In Pennsylvania, it’s not unusual to see cows grazing in the distance while driving down the back roads. But as much as everyone loves cows, most of us like to keep enough distance from them because no one really likes the smell of cow manure. But what if that cow manure could potentially become an inexpensive source for fueling your car and powering your home? That smell doesn’t seem so bad now does it? Producing natural gas from cows seems like a grand idea to me!
It’s true; in fact the clean energy concept is already in use all over the country. The process of turning waste into natural gas from cows by using anaerobic digesters has become much more efficient than other processes in the past. The first people to test out this resourceful process are the farmers down at Fair Oaks Farm, in Fair Oaks Indiana.
“We take the manure from the cows and put it into sealed digester vessels, the manure is heated to 100 degrees at which the bacteria produces methane and CO2, which is called biogas. The Biogas is cleaned to remove the CO2, using water and pressure to create biomethane, which is then odorized to create renewable natural gas” explains Mark Stoermann of AMP Americas. AMP Americas is an energy company that’s partnering with Fair Oaks Farm to create this fuel.
After further investigation, it appears that Fair Oaks Farm is not only one of the largest dairy farms in the country, but it’s also at the forefront of innovation. This 30,000 acre dairy farm harnesses the power of poop from tens of thousands of cows, to run its barns, offices, cheese factory, and gift shop. What takes this farm one step ahead of the rest is its ability to power its 42 tractor trailers that deliver milk to nearby states with renewable gas that also comes from animal waste. “We’re self sufficient and we’re lowering our carbon footprint,” says Gary Corbett, Fair Oaks Farm CEO.
Each cow is said to emit between 250 and 300 liters of pure methane a day, which is enough energy to keep a refrigerator running for 24 hours. And with 36,000 cows on the farm and over a million gallons of manure on site, a constant source of energy is readily available. The cows don’t get all the credit. Fair Oaks Farm is working with 3,000 pigs as well. Pig waste is not as efficient for making fuel, but it’s used as an additive to boost the power of the cow waste. That means no waste goes to waste.
As long as we keep milking cows, we should have an endless supply of natural gas!