An Indiana dairy farmer’s earth-friendly fuel solution offers another great alternative for homesteading families and off the grid preppers. Mike McCloskey of Fair Oaks Dairy Farm has turned cow manure into a viable and inexpensive natural gas source. The dairy’s 60 tankers travel more than 12 million miles around the tri-state region on the cow chip fuel each year.
Should the power grid go down due to the actions of Chinese hackers, a solar flare, or an EMP attack by North Korea – going to the local gas station for fuel will no longer be an option. A solar flare or an EMP could also cause un-repairable damage to modern vehicles. For those fortunate enough to have more than a horse to transport themselves around after such a drastic man-made or natural disaster, fuel will quickly become an issue.
Many members of the homesteading and off the grid community likely already have ample cow manure around their property. There would obviously be some learning and cost involved with turning cow chips into natural gas, but it could be done on the individual level.
The Fair Oaks tractor-trailer’s 9-liter engines struggle a bit with some of the region’s topography, but all that will change when Fair Oaks Dairy begins filling 12-liter engines with the cow manure natural gas in August. Mike McCloskey gave a tour of the farm and natural gas energy project to members of the National Dairy Producers Conference earlier this month.
The Fair Oaks farm’s ultimate goal for the cow manure natural gas is to have natural gas fueling stations throughout the southeastern region of the country. A Dairy Farmers of America partnership includes plans to build similar filling stations in the Southwest as well.
The northern Indiana dairy farm encompasses approximately 30,000 acres and has around 36,000 cows. Off the grid enthusiasts who would like to see the cow manure natural gas process in action are in luck; the facility is one of the largest agri-tourism attractions in the region, and is open to the public virtually year around.
“With renewable natural gas, using organic waste like we’re doing here, there really is an unlimited supply as long as we continue to produce waste products and are able to digest them and convert them into energy.”
The cow chips are turned into natural gas by using anaerobic digesters. The animal waste is placed inside sealed digester vessels. The cow waste is then heated to 100 degrees, causing the bacteria to produce a biogas comprised of CO2 and methane. The CO2 is then removed during a cleansing process. The biogas cleaning involves using pressure and water to create biomethane. The biomethane is then odorized, creating the renewable source of natural gas.
If the long-range plan becomes a reality, the gas filling stations will initially tap in existing natural gas pipelines. Should the plan prove successful, dairy farms may be able to produce cow manure natural gas to increase the available fuel supply.