WasteExpo 2017: Bettering the world of biogas

WasteExpo 2017: Bettering the world of biogas

Representatives from the biogas industry spoke at WasteExpo in New Orleans about their best practices suited for municipalities.

May 16, 2017

Diverting organics from the waste stream and reducing food waste recently became a larger subject many municipalities in North America has come across. From meeting diversion goals to reducing greenhouse gases (GHG), representatives from the American Biogas Council in Washington, Vanguard Renewables of Wellesley, Massachusetts, and BiogasWorld in Quebec, shared examples of their best biogas practices during WasteExpo 2017 in New Orleans.

Vanguard teams up with farmers across the U.S. to implement anaerobic digesters (AD) on farms to create a cost-effective solution to the waste produced on them. Topher Gudmand, director of sales for the company’s food and organics diversion department, cited codigestion on dairy farms as a way to hit two birds with one stone.

According to Gudmand, codigestion on a dairy farm reduces odors, manages nutrient loading and, through the introduction of food waste, can create a new opportunity for farmers who are already using AD for organic waste. For farmers, using AD for digestion can be an inexpensive organic disposal site, and less cost is necessary for the current state of dairy farmers.

Because of the new administration’s ban on exporting milk from New England to Canada, dairy farmers in the area are currently dealing with a surplus and thus, several facilities are shutting down. This type of legislation, along with the increasingly popular food waste bans being implemented throughout the U.S., can cause challenges in terms of disposal.

Codigestion on a farm works so well, Gundmand says, because cow manure creates a resting place for the microbes used during the process and stabilizes the process as well.

For example, Vanguard’s partnership with Cabot Creamery in West Springfield, Massachusetts, creates a completely closed-loop system: Cabot takes milk from a local dairy farm and creates butter, which is purchased and disposed of. The disposed butter is used as feedstock for the digester, which creates energy that is given to both the farm and Cabot. Because warmer farms create a more comfortable environment for the cow, the cow is happier, produces more milk and therefore, creates a better product and increases profit for the farm.

The partnership was honored by the American Biogas Council. In 2016, it was named Agricultural Project of the Year.

But the American Biogas Council does more for the biogas industry than give awards. According to Norma McDonald, vice chair of the organization, the American Biogas Council also offers a middleman between the industry and government.

In 2016, the council flew into Washington to meet with more than 35 legislative offices and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to demand fair treatment of biogas in the second version of the Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS2). The council also shared its 2019 farm bill priorities and the desire to carve out digester funding and including digesters in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Waste Reduction Model (WARM).

According to McDonald, the government excluded biogas producers from tax credit extensions but still demand biogas producers “play by the same rules” as other renewable energy producers. Currently, the American Biogas Council is working to insert renewable natural gas into existing tax breaks for fossil-derived duels, such as depletion allowances that recognizes the decreasing value of a fuel asset, small producer tax exemptions and research and development credits.

But in order to enter the biogas industry, and to participate in the activities mentioned above, an individual must make sure they receive the most accurate and up-to-date information. According to Maxime Lemonde, founder and CEO of website BiogasWorld, the database he provides can help.

Lemonde says there are more than 2,000 biogas companies in the world that can work in the U.S. market, and to figure out which is best for you, BiogasWorld aggregates their information on one website. The company manages BiogasBids, a platform that gathers requests for proposals (RFPs) for developers to pick and choose from. Training for cities and schools to help them better understand their needs and free calculation tools are also offered on the platform. There are currently 2,500 users per month with more than 15,000 page views per month on the platform.

“Information and communication technology can help get a better understanding of the industry,” Lemonde says. “BiogasWorld helps developers find what they need at one place without geographical borders.”

WasteExpo 2017 took place from May 8 to 11 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.