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Chevron and Brightmark Forge Ahead on Four Dairy RNG Projects

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Chevron U.S.A and Brightmark are partnering to build and own projects in multiple states to produce renewable natural gas (RNG) for transportation fuel sourced from biomethane from dairy farms. Chevron will purchase and market the RNG while Brightmark will run these projects at anaerobic digesters (AD) at the farms, capturing raw biogas, cleaning, upgrading, and compressing it. The fuel will be injected into local, state, and or interstate pipelines. 

The four projects will be owned and operated by the joint venture: Brightmark RNG Holdings.   

Brightmark is focusing on biogas sourced specifically from dairy manure due to its significant negative net carbon impact on the environment, says Brightmark CEO Bob Powell. 

RNG from dairy manure has a carbon score of -304 g C02/MJ energy. To put this value in perspective, ultra low-sulfur diesel has a carbon score of 100.45 g C02/MJ energy, and RNG from landfill gas has a carbon score of 37.225 g C02/MJ energy, according to data from California’s Air Resources Board.

“Our RNG projects also deliver a true ‘win-win’ in terms of driving sustainable agriculture with significantly less waste and improving economic development in rural communities. This joint venture is a powerful partnership that will accelerate Brightmark’s ability to achieve a net-zero carbon future,” says Powell.

Chevron’s motivation says Andy Walz, president of Americas Fuels & Lubricants for Chevron, is: “We are interested in the full RNG value chain. Similar to our fuels and lubricants business, we are looking for higher returns and lower-carbon projects across all parts of the value chain.” 

Brightmark has signed agreements with several dairy farms that will provide Brightmark with manure to serve as feedstock.

Here is a brief description of the projects born of the Chevron/Brightmark joint venture:

  • Three farms in Western New York and the Finger Lakes region will provide dairy manure for existing AD’s that run on each of these farms. They should be fully operational by late 2021, and collectively generate up to 182,500 MMBtu per year for pipeline injection, according to Brightmark.
  • Three Western Michigan farms will provide dairy manure for AD’s yet to be built on one of the farms.  Slated to be fully operational in early 2022, the plan is to produce about 328,500 MMBtu of RNG for pipeline injection each year, making this Brightmark’s largest RNG project to date.
  • A South Dakota project will include new AD’s on three Minnehaha County farms that will generate 55.6 million gallons of manure annually to serve as feedstock for RNG in the form of transportation fuel, for cooking, or electricity. The gas will be injected into the local interstate pipeline for use statewide.  This project is anticipated to prevent 64,567 tons of greenhouse gas emissions and generate 217,000 MMBtu of RNG a year, according to Brightmark.  This will be the state’s first-ever dairy RNG project.
  • New AD’s will be built at four Southern Florida dairy farms in Okeechobee County for injection into the local interstate gas pipeline system.  The facility will reportedly generate 469 MMBtu of RNG per day and offset 57,400 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year. This will be Brightmark’s first project in Florida.

Chevron’s Walz told Waste360 that the multinational energy corporation is increasing its focus on renewables through targeted investments, establishing partnerships, and evaluating technology that drives scalable and commercial energy solutions. 

Among its other partnerships in the RNG space are with California-based Clean Energy Fuels to help fund and supply RNG to stations near Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, and its work with California Bioenergy and California dairy farmers to make and sell RNG.

Brightmark has invested in similar projects with partners other than  Chevron to include a project in Sumter, S.C. to produce combined heat and power generated by Pilgrim’s Pride’s poultry processing facility used by local utility; a Madison, Wisc. project involving several dairy farms to produce biofertilizer, fiber for cow bedding or as a peat moss substitute; and a partnership in Washington State’s Yakima County with Promus Energy and DeRuyter Dairy, which involved construction of pipeline infrastructure to grow opportunities for more RNG dairy projects in the area.

“We are focused on expanding across the country.  All the regions we are focused on have ample dairy and swine farms to ensure feedstock supply.  We are partnering with farmers that are looking for additional sources of income and new approaches to waste management and pollution control,” says Powell.

Partnering farmers have lent their thoughts on why these projects make sense to them:

In Michigan, Greg Stahl, owner of Den Dulk Dairy Farm, says, “This investment will help local farms like ours continue to be environmentally friendly to our community and help us to exceed environmental regulations and responsibilities. We have always taken pride in being excellent stewards of our land, community, and industry.”

In New York, Don Jensen of Lawnhurst Farms echoes. “We are proud to partner with Brightmark to further reduce our environmental impact and to ensure that we continue to be good neighbors to our local community … This partnership allows us to convert our manure waste into a valuable resource, while also improving odor control and reducing our emissions – a win-win-win for our farm, our community and the environment,” he says.

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