Multinational oil and gas company Shell Oil is constructing a renewable natural gas facility in Gooding County, the company announced last month.
The facility--to be located at Bettencourt Dairies northeast of Wendell--will produce natural gas using cow manure.
“Renewable natural gas (RNG) or biomethane, is a pipeline-quality gas that is fully interchangeable with conventional natural gas,” the company stated. “The use of RNG in the form of compressed natural gas can reduce carbon dioxide emissions from around 50% to 100% compared to fossil fuels.”
With nearly 700,000 head of cattle, Idaho is the third-largest dairy production state in the country, according to the Idaho Dairymen’s Association. Most dairies are concentrated located in southern and south-central Idaho and operate as concentrated animal feedlots, or CAFOs.
According to the Idaho Conservation League, most livestock manure from CAFOs is spread over fields, releasing methane gas.
“In addition to creating serious water contamination and public health concerns, this ‘land applied’ manure is left to release methane into the atmosphere,” the ICL stated. “Capturing and burning this methane rather than letting it freely escape not only reduces the climate impact but also releases about one half the carbon dioxide as burning coal.”
In a press release, Idaho-based organization Dairy West stated that the Gooding County facility will help reduce CO2 emissions over the next few decades.
“The Bettencourt’s are one great example of how our farmers in Idaho and in Utah can help the dairy industry achieve its commitment to carbon neutrality by 2050,” said Marissa Watson, vice president of sustainability for Dairy West. “This project demonstrates how technology can support farmers who are working to be good stewards of our air, land, and water.”
According to Shell Oil, the facility is expected to generate about 400,000 metric million British thermal units per year (one MMBtu is the amount required to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit) using cow manure from the family-owned Bettencourt farm. The gas will be shipped via an existing pipeline to California, according to a statement from the farm.