Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?



Cargill Generates Sustainable Biogas from Cow Pies

Cargills third manure-to-biogas operation begins at Idaho dairy farmIt looks like our energy future is at least partly in the hands of cows, now that agribusiness giant Cargill has joined the manure-to-biogas gold rush.  The company has just announced that its second biogas project is up and running at the Bettencourt Dairy B6 Farm in Jerome, Idaho.   Using manure produced by the farm’s 6,000 cows, the biogas project is generating enough renewable methane to make electricity for about 1,100 typical homes.  That’s just the latest installation in a trend that is seeing manure-to-biogas facilities popping up on farms across the United States like mushrooms after a rain.


This is Cargill’s third foray into dairy cow biogas in Idaho.  The venture also boosts the company’s involvement in the global renewable energy market, because it will generate about 28,000 tons of carbon emissions offsets.  It underscores how rapidly the renewable energy sector is growing from small scale experimental roots  into a fully commercialized global market force that is chewing away at the dominance of fossil fuels.

Cow Pies and Biogas

The basic process for producing biogas from animal waste is called anaerobic digestion.  It has been around for at least thirty years and is fairly common in municipal wastewater treatment plants (yes we count as animals).  The process involves enclosing manure in hermetically sealed chambers called digesters, where bacteria break down organic matter.  It’s the same thing that happens in nature only it happens in a tightly controlled environment, resulting in a far more quick and efficient process.  The end result is  methane gas, which can be burned in generators to create electricity.  New York State is aggressively promoting biogas technology as a money saver for small dairy farms; it provides renewable electricity to run equipment at the farm, it can produce high-value fertilizer for use on site or for sale off site, and it virtually eliminates the need to pay for off site manure disposal.

Biogas, Greenhouse Gasses and Water Quality

On a national level, the U.S. EPA has been urging the agricultural sector to adopt more biogas technology in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prevent environmental damage from excess manure.  Biogas facilities are becoming particularly important in watershed areas where stepped-up manure control is needed to preserve water quality.  Biogas facilities could also help reduce demand for fossil fuels – which in turn could help prevent environmental damage caused by fossil fuel extraction methods such as hydraulic fracturing and mountaintop coal mining.  If the carrot doesn’t work, there’s always the stick: hog producer Premium Standard Farms is facing a jury-awarded $11 million fine for environmental and public health problems relating to a factory farm operation, where massive amounts of manure that could have been recycled as biogas and fertilizer was instead dumped on open ground, untreated.

Piggybacking the New Green Economy

Cargill’s move into the carbon emissions market through dairy farms parallels a similar venture by Desert Hills Dairy of Nevada, which was the first dairy farm in that state to build a manure-to-biogas system.  Like Cargill, Desert Hills is also leveraging the farm’s reduced greenhouse gas emissions to enter the cap-and-trade carbon markets.  Nevada Hills also anticipates that the new biogas digester will enable it to expand operations without running afoul of environmental regulations.  It’s a pretty compelling demonstration of how an industry that’s been around for oh say a few thousand years can  piggyback onto – and thrive under –  new transformational energy trends that are propelling us into the future.

Image: Calf by iLoveButter on

Update:  For more information about manure-to-biogas systems check out the U.S. EPA’s sustainable agriculture program, AgSTAR.

Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Autonomous Drones for Better Farming

I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it! We just don't like paywalls, and so we've decided to ditch ours. Unfortunately, the media business is still a tough, cut-throat business with tiny margins. It's a never-ending Olympic challenge to stay above water or even perhaps — gasp — grow. So ...
If you like what we do and want to support us, please chip in a bit monthly via PayPal or Patreon to help our team do what we do! Thank you!
Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.


You May Also Like


Lithium battery recycling is an important part of protecting the environment, as it can reduce the amount of raw materials used to create new...

Fossil Fuels

A circular economy for plastic waste must generate profits at all stages. Is it really possible?

Clean Power

The call for circular economic practices to be used in conjunction with other aspects of the renewable energy transition has been gaining more attention...

Clean Power

Reports on “positive tipping points” point to technical solutions, but they miss the role of politics in decarbonizing the economy. When it comes to...

Copyright © 2023 CleanTechnica. The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by and do not necessarily represent the views of CleanTechnica, its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.