Wisconsin dairy begins production of renewable natural gas

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Renewable natural gas production recently began at Clover Hill Dairy in Campbellsport, Wisconsin. Photo courtesy of U.S. Gain.

A Wisconsin dairy farm is now producing renewable natural gas with the help of two Wisconsin Clean Cities members.

This spring, U.S. Gain and CMD CNG Energy Solutions – both of which are headquartered in Appleton, Wisconsin – completed a gas processing facility at Clover Hill Dairy in Campbellsport, Wisconsin.

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“This project is important to the state of Wisconsin for a number of reasons,” Lorrie Lisek, Wisconsin Clean Cities executive director, said. “Not only does it increase access to a domestic alternative transportation fuel that helps reduce harmful tailpipe emissions, it also supports the Wisconsin dairy industry and the farmers who play a critical role in our state’s economy. We are proud of the work of our members involved in this project and for all they do to support the Clean Cities mission.”

Anaerobic digesters break down organic matter and create biogas. The non-methane components of the biogas are removed, allowing the methane to be used as a fuel or energy source. U.S. Gain has partnered with several farming operations throughout the Midwest to meet the growing demand for renewable natural gas.

“Many of the large farms already have digesters. We work with them to take and distribute the [renewable natural gas] produced, but the Clover Hill project goes one step beyond that,” Bryan Nudelbacher, U.S. Gain Director of RNG Business Development, said. “Now, we’re also actively leading development of gas processing facilities and coordinating transportation of pipeline-grade gas to injection sites, drawing on skill-sets from industry experts, as appropriate.”

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Nacelle Solutions will own, operate and maintain the equipment, which includes advanced natural gas compression technology, a centralized site controller and site support from CMD CNG Energy Solutions. The Clover Hill site is the first in a series of four renewable natural gas farm projects involving CMD as an equipment and service vendor. The remaining three are scheduled to be operational within the next few months.

“Along with the latest in gas compression technology, CMD has developed a centralized site controller unique to the industry for the Clover Hill project,” said Brad Schmoll, CMD CNG Business Development Manager and Wisconsin Clean Cities board member. 

Schmoll said the site controller connects the discreet components of the facility, provides centralized control, allows for the consistent collection of metrics essential for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Renewable Identification Number (RIN) program and is used to verify the gas is of pipeline quality. The touch screen also provides productivity and output data and has built-in alerts for any component or system issues.

The system delivers critical data in near real-time, improving operational efficiency and ensuring uninterrupted production. Schmoll said the site will produce more than 50 million standard cubic feet of renewable natural gas annually. This equates to the environmental benefits of displacing more than 360,000 gallons of diesel fuel per year.

CMD’s 24/7 call center will provide around-the-clock monitoring and assistance which will contribute to the uninterrupted production of the clean-burning fuel.

The Clover Hill project improves access to renewable natural gas for the transportation and thermal energy sector but also benefits communities surrounding the farm. The digester will now capture 99% of methane produced during the production, significantly improving localized air quality.

Nudelbacher said the renewable natural gas produced is of particular value to West Coast fleets where air quality, “is a tremendous concern.”

“Fleets that use [renewable natural gas] within their operations are able to claim transportation-emission reductions, strengthening sustainability performance and also share in the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) environmental credit value,” Nudelbacher said.

Photo by Matthias Zomer

The Bonlender family at Clover Hill Dairy has had a methane digester since 2007 that provided safer manure for fertilizer, electrical production and renewable bedding for animals.

“By replacing our generators with the [renewable natural gas] system, our farm will see many added environmental benefits such as less noise pollution (from generators), cleaner air and less odor,” Jon Bonlender said. “Our business will also see an added income stream. Our family feels this partnership with U.S. Gain is a great opportunity for our farm and our greater community.”

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