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Biogas expansion in Ohio relies on manure, other wastes generated on the farm
A new regional biogas plant and more than a dozen anaerobic digesters in the works are helping Ohio increase its presence in the renewable energy industry.
Construction is scheduled to start this summer on a $10 million biogas plant in northwest Ohio that will turn food waste from the Campbell Soup Co. and agricultural waste into electricity.
“There’s not another facility of this size in Ohio that can process as much organic waste,” said Kara Allison, spokeswoman for Hull & Associates, Inc., a Dublin-based engineering firm.
Hull is working on the project with CH4 Biogas LLC, a Florida-based firm that pursues opportunities for anaerobic digestion of organic wastes. The two firms have formed Napoleon Biogas, LLC to own and operate the plant, which will be on 7.3 acres across from the Campbell plant near Napoleon. Construction is scheduled to begin in late summer with the plant open by the end of the year. The project will be partially financed with equity provided by Hull and CH4 and tax-exempt bonds issued by the Regional Port Authority of Northwest Ohio.
Organic waste from food processing remains largely untapped as a source of renewable energy in Ohio, Allison said. Hull and CH4 moved forward with the project after a study showed sufficient organic waste from Campbell’s, area foodprocessers, waste recyclers and farms to support a regional biogas facility.
“Our evaluation showed there is enough (organic waste) to keep the facility operational and it will be able to take more capacity,” Allison said. “This is a great alternative because not only are you avoiding sending (organic material) to a landfill but you are turning it into an energy source.”
The plant works by partially pasteurizing organic waste and then putting it into a vat tank where it is constantly turned. As the material starts to break down through anaerobic digestion, heat is generated. Large scale generators then help take that heat and convert it to electricity and low-pressure steam. The plant will produce about 22.7 million kilowatt hours of electricity a year, or enough to power 2,500 homes.
Once operational, the new facility will have the capacity to anaerobically digest 450 tons of mixed organic waste per day. Because the biogas facility needs the right mix of organic material, it will need organic waste from farmers to make it work, Allison said. Several large egg and livestock producers have expressed interest in having their manure and organic waste such as broken egg shells be used at the plant. Farmers could potentially be paid for their organic material, she said.
“If somebody has only a little bit every once in awhile, this may be more of a collection opportunity rather than a pay situation for those who have a steady stream of material,” she said.
At the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC), another company is busy working on 40 anaerobic digestion systems in the United States, including 13 in Ohio, said Caroline Henry, marketing manager for quasar energy group.
Quasar is a full-service waste-to-energy company that was the first tenant of OARDC’s BioHio Research Park, a business and technology center on the Wooster campus. The company, which changed its name from Schmack BioEnergy, started its first U.S. anaerobic digestion facility in Akron in 2007. It also has facilities in Wooster, Columbus and at OARDC where it built its flagship anaerobic digester, which accepts manure, crops and food waste.
“We brought the European design over and had our engineers tweak and change it so it can accept a wide variety of materials and not just corn silage” as is done in Europe where there are almost 8,000 systems, Henry said.
To help commercialize new patent pending technology, quasar and OARDC last year received a $2 million Third Frontier grant. iADs, or Integrated Anaerobic Digestion System, combines quasar’s existing liquid anaerobic digestion technology with solid state anaerobic digestion technology that will expand the universe of feedstocks the system is able to accept, Henry said. Solid state digestion can process woody biomass such as yard waste while significantly increasing the system’s energy output.
Henry pointed out that the products of anaerobic digestion are beneficial to the agriculture industry because not only do they produce electricity and heat but effluent, which can be applied to farms as fertilizer. Systems that have dewatering equipment can be used as animal bedding on farms. Another benefit of the systems is that they can manage manure odors and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from farms by capturing methane present in the manure and using it to generate energy.
“The future of Ohio’s clean energy economy is the generation of alternative motor vehicle fuel from organic residuals,” Henry said. “Ohio’s abundant biomass resources have the potential to offset almost 20 percent of the state’s fuel consumption with CNG (compressed natural gas) or LNG (liquefied natural gas). Imagine, 20 percent of Ohioans’ motor vehicle fuel from an alternative resource within the state that costs one-fourth the price of gasoline (per gallon of gasoline equivalent).”
Photo by quasar energy group