First renewable natural gas project on a dairy farm starts in Kewaunee County

Published: Aug. 8, 2018 at 5:49 PM CDT
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Pagel’s Ponderosa Dairy, a dairy farm in Kewaunee County, will now be making renewable natural gas from its dairy cow manure as fuel to power vehicles all across the country.

It's the first project of its kind in Wisconsin, and only the second in the country.

“This will definitely help the environment around the nation, by taking extra trucks off the road, being able to use the natural gas, instead of having to use diesel fuel all the time, the other thing is, it will reduce our carbon footprint,” said J.J Pagel, CEO of Pagel Family Businesses.

Pagel's Ponderosa Dairy just broke ground on the rewewable natural gas project, partnering with DTE Energy based out of Detroit, Michigan.

The plan is to take manure and pump it into an underground digester. The methane gas that's produced will be converted into renewable natural gas. It'll be used for vehicles, mostly fleet trucks, delivery trucks, and some cars.

“So today the what's called the anaerobic digester is taking the cow manure and digesting it and the gas that comes off of the digester is being flared, or put on fire, what we're going to be doing is taking that gas and instead of burning it in a flare, we're going to be taking it an purifying it to renewable natural gas,” said Kevin Dobson, Vice President of Business Development for DTE Biomass Energy.

Dobson said the future underground digester will reduce yearly greenhouse gas emissions significantly saying it will be like taking an estimated 9,200 vehicles off the road and five million gallons of gasoline.

“We think this is a tremendous opportunity to take a gas that would vent into the atmosphere or be flared and not have any use to it, we think it's an opportunity to take it and put it to good environmentally beneficial use, so we have plans to do this throughout the country,” said Dobson.

The late John Pagel played a big role in the project. His son J.J Pagel said the project is a way to carry on his legacy.

“I think my dad would be very proud, looking down on us today, we’ve got a great group of people here working with a wonderful team, and seeing us continuing on striving, and always trying to make good things for the future, working on the environment, and continuing the legacy,” said Pagel.

The farm hopes to have the renewable gas digester running by the start of 2019.