Cattle gas pipeline raises environmental support, monopoly concerns – InForum

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At a bar in the western Minnesota town of Benson on Tuesday night, Jan. 30, residents press natural gas companies over a pipeline intended to transport biogas from dairy cows as green energy. .

While many people asked about rights-of-way and the possibility of connecting natural gas to local communities in the future, some groups said that projects to convert livestock waste would bridge the gap between small and medium-sized farmers and farmers. He expressed concern about how to expand it. The state’s largest dairy factory.

“Will this improve the odor coming from this dairy farm?” asked Elaine Mittenes, a nearby farmer. “It is not possible to open the windows at the moment.”

Illinois-based Amp Americas is building processing facilities, known in the industry as renewable natural gas, at four farms in western Minnesota: Meadowstar Dairy, East Dublin Dairy, Swenoda Dairy and Lauriston Dairy. . All dairy products are owned by Riverview, the state’s largest dairy company, based in Morris, Minnesota.

Amp Americas captures methane from livestock waste and converts it for use as natural gas. Dooley’s, a small company based in Willmar, Minn., plans to transport gas from there to the larger Alliance pipeline system that will stretch from British Columbia to Chicago. Dooley’s planned to build about 45 miles of pipe through Chippewa, Kandiyohi and Swift counties. The pipeline itself will cost about $13.9 million, mostly construction and labor costs.

Dooley’s applied for a route permit from the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in September, but only a small portion of the pipeline requires PUC approval. Owner Randy Dooley said Dooley’s also needs local approval.

If all goes according to plan, Dooley’s is expected to begin construction on the pipeline later this year, with the pipeline expected to open in August.

Amp Americas has not disclosed details of the project. But Andy Dvoracek, the company’s vice president of business development, briefed the Kandiyohi County Commission in October.

Dvorak said the project is fully funded and under construction. And he said it’s similar to an existing project in Stevens County where the company is producing gas from three Riverview farms. Dvorak said Amp will build a large silo-like anaerobic digester on each farm in the new project, occupying two to three acres. Then there’s also the gas plant, which occupies about an acre.

“These are small pieces in the grand scheme of gas processing,” Dvorczek said.

This gas can generate credits in the market to reduce carbon emissions, since replacing traditional natural gas use requires carbon pollution from cows. Dvorczek said its biggest market is California, where the company sells gas for transportation. Dvorak said in October that the company has 14 projects in the United States.

“This project ultimately [renewable natural gas] Rather than being immediately released into the atmosphere, the fertilizer gas was emitted from the four dairy farms,” Dooley wrote in a filing with the PUC.

In Minnesota, gas from livestock is also valuable to natural gas utilities looking to reduce carbon emissions, an inherently difficult challenge when your primary product is fossil fuels. Xcel Energy is proposing to spend $3.5 million to buy a small portion of the “environmental attributes” produced by Amp Americas under a five-year contract, spokesman Theo Keith said. he said.

The pilot is part of a broader Excel plan submitted in January under a state law to help gas companies test innovative ways to reduce their climate impact. These attributes are credits similar to carbon offsets and represent the environmental benefits of gas, Keith said.

In its filing with the PUC, Excel said it expects the entire project to prevent 150,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually, equivalent to the emissions of more than 30,000 cars a year.

But converting a waste stream from the largest dairy farms into a profit stream has alarmed some rural agricultural and environmental groups in Minnesota, who believe the project could lead to a concentration on the agricultural industry. They argue that it will only make things worse.

“This is more than just a pipeline,” Anne Borgendale, communications director for Montevideo, Minn.-based environmental group CURE, said Tuesday.

In a public filing ahead of Tuesday’s hearing, CURE and the sustainable agriculture organization Land Stewardship Project said Dooley’s pipes and associated digester infrastructure would allow dairy farms to supersize and reduce the number of independent farmers. He warned that this would lead to increased competition and further pollution of waterways. Spreading cow manure on fields as fertilizer can cause runoff.

“The incentive is to continue producing fertilizer, and perhaps increase production of fertilizer, and not simply add more fertilizer due to methane,” Sara Mooradian, CURE’s director of government relations and policy, said in a filing with the PUC. “In order to generate income, we continue to produce fertilizer that would otherwise not have been produced.” It was created not for this project. ”

The permit also comes at a time when Minnesota’s dairy industry is in increasing decline. The state lost nearly 150 dairy permits between January 2023 and the end of the year. On Thursday, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will visit St. Charles, Minn., to tout investments in federal clean energy grants, many of which will pay Minnesota farmers to procure fertilizer digesters. It is being said.

Professor Roger Ruan of the University of Minnesota said fertilizer digesters have been used for many years in the European Union, which emphasizes sustainability. Rather than spreading cow manure onto fields, dairy farmers can use digesters to convert methane gas from lagoons and tanks into other uses, such as energy production.

“So far, we haven’t paid much attention to this wastewater use,” said Ruan, director of the US Biorefining Center. “What we think is [manure] As a fertilizer for growing plants. But much of the nutrients are lost and streams and waterways are actually polluted. ”

But the technology has struggled to gain relevance in the U.S. According to the Pennsylvania Extension Agency, there are more than 600 digesters in operation in Europe, but only 14% of the world’s systems are in the United States.

In Stearns County, the heart of Minnesota’s dairy region, another project aimed at building large digesters to produce biogas from methane is under development in the U.S. by oil conglomerate Shell, the Danish company’s parent company. It was folded after it was cancelled.

Methane emitted from cow flatulence and belching contributes to global warming, which is why greenhouse gases were the focus of the latest COP summit in Dubai. Supporters tout the digesters as a win for the environment, including Minnesota’s polluted waterways and air.

Asked Tuesday night by local residents near the pipeline route about the possibility of a drop in property values, Dooley said, “If there’s any impact on property, it would be positive.”

©2024 Star Tribune. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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