants.

However, another growth area for Anaerobic Digestion in the US, is destined to be in “food waste biogas”, as follows;

First-ever US National Food Waste Reduction Program Announced in 2018

Food waste : Featured image to illustrate Anaerobic digestion in the US.
Placing food waste in a recycling caddy. Image courtesy Zero Waste Scotland (CC0)

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the country's first-ever national food waste reduction program in February 2018, with its ambitious goal of no less than a 50-percent reduction by 2030.

Its overall mission: to prevent and reduce wasted food—aka food scraps—and other organic materials from ending up in landfills and instead, utilizing its inherent renewable energy-producing powers to combat global warming and pollution, simultaneously protecting mankind's collective future in the process.

Anaerobic Digestion

This all-natural process has since risen in popularity and comprehension in recent years, primarily due to its innate capabilities as a renewable or “green” energy source, and its vast potential benefits for municipalities and various associated industries, the environment, and the global society, overall.

Key to the fulfillment of the EPA's strategic and programmatic goals has been proliferation in the development and efficiencies of such systems, and their implementation across the country.

US Anaerobic Digestion – Could it “Just be Mankind's Environmental Savior”

Anaerobic digestion, as EPA Administrator McCarthy and her colleagues all but declared, might just be mankind's environmental savior—a way to cease the historical misuse and depletion of vital planetary food sources and natural resources, and a sustainable means of homeostatic survival.

The best part: These redeeming powers are literally hardwired into the DNA of the infinite microorganisms that share the planet with us. In other words: The solution lives among us and can never be depleted.

US Can Benefit Greatly from the Diverse and Still-evolving AD Technologies and Applications on the Market

Yet, before delving into all the mechanics and diverse, still-evolving technologies and applications of this elemental process, it's important to understand its fundamentals.

Anaerobic digestion consists of multiple natural biological processes characterized by microorganisms breaking down (or eating) biodegradable aka “organic” material—plant or animal matter—without the presence of oxygen. These all-natural mechanisms create biogas—an extraordinary cocktail of various gaseous substances primarily comprised of methane and carbon dioxide, but also miniscule amounts of water vapor and other gases.

Wide Range of Uses Throughout North America

This combustible anaerobic end product possesses a wide range of uses, particularly to create energy. Biogas generates heat and/or electricity when ignited, and can further be transformed into vehicular fuels and renewable natural gas.

Other material left over following anaerobic digestion is known as “digestate”—typically a wet combination that can be separated into liquids and nutrient-rich solids.

“Green” Leather Sandal Image of AD in the US

Anaerobic digestion is consequently utilized by an ever-growing industry of so-called “green” and/or renewable energy companies and businesses, most significantly throughout the past several years, anaerobic digesters. Such facilities harness these natural processes' plentiful positive powers as a more effective, efficient and environmentally sound means of commercial and residential waste disposal that simultaneously combats mass pollution and even global warming.

Burgeoning Anaerobic Digestion Adoption Examples in the United States

These burgeoning, and even now well-established anaerobic digestion adoptions are presently capable of converting not merely the aforementioned wastewater and solid wastes from municipalities and livestock on the local, state, and even national scale, but additionally, from high-strength industrial wastewater and residuals, including fats, oils and greases—dubbed “FOG” sources.

Due to this broad spectrum of emerging anaerobic digestion technologies, such transformations can now occur 24/7—manipulating a near-constant flow of these all-natural fundamental building blocks for a vast amount of practical purposes. via

Please also visit their site for the full report, we can only include here a small taste of the full report, so you really do need to use the link at the bottom of this page to appreciate this posting fully:

Anaerobic Digestion In The US Northwest

A patented psychrophilic (low temperature) sequential-batch anaerobic digester installed by Revolution Energy Solutions at Lochmead Farms near Junction City, Oregon, processes manure from 750 cows into 1.5 MW of power.

(This article was first posted in April 2012.)

In addition to dairy digesters, some were even, back in in 2012, operated as co-digesters, two projects in development at that time were designed to process source separated food waste streams.

Article originally published in “BioCycle Magazine”; March 2012, Vol. 53, No. 3, p. 33 – by Dan Sullivan

Washington, Oregon and Idaho are experiencing an uptick in on-farm anaerobic digestion projects, with a total of 13 manure-based digesters between them (USEPA AgSTAR data). Additional farm digester projects are in development.The Northwest also will soon be home to a number of digesters being designed and built primarily to process food waste streams. These include Columbia Biogas in Portland, Oregon, and Green Lane Energy outside of Junction City, Oregon. This roundup features a few of these new and developing projects in the Northwest region.

Recently Operational

Lochmead Farms, Inc./Revolution Energy Solutions

“They’re the kind of guys that make changes in American agriculture.” So says Alan Tank of Revolution Energy Solutions, which installed a patented, psychrophilic (low temperature), sequential-batch anaerobic digester on Lochmead Farms, a 3,000-acre, 750-cow dairy operation near Junction City, Oregon, owned by Buzz and Jock Gibson, brothers and third-generation farmers. “We design, build, own and operate,” explains Tank, a managing partner who has been involved in agriculture and food production his whole career. “We understand that every dairy or other livestock farm in the United States already has a complex manure management system that is existing and paid for,” he says, therefore to make AD projects work they must enhance what’s already in place. “We say, ‘We’re going to bring all capital, we want you to bring the feedstock.’ That’s the premise we start with.”………..

……….. Funding for the $2.2 million project included Oregon’s Business Energy Tax Credit (BETC) program, which can cover up to half of eligible project costs, and federal 1603 Treasury Grant funds, which can cover up to a third of eligible costs. Since some of those “eligible costs” overlap and can’t be funded twice, “you get cut one way or the other,” notes Tank.

Anaerobic digester, Rexville, Washington

Farm Power Rexville in northwestern Washington state is one of five on-farm anaerobic digester projects that brothers Kevin and Daryl Maas have online or on the drawing table in the Pacific Northwest.

Farm Power

Farm Power Northwest, LLC, has five major anaerobic digester (AD) projects online or in the works in the Pacific Northwest. These include Farm Power Rexville and Lynden in Washington State, with Rainier Biogas under construction, and Farm Power Tillamook and Misty Meadow under construction in Oregon. In 2007, brothers Kevin and Daryl Maas founded the company, which uses a community based build-own-operate project development model.

Farm Power Rexville encompasses a 750 kW mixed plug-flow digester served by a total of 1,500 cows on two adjacent farms. Farm Power Linden is similarly configured, only it serves 2,000 cows, and one of the partnering farms heats a 3-acre greenhouse with waste heat from the generator set. Both are codigestion projects that take in food waste. Rainier Biogas near Enumclaw, Washington, was set up to manage the waste of 1,400 cows on four neighboring dairy farms and specifically to capture and export nitrogen and phosphorous out of a sensitive watershed…….

……Another challenge in Oregon has been the dropping price point of electricity. About 50 percent of the region’s electricity comes from hydro, and it’s relatively inexpensive. “We moved into Oregon knowing the prices of power [5-6 cents/kWh] were lower than in Washington,” he notes. “That’s why we focused on just these two projects. If we were out there to really push the envelope, I think the falling power prices would have clobbered us.”

Farm Power Tillamook is a 1,000 kW mixed plug-flow digester designed for 1,800 cows on three neighboring farms and is scheduled to begin producing electricity sometime in April 2012. Just a few miles away, Farm Power Misty Meadow represents the third digester project in Tillamook County and the second owned by Farm Power. “Both of these projects are within a mile of downtown Tillamook,” says Maas. “It’s great to be there and great to have the community support the dairy industry. It’s important to us to be in a place where they want dairy farms to stick around … and it’s better for stakeholder engagement.”

Start-Up Phase

Rock Creek Dairy/New EnergyOne, LLC

Three adjacent dairy farms in Filer, Idaho, owned by Bettencourt Dairies and operated under the name Rock Creek Dairy, will supply manure to a new anaerobic digester project being developed by New Energy One, LLC. The project will utilize digester technology from Northern Biogas of Green Bay, Wisconsin, and will be operated under contract with New Energy One by Standley & Co. of Jerome, Idaho. It will treat manure from 8,900 cows. Northern Biogas is supplying six approximately 1 million gallon vessels; five will be used to process the manure and one will be available for experimentation and research……..

…….Installed capacity of the project is 3 MW. “We are putting in two Caterpillar G3520 units,” says Kesting, adding that since Western States is a Caterpillar dealer the company was able to use CAT nonrecourse project financing and thereby minimize financial risks. New Energy One has signed a power-purchase agreement with Idaho Power. The project represents the fourth digester in Idaho’s Magic Valley. The first manure was added to the tanks in early February. Initial energy production is scheduled for March and full-scale operation is expected by August 2012.

Heat from the engines is being used to heat the digesters. A chemical separator is being installed for phosporus removal. “Chemical polymers sequester the phosphorus, and it stays with the fiber as opposed to going back to the lagoon,” he explains. “We’re able to pull out about 85 to 90 percent of the phosphorus.” There are currently no plans to process any off-farm organics. “Part of the permit with the county states that any outside organics have to be approved by the county,” Kesting says.

Development And Construction

Columbia Biogas

A $55 million biogas facility on an 11-acre site within the city of Portland, designed to provide 4.2 MW of power at build-out, is on track for an August 2013 startup. “We have our permits with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, have a solid waste franchise agreement, air quality permits from the state of Oregon and have had a preapplication meeting with the city of Portland for construction,” explains project engineer Dale Richwine.

A Good Neighbor Agreement with local residents provided a means to incorporate input from the community into the design. The facility will provide up to 15 full-time jobs. In order to secure Section 1603 Treasury Grant funds, Columbia Biogas had to invest at least 5 percent of project costs in order to qualify for “Safe Harbor” before that potential funding stream — for up to 30 percent of eligible costs — expired at the end of 2011. “We actually purchased our tanks last December, and they will be delivered in April to our warehouse,” says Richwine. A final hurdle is securing a guaranteed maximum price (GMP) from the general contractor, hand-in-hand with finalizing financing.

Phase I of the project will involve processing 100,000 tons annually of mixed food waste, industrial solids and liquids from local industry, along with grease trap waste……

“We plan to break ground in June of this year,” he notes.

……The biggest challenge fitting a biogas project into an urban setting is to make it cost-effective, says Richwine. “You can’t land apply the digestate, and you have to treat the liquids so they can be discharged to the sanitary sewer.” To tackle both environmental and economic concerns, the project will enlist such technologies as ammonia stripping in order to both create value-added products (e.g., ammonium sulfate and calcium carbonate) and minimize impacts to the local sewer system.

Green Lane Energy

A $13 million bioenergy plant near Junction City, Oregon, will turn waste straw, commercial organics such as vegetable and fruit waste and FOG (fat, oils and grease) collected from the city of Eugene, and livestock manure from area dairies, into 1.6 MW of electricity through anaerobic digestion. Funding for the project includes $2 million from the Energy Trust of Oregon, a nonprofit that channels public-purpose funds collected from ratepayers within the service territory of investor-owned utilities to energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Funding also included a 1603 Treasury Grant for up to a third of eligible project costs, a 1605 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant, a $3 million renewable energy grant from the state of Oregon and a $1.725 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. The projected return on investment is 10 years. The project will utilize continuous-stirred reactor wet digester technology supplied by Entec biogas Gmbh and a Caterpillar genset. It is being designed and engineered by ECOregon and Evergreen Engineering, respectively.

The industrially zoned site sits adjacent to 10,000 acres of broad-scale agriculture, mostly grass seed production, says project engineer Dean Foor. All permits are in place and excavating has begun, but construction was stalled due to some initial cost overruns. Concrete work is now scheduled to begin in April. …….

…….. “All supply and off-take agreements are in place,” says Foor, also commenting on the chicken-and-egg nature of getting feedstock agreements in place prior to project completion. “It’s incredibly painful to build the relationship with folks who supply that material in a way that they believe you are going to accomplish something that hasn’t been done before, and that they should contractually obligate themselves to that.”…

More at Anaerobic Digestion In The Northwest

The Anaerobic Digestion Community Website The Biogas Digester Technology and Information Website

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    • H Rundle
    • May 11, 2019

    Hello. I have checked your and i would like to know whether co-digestion with FOG (fats, oils and greases) is a good idea?

      • radimin
      • June 12, 2019

      Yes. It can work well. The pdf link below may help you on this. They say, for example: “Among biological inhibitors, lipid-rich wastes such as FOG are
      highly desirable co-digestion substrates because of their relatively high methane yield and synergies when co-digested with dairy manure. However, due to the possibility of
      inhibition, it is recommended to limit FOG to less than 10% of total solids input. In addition, high amounts of lipids can cause sludge flotation, digester foaming, blockage of pipes and
      pumps, and clogging of gas collection and handling systems (Long et al. 2012). ON-FARM CO-DIGESTION OF DAIRY MANUREWITH HIGH ENERGY ORGANICS

  1. Reply

    Thanks for this informative post. Also, farmers, food producers, and food suppliers are gradually turning to anaerobic digestion of food waste as the best waste management solution and a step toward becoming more environmentally conscious.

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