May 20, 2008 | General

Community Digester Aids Farms And Environment

BioCycle May 2008, Vol. 49, No. 5, p. 50
The Port of Tillamook Bay community manure digester expands capacity and ventures into new territory.
Nora Goldstein

With approximately 30,000 cows, Tillamook County, Oregon not only produces renowned Tillmook cheese, but copious amounts of manure. Environmental challenges from this manure were recognized in the 1980s, leading to the formation of the Methane Energy Agricultural Development (MEAD) project in 1989. The project was spearheaded by the Port of Tillamook Bay (POTB), the Tillamook Public Utility District and the Tillamook Country Creamery Association, and eventually evolved into an anaerobic digestion facility in operation today, which processes manure from about 4,000 cows (60,000 gallons/day from seven farms).
For background on the project, see BioCycle articles: “Oregon Project Uses Dairy Manure Digestion System,” July 2002; “Tillamook Digester Produces Power, Fiber and Interest,” March 2005; and “How Oregon Is Using Biomass Energy,” February 2006.
RCM Digesters, Inc. supplied the system for Tillamook, which began operating in September 2003. POTB owns and has operated the digester until it recently entered into a management and operations agreement with Garick Corporation of Cleveland, Ohio. Garick officially started in January 2008. “We want to get the facility operating properly, increase production and improve marketing of the digester fiber,” says John Gundlach, Vice President of Garick’s Sustainable Environmental and Energy Group. “Once we get the economics of the project working better, we’d like to open the fourth digester cell, which would increase processing capacity to 80,000 gallons/day, essentially enabling us to service a couple more dairies.”
To build new markets for the digested fiber, POTB received an $80,000 federal grant in the spring of 2006 to fund a baling operation. “A drum dryer used by a local lumber mill was installed, and the grant was used to purchase a used baler,” says Gundlach. “The concept was to dry the fiber enough to be able to bale it, driving up its value.” However, only a small portion of the fiber is dried and marketed. The bulk of the wet fiber is sold to local nurseries in the Willamette Valley.
Garick plans to accept food residuals streams from area generators, including cheese whey from the Creamery, as well as processed fruit and vegetables and brewery waste from microbreweries. “The facility has a solid waste permit since it is not on a farm, so the state will allow us to do a pilot project with the food waste,” says Gundlach. “We are going to give them a plan for a 6 to 12 month pilot, to demonstrate that adding these materials to the digester is feasible, and can be done in an environmentally safe manner.” There is a receiving tank at the site, as POTB had hoped to accept these materials several years ago. “We are lining up feedstocks now,” adds Gundlach. “The key will be to go slowly and start with small amounts. The digester was designed for manure, and we need to be sure we don’t generate too much biogas.”
Garick also plans to replace the generators to take advantage of advances with that technology. A biogas pretreatment system may be installed as well to remove moisture and other contaminants.
In 2007, the Oregon legislature passed HB 2210, which allows energy biomass producers or collectors to receive a tax credit for production based on tonnages processed in an energy facility such as the POTB digester. “The Tillamook digester project could be the model for implementation of these biomass tax credits,” explains Gundlach. “The POTB has documented all aspects of the plant’s operations very well regarding tonnages of manure received, amount of biogas produced, etc.”
A unique element of the biomass tax credit is that it allows the credit to be transferred. As a public authority, the POTB does not have a tax burden. The farmers have a very small tax burden, which wouldn’t equal the value of the tax credits. “What Garick is doing, and what has been approved by the POTB and its new manager, Robert Van Borssum, is to consolidate the tax credits and market them for sale as a group,” he adds. “That revenue can be put back into facility operations and product development.”

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