June 13, 2022

Energy from dairy cow manure? The idea has hit the big time in Stanislaus and Merced

PG&E is about to get some of its gas from the manure of tens of thousands of dairy cows in and near Stanislaus County.

Aemetis Inc. held a gathering Friday, June 10, at a new plant in Keyes that will process methane piped in from 60 dairy farms in the area.

The $380 million project will reduce climate-harming emissions for both PG&E and the farmers. The latter also will get modest payments from Aemetis, helpful in a business beset by tight profit margins.

Aemetis contractors will employ several hundred people as the company builds out the system by 2025. And it will add about 10 permanent workers to the 75 already at the Keyes site, which has made ethanol from corn since 2011.

“It helps PG&E on our climate goals and it helps dairies with new income streams,” said Janisse Quiñones, senior vice president for gas engineering at the utility. “You can’t beat that.”

Aemetis, based in Cupertino, has become a leader in agriculture-based solutions to the climate crisis. It also is converting part of the old Riverbank Army Ammunition Plant to make aviation fuel from old orchard trees that had been burned in the open. That operation could open in 2024.

Conventional natural gas is petroleum-based and emits some of the carbon dioxide that impacts climate change.

The Keyes plant will supply less than 1% of the total demand, but it will help the utility toward its goal of 15% renewable gas. PG&E plans to start using the Keyes supply the week of June 12, if testing goes well, Quiñones said. It has about 15 million gas customers from Shasta to Kern counties.

John Holland – The Modesto Bee

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