Cow poop could help power your next package delivery.
“We milk about 2,500 cows a day,” said Evan Barton, the owner of South Fork Dairy in Newark, Ohio. “With that comes about 11 semi loads of manure per day.”
Besides using it to fertilize crops, Barton found another way to make all of that manure even more useful.
He now works with a number of other organizations, including Clean Energy Fuels, a natural gas distribution company, to put that manure into an anaerobic digester.
“The anaerobic digester will harvest the methane that once was escaping into the environment. Now, we’re going to capture that methane and convert it into renewable natural gas,” he said.
That gas will then be injected into a pipeline to a new fueling station that provides renewable natural gas. This station will help fuel Amazon trucks and other fleets. Barton’s farm alone will replace diesel from an estimated 50 semi trucks per year.
This means less methane emissions from his farm while also displacing fossil fuels.
“We’re in an environment where, politically, cows are getting beat up for methane emissions,” Barton said. “It will benefit my farm, as we dairy, many dairies, we’ve always tried to do what's sustainable and renewable.”
Barton said another benefit of the digester is that it takes away some of the smell. After the methane extraction process, the manure can still be used to apply to the fields for fertilization.
Anaerobic digesters aren’t new. Barton said they’ve been around for at least 20 years, mostly used to produce electricity.
Anaerobic digestion can take manure, food waste, or other wastewater biosolids and convert it into biogas or digestate. This can then be used to create electricity, heat, vehicle fuel, organic fertilizer, animal bedding, and a number of other products, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
“The difference now is, now the digesters are converting the methane and manure into renewable natural gas,” he said.
The fueling station in nearby Groveport, Ohio is the first construction project completed as part of an agreement between Clean Energy and Amazon. A total of 19 new stations were built as part of the agreement.
“We love our cows and we love dairy farming and we want to be able to keep doing it,” said Barton, who owns a few dairy farms in other states as well. “We hope it provides another stream of revenue to make our business profitable and sustainable from that standpoint as margins continue to be thin.”