Dairies are becoming an energy source for California while dramatically purifying the air


Don’t be surprised one day if you come across gas refineries heading south out of Manteca, either on Maim Street, Union Road, or Airport Way.

That’s because the milk you poured on your cereal this morning, the newest of 32 flavors you can enjoy this afternoon at Baskin-Robbins, or the butter you can spread on a bun tonight all have necessitated the creation of methane gas to produce.

Specifically, the cows that produced the milk generate a lot of cow droppings that are extremely high in methane gas. So rich that among the more than 1.7 million dairy cows in California, it is the number one source of methane, a greenhouse gas that is more problematic than carbon dioxide when it comes to air quality.

Research shows that methane gas over a century has an impact 34 times greater than CO2.

Turning this cow-produced methane gas into a viable, nearly emission-free fuel is now possible on an economically viable scale thanks to evolving technology and California’s greenhouse gas subsidies.

Dairy gas is by far the cleanest fuel on Sacramento’s greenhouse emissions rating scale, even leaving food waste in the dust, like what the city of Manteca produces in conjunction with generated methane gas by the West Yosemite Avenue Municipal Wastewater Treatment Plant, nestled against the town of Lathrop. limits.
Companies such as California Bioenergy, known as CalBio, install covered lagoons in dairies that function as a digester. The manure is discharged from the dairy barns into the digester.

This collects the methane gas for processing. It’s similar to what Manteca does. In city operations, the gigantic squat tanks have floating roofs that rise and fall based on the volume of stored methane gas that is extracted from the human waste treatment process.

The Manteca operation has enough methane from the more than 100,000 people who dispose of human waste – the 87,000 residents of Manteca and much of the population of Lathrop – for biogas to be produced in enough to power solid waste collection trucks and other vehicles on a daily basis. .

The more food waste is added to the process, the more fuel can be produced.

In the case of dairy farms, there must be many in relatively close proximity where the methane gas can be piped to a central location for purification. After that, the pure biogas is mixed with the pipeline of a local utility.

That’s why many of the state’s growing dairy-gas facilities are in the dairy-rich Central San Joaquin Valley around communities like Tulare.

Given the evolution of technology, greenhouse credits and the market as well as the location of PG&E natural gas lines, the day may come when San Joaquin County dairies produce biogas for heat homes, power factory furnaces and even power vehicles.

You might think that’s a little crazy given the executive orders issued from Sacramento by the Newsom administration and the California Legislature to go to the exclusive sale of new emission-free vehicles starting in the year 2035 and the pressure to prohibit natural gas heating and appliances in new construction.

But as with all initiatives pushed into the political system by fanatics, they often lack perspective due to their myopic nature. They get enough universal support to be successful given their basic purpose. In the case of vehicles and future energy consumption in new homes, this is the need for better air quality as well as reducing anthropogenic pressure on the climate change dial.
The reason for using methane to produce biogas that essentially replaces relatively clean-burning natural gas is good old-fashioned scientific logic. Since humans are going to create human waste, just like dairy cows which are a big part of the nutritional and food needs of 7 billion people, prevent methane from being released into the atmosphere and use it to fuel things like cars is an extremely powerful process for improving the global environment while supporting human survival.
It is true that at the point of consumption – in this case, powering vehicles – electric batteries are zero emissions. Biogas is very close to zero emissions at the point of fuel consumption.

But when you factor in the process required to create the fuel source, biogas circles around electricity. This is due to the biogas production process preventing the extremely problematic release of methane into the atmosphere. Remember that over a period of 100 years, science estimated that methane gas was 34 times more harmful than CO2.

The assumption that electricity generated by solar, wind or hydro will be the only energy source of the future assuming that nuclear energy is always out of the environmental movement is as short-sighted as assuming in 1901 that horses would be the predominant mode of production. transportation for the next 100 years.

All of these renewable energy sources present pitfalls in terms of reliable production. Water in times of drought or even in normal late summer conditions does not always flow, the wind drops and there are nights as well as days with fog, rain, clouds or a foggy pollution.

There’s also the practicality of battery-powered vehicles in a variety of locations and operations, not to mention the vast remote areas of California. The same goes for electricity – whether supplied by power lines or generated on site – providing the means to heat homes, heat water and cook meals in areas such as snow in the Sierra.

This is why biogas has a bright future.

Not only can it be easily stored without losing its potency as a fuel, but it also significantly reduces greenhouse gases through its production.

None of this negates the need for zero-emission vehicles and weaning off fossil fuels.

In terms of solving problems and ultimately achieving the best possible air quality and the greatest reduction in the impacts of human civilization on climate change, biogas is a much more efficient commodity.

We clearly need both.

It is also clear that 100% electric vehicles and 100% electric homes are not 100% reliable to do the job in all conditions and, according to trends over the past 50 years or so, are more expensive.

A simple comparison of the heat generated by British therm and the cost of doing so when it comes to water heaters powered by natural gas versus electricity underscores this point.

If you think of the Earth as a “planetary vessel”, biogas makes perfect sense.

By harnessing and recycling what humans need to stay alive in a space lab, be it water or other elements, creates a sustainable environment.

Making good use of methane gas is an extension of research-oriented science as opposed to policy-oriented science.

This column is the opinion of the editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of the Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com


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