Monday, April 28, 2008

Idaho Natural Gas from Cow Manure

One Idaho Falls company is leading the way when it comes to creating renewable green energy. As Ty Brennan show us, you may be surprised to find out how they're doing it.

Intrepid Technology, based in Idaho Falls, is doing their part to go green. Sitting on an ordinary dairy farm near Rupert, something extraordinary is going on. Animal waste is being transformed into pipeline-quality natural gas.

The senior vice-president of Intrepid, Brad Frazee, says they saw a need to not only help nature, but produce something from it.

"We started looking at some of the issues the state faced and the manure coming off the dairies was kind of first and foremost as far as the ability to go in and help manage the situation."

Three years after the initial idea, the first prototype was installed, and the company says they haven't looked back since, blazing a trail as the first company to produce natural gas.

"We're very intrepid in our approach to this renewable energy field and it's something nobody else in the United States has been able to accomplish in the private or the government actually."

The process of turning manure into natural gas is no easy feat. It's lengthy and complicated. Every six to eight hours, waste from the nearly 6,000 head of cattle is collected. From there, it starts its transition to natural gas in a 34,000-gallon tank.

"Each tank gets a certain charge and just keeps going 24/7."

After the gas is captured, it is then refined and sent out in trucks to customers. Some of the gas even runs some of the plant's own equipment.

"This boiler-water heater is running on the purified side of natural gas. It's running as if it were hooked up to a natural gas pipeline."

One hundred cubic feet a minute of natural gas is produced. To put that into perspective, in one room alone, there is enough natural gas being produced to serve nearly 2,000 homes.

Wayne Tolman, who helped design and now runs the operation, says this plant is not only creating a green fuel, but keeping harsh gases out of the environment.

"As you know, methane is a big deal getting into the atmosphere. Well, we're keeping the methane out of the atmosphere. We're turning it into usable fuel."

But besides that usable fuel, Intrepid has also found another way to go green - by using all the byproducts of the manure as compost.

"It's 100% renewable green energy, the manure, the compost goes back out on to the land, it's brought in, becomes a nutrient plan for raising the crops and it goes back out through the cow, so it's this perpetual machine going."

Intrepid employees they say this is just the tip of the iceberg - just one way they are looking forward to the future.

"We are producing a product that's basically a renewable replacement for natural gas."

"In the United States, everyone's talking about 'going green'. This is state-of-the-art. This is green energy as we speak."

The gas from Intrepid was rigorously tested during a 3-month process to make sure it was pipeline-quality gas. They are currently working on using cheese whey as yet another way to produce natural gas.

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