2017 - Volume #41, Issue #1, Page #31[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
This Dairy Farm Turns Manure Into Diesel FuelCalifornia’s Scott Brothers Dairy Farm has developed a unique way to make sulfur-free diesel fuel using manure from more than 1,100 head of dairy cows.
The idea was born out of necessity in 2007, just before the family farm marked its 100th birthday. At that time the Scott Brothers were faced with new regulations from California water quality officials that indicated they had the “potential to contaminate or degrade water quality” with animal waste. “Even if you have just the potential to contaminate, you must cease to contaminate,” Bruce says. So organic farming, using natural fertilizer, was basically banned. They were faced with a difficult decision and few options, and none of them would result in saving both their dairy farm and the family creamery just 50 miles away.
Scott says their options were to either go out of business, move the dairy, or add cost by hauling the waste to another site out of the county or out of the state altogether. None of those were feasible. Instead, they get together with Agricultural Waste Solutions, a local company, and the Dairy was able to get permits to farm for the next 5 years with a promise they would work on real solutions to the waste problem.
They built a portable pilot-sized diesel fuel production system on the farm and by April of 2015 they had their first batch of diesel fuel from dairy cow manure, proving the process could work.
Stephen McCorkle, CEO of Agricultural Waste Solutions, says the process turns manure into fuel and several other useful co-products, with zero waste and even meets and exceeds the toughest emissions standards of Southern California.
The process first separates solids from liquids, which leaves about 2 percent of the solids in the water. This nitrogen-rich water can be used for irrigation on the farm without being too potent, protecting against major runoff problems. The water can also be further treated to create drinking water for the cows.
The combined solids are gasified in a sealed chamber that makes a gas of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. The gas then goes into a Fischer-Tropsch module, which converts it into diesel fuel and a high grade wax. The wax can be sold to refineries to make fuel such as kerosene, jet fuel, or heating oil. Another by-product is biochar, which is full of nutrients for the soil and is already broken down and ready to be soil applied. The structure of bio char also acts like a living sponge in the soil and actually allows a crop to grow on about 40 percent less water, which is especially important in California.
The current pilot project produces one barrel of diesel and two tons of biochar a day. Equipment is housed in a portable structure.
Scott says the diesel burns just like most of today’s clean technology diesel. It smells like regular diesel from the pump, but without the sulfur. The dairy can use the diesel they produce around their farm. It would have to be sold to a refinery to make over-the-road diesel.
The Dairy hopes that funding for a larger, commercial scale and fully automated system may soon be secured. This system would produce 10 barrels of diesel a day, 20 tons of biochar, and still produce zero waste. Increasing to that level could potentially lead to a whole new renewable diesel commercial market.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Scott Brothers Dairy, 12006 East End Ave., Chino, Calif. 91710 (ph 909 270-2504; www.scottbrothersdairy.com); or Stephen McCorkle, Agricultural Waste Solutions, Inc., 4607 Lakeview Canyon Road, no. 185, Westlake Village, Calif. 91361 (ph 805 551-0116, www.agwastesolutions.com).
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