FENNVILLE — A venture aimed at turning dairy and cattle farm manure into natural gas for vehicle use is one step closer to financing.
On Tuesday, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s Strategic Fund Board approved the first procedural step for BerQ US Investments, LLC to seek up to $165 million in private activity bond financing to help cover the cost of buying and installing equipment that’ll create compressed natural gas from farm manure.
BerQ would source the manure from four farms: Brook View Dairy in Freeport, Scenic View Dairy in Fennville, Schaendorf Cattle Co. in Hopkins and Green Meadow Farms in Elsie. The farms are spread across Allegan, Barry, and Clinton counties.
The manure would be collected and placed in anaerobic digesters where it would sit for about 22 days to create biogas. The material is then piped to a unit that removes the carbon dioxide and non-methane organics, according to Marty Ryan, senior executive vice president for BerQ RNG.
“It results in a pipeline quality gas that is a drop-in replacement for fossil natural gas and is indistinguishable from fossil natural gas in the natural gas infrastructure system,” Ryan said.
The final pressed natural gas will be used by transportation fleets as an alternative to diesel fuel.
“It’s a clean energy solution as part of the de-carbonization effort that we are seeing across the country,” Ryan said.
Ryan said construction is underway at the farm sites in Freeport and Fennville, which are owned by the same family. The plants are expected to be up and running in June. The gas will be stored and transported to a gas meter tap at Sandy View Farms in Hamilton, where it will be sent into a pipeline. TransCanada expects the gas meter tap at Sandy View Farms to be available in late July.
The $100 million Hopkins project will be slightly different, with BerQ collecting manure from 18,000 cows, including farms. The manure will be combined at Schaendorf Cattle, which will have a direct connection to the Consumers Energy line.
“It’s a very big project from the animal waste perspective,” Ryan said.
He said farm agreements are in place for the Hopkins project, which is in the design phase. Construction is expected to start the third quarter of this year with the system up and running in mid-2024, depending on supply chain issues involving equipment.
The final $30 million project at Green Meadow Farms in Elsie will be a smaller operation involving two other farms, totaling 8,000 cows. BerQ’s biodigester and bio-gas upgrader system will be on site, but the finished gas will also be transported to Hamilton to be fed into the pipeline. Construction on this project is expected to start in the third quarter of this year.
The projects are expected to eliminate 33,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year, with a 20-year “useful life,” according to Christopher Cook with the MEDC. That means the venture could cut 660,000 tons of greenhouse gas altogether.
Cook said it could take up to two years before the bond financing would be in place.