published on May 11, 2017 - 11:41 AM
Written by The Business Journal Staff

Calgren Renewable Fuels is permitting some 20 miles of new pipeline in Tulare County to connect Pixley-area dairies to Calgren’s biofuel production plant on Highway 99.

Calgren President Lyle Schlyer said the company currently connects to just one dairy but will increase biogas volumes by as much as 20 times when the project connects to a number of nearby dairies up to several miles away by the end of 2017 and into next year.

The biogas, collected from covered lagoons at dairies, is both a problem for the diaries and “an opportunity for both of us,” said Schlyer, “replacing fossil fuel natural gas for the boilers at the Calgren plant with biogas, lowering our carbon footprint.”

“This is the kind of project people talk about, but we are going to get it done,” the Tulare County biofuel maker added.

California dairies are under the gun to reduce methane emissions, with some operators looking to spend money for expensive on-site dairy digesters. But this approach to fighting climate change allows dairy operators to export the stuff to a much larger digester at the Calgren plant, allowing them to concentrate on what they know best — milk production.

Schlyer said the gas would be used at the plant for cogeneration, making electricity along with making ethanol. He says the firm is interested in other possible uses for the gas as a transport fuel, for example. Biodiesel plant in works
Calgren is also building a $9 million biodiesel plant at their site, using some $3.5 million in grant monies from the California Energy Commission (CEC). Like the ethanol they produce, the new biodiesel fuel will be sold into the Fresno market.

Schlyer said the plant will test new technology enabling them to handle tougher greases that are difficult to process for most biodiesel producers. Schlyer said the 5.4 million gallon biodiesel plant should be operating by year’s end. The waste heat from the biodiesel plant built on half an acre will be used at the plant, making the whole operation more efficient, according to a state report.

The CEC is funding several other Valley biodiesel plants this year, including two at the Lost Hills Wonderful nut processing plants using shells as a feedstock and in Bakersfield at the state’s largest biodiesel plant run by Crimson Renewables.

The CEC its also funding another dairy biogas collection concept in Kern County with 15 dairies supplying 1 billion cubic feet of biogas a year to a central digester plant.

The diary industry in the Valley blasted the state for implementing the tougher rules on methane reduction, but now some good could be coming out of it.

Last year Jerry Brown signed a law aimed at cutting methane emissions from cattle operations, thought to be the largest source of heat-trapping methane in the state, mostly from dairy manure. The new law requires the livestock industry to cut methane emissions to 40 percent of 2013 levels by 2030. The state Air Resources Board mandates that 75 percent of the cuts need to come from the state’s dairies.

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