More dairies prepare to pass gas on to utility pipeline

North Visalia dairies will send methane from manure to Goshen facility where it will be made into renewable natural gas fuel

VISALIA – Dairies north of Visalia will soon be converting cow poop into power.

At its Sept. 1 meeting, the Tulare County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the construction of an underground pipeline connecting a dairy biogas facility in Goshen to Southern California Gas Company’s utility pipeline. The 5.1 mile pipeline will run along Avenue 328 north of Visalia. The pipeline will be buried three-feet below the surface and will cross Roads 80 and 108.

Prior to approving the project, there was some discussion about whether or not the project was exempt from California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Blanca Escobedo, a policy advocate with Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, objected to the exemption because of the length of the pipeline and the idea it will be filled with pressurized gas in area near homes and businesses.

“This doesn’t apply with letter or spirit of CEQA exemption,” Escobedo said. “I urge the board not to approve it and for the county to reconsider exceptions they use for these projects.”

Aaron Bock, assistant director of the county’s Resource Management Agency, said the pipeline does not require a more in-depth analysis because it is itself a mitigation of the impacts of dairy methane on air quality. He also said there was no immediate threat of leakage or other disruptions to nearby residences and businesses.

“The reduction in greenhouse gases does outweigh the speculative concerns,” Bock said. “We’ve used this exemption successfully for every biogas pipeline we have installed so far.”

The project, located on the west side of Road 68 just north of Avenue 312, is one of three Dairy Pilot Projects proposed by Visalia-based California Bioenergy LLC (CalBio) and approved by the state in 2018. Known as biomethane clusters, the facilities allow multiple dairies to send conditioned biogas captured from manure to a centralized upgrading facility where it will be upgraded into RNG and then injected into the public utility pipeline. This cluster will include the Mineral King, Rancho Sierra Vista, Jacobus DeGroot, Mellema, Rob Van Grouw, and Double J dairies.

CalBio digesters act as a large stomach using microorganisms to break down the manure and create biogas, primarily consisting of methane, which is then trapped in the digester instead of being released into the atmosphere. The biomethane is then converted to RNG to be used as an alternative to diesel fuel in heavy-duty trucks, buses and farm equipment.

The dairy biomethane pilot program is part of the state’s strategy to reduce emissions of short lived climate pollutants, including methane, which is 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Legislation adopted in 2016 requires the state to reduce methane emissions from the dairy and other livestock sectors by 40% by 2030. Emissions from dairy manure account for approximately 25% of the state’s overall methane emissions. The interagency committee that selected the projects consisted of representatives from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA).

CalBio’s North Visalia cluster, as well as clusters in South Tulare and Buttonwillow, were awarded funding which adds to its existing clusters and projects being developed in Bakersfield, Hanford, West Visalia, and Fresno and Merced counties.

CalBio is directly involved in half of the 123 dairy digester projects in operation or development across the state. Ninety-four percent of those projects are at San Joaquin Valley dairies, 55 of which are in Tulare County. According to DairyCares.com, a single cow can generate enough renewable fuel to drive a car across the country. Five cows are enough to power a house for an entire year.

CalBio is the leading developer of dairy digesters generating renewable electricity and vehicle fuel in California. Founded in 2006, CalBio has worked closely with the dairy industry and state agencies to help the state achieve its methane reduction goals. For more information, visit www.calbioenergy.com.

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