Maas Energy Works (MEW), based in Redding is leading clusters of dairies in Merced and Denair in installation of “Dairy Digester” systems. The purpose is converting manure to renewable natural gas that will be injected into utility pipelines. These projects are a collective investment exceeding $100 million.
California has more dairy cows than any other state – approaching two million head. Dairies located in close proximity to each other makes it possible to connect their manure processing through a network of metered pipelines, eventually arriving at a shared treatment plant.
“The Digester replicates a cow’s stomach to continue the digestion of manure,” explained Doug Bryant, MEW Communications Director. “The result is a 60 percent reduction of methane emissions and the resulting odors. Processing the manure from one cow is equal to four barrels of oil, or like taking the emissions of one car off the road.”
Digesters help family dairies to comply with ever-tightening air quality emissions laws in the State of California while earning income from the gas they produce. It works a lot like independent solar power producers earn money by selling excess electricity into the power grid.
Passed under Governor Brown’s leadership in September 2016, California Dairy Regulation (SB 13-83) calls for tougher regulations to reduce methane emissions from manure and cows. The law is demanding a 40 percent reduction of methane emissions from 2013 levels by 2030.
With an average installation cost of about $4 million per dairy, a Merced County cluster of eight diaries will go into operation in Spring of 2020, with two more dairies connecting the following year. A second cluster of 18 dairies, injecting renewable gas into the PG&E pipeline in Denair, will come online late in 2021.
Each dairy site is equipped with collection equipment and a pumping system. Each cluster shares a treatment facility near the pipeline injection site. There, the captured methane gas is refined to achieve the same standards as the natural gas already flowing through the utility pipelines.
Grants from California Department of Food & Agriculture’s (CDFA) Dairy Digester Research and Development Program (DDRDP) will be funding part of each dairy’s cost to install equipment. The grant money comes from California Climate Investments for methane emissions reductions from dairy and livestock operations.
MEW does an assessment of all the project variable at each dairy. Bryant says most dairies with 700 or more milking Holsteins are large enough for the economics to make sense. In some cases, two smaller neighboring dairies have both contributed to one Digester and made it work. Dairies too far from a cluster to connect by pipeline may choose to transport their manure by truck to a processing site.
“There is no charge for us to review a dairy’s situation. Dairymen may finance the equipment and pay MEW for the installation and operating services. Or they can let MEW finance and operate the system and pay the dairy for their manure production,” Bryant said. “It really is a zero risk and there’s a possible profit for the dairy.”
MEW opened in 2007 when Daryl Maas and his brother Kevin began working in “cow power.” They built and operated five digesters in Oregon and Washington. Their first California project was in 2010.
“We have been operating projects since 2008 and have never had one shut down,” Bryant smiled. “We have 30 full time employees now. Of the 16 operational digesters brought online in California in the last six years, Maas Energy Works has developed 12 of them.”
For more information about the local dairy digester projects visit online at: maasenergy.com or call Doug Bryant at (207) 691-8068.