Yakima Valley dairy farm to generate natural gas from manure

Yakima Valley dairy farm to generate natural gas from manure
OUTLOOK, Wash. -- Money from manure. A local dairy farm is working to turn methane into natural gas. Its owner expects to help the environment at the same time. KIMA headed to the farm to see how you could benefit.

Milk means cash for Dan DeRuyter. He's a dairy farmer with thousands of cows.

Dan built a system called a digester eight years ago. It can generate electricity from manure. Dan expected to sell that energy, but the gamble didn't pay off.

"Our price that they're paying to us has gotten so low that we really can't cash flow it very well."

Now, Dan's eyeing a new market: natural gas. Working with Promus Energy of Seattle. The company develops renewable and sustainable energy projects.

The plan? Reconfigure Dan's current manure digester to produce renewable natural gas for vehicles. The generators will come out. And, scrubbers will go in.

But, we're not just talking about natural gas. Promus says its digester system can also convert waste into other revenue-generating products, like peat moss and fertilizers.

That system will keep nitrogen and phosphorous from leaching into the ground. Promus puts the cost at about $9 million. It hopes the state's Clean Energy Fund will pay some of it; the rest, private investors.

Promus will also pay some of the cost of a multi-million dollar pipeline to bring the gas off the farm and to the Williams Northwest Pipeline. Yakima County will fork over the rest.

Dan also wants to protect the environment.

"It just could be a very big win-win for the community and for the dairy farmers, as well."

Charlie Tebbutt says it's not enough. He's the attorney in a lawsuit against the dairies, accusing them of groundwater contamination and illegal dumping.

"They have over-applied manure at such rates that the groundwater is excessively contaminated and is causing a significant public health threat in the community. This is merely a Band-Aid approach to an operation that is generally not sustainable."

Still, Dan is forging a head. And, other dairies nearby will be paying close attention.

Promus hopes to have the money for the project in place by the fall. The new digester could be working by next year.