WASHINGTON. Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the winners of Phase I of the Nutrient Recycling Challenge, a competition to develop affordable technologies to recycle nutrients from livestock manure. The winners received their awards today at a ceremony at the White House Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC.
Steve McCorkle and Bruce Scott accepted the award on behalf of Ag Waste Solutions and Scott Brothers Dairy Farms for their project concept entitled “The Production of Renewable, Low-Carbon Transportation Fuels and Nutrient Concentrated By-Products Through the AWS System.” With 75 qualified applicants participating in the global competition, the AWS project concept was selected as one of the top 10 innovations in the world.
Steve and Bruce are very honored and humbled to have been invited by the White House to receive this award and present the AWS concept at the two-day Summit with the top innovators globally in our industry.
An 1,100-cow dairy in southern California became the first-ever operation in the world known to produce no-sulfur renewable diesel products from manure on a livestock facility in late April.
The milestone is the culmination of three years of collaboration between Scott Brothers Dairy in San Jacinto, California, and Ag Waste Solutions (AWS), a privately held company that designed the farm’s manure processing system.
“To make it to the top of the hill is a euphoric moment,” dairyman Bruce Scott says.
Steve McCorkle, founder and CEO of AWS, announced the partnership’s achievement on Facebook on April 27, 2015. The company claims its technology is the “future of sustainable farming.”
“We have proven that we can complete the circle of energy for individual farms while creating profit centers from manure, enabling farmers to exceed regulatory requirements and truly control their own destiny,” McCorkle said in a statement.
Scott says he is most proud to have produced a “deliverable” for the California Energy Commission, which helped fund the project. As far as he understands, the commission has no other no-sulfur diesel projects dealing with this type of waste stream, so he is pleased to have “crossed the finish line” by submitting a final report. The next step for the system is to prove it can operate continuously and thus be a commercially viable option for other agricultural operations.
“I didn’t expect to win over favor on this project quickly. But I’ve firmly believed in the direction of this project,” Scott says. “The tunnel may have gotten longer, but the light at the end of it has always stayed visible in my mind. I still believe it’s the most viable technology to get rid of a waste stream and produce something that’s value-added at the same time.”
Processing manure into renewable diesel products is just one of the system’s manure processing capabilities.
The dairy’s multi-stage system first separates high-BTU manure solids from the dairy’s liquid manure effluent. McCorkle says the first stage removes 98 percent of the total suspended solids and 40 percent of the dissolved solids, making good irrigation water for most farms.
The extracted water is further purified at Scott Brothers Dairy to remove the other 2 percent of suspended solids and the remaining dissolved solids, making the water potable. (This step was to satisfy manure application requirements that were specific to the dairy’s regional regulatory agency. See this Progressive Dairyman Feb. 7, 2014 article for more background about dairy’s unique permitting situation.)
The dairy’s manure solids are then fed to a pyrolysis gasifier. The gas production module then thermochemically decomposes the manure solids in the absence of air to produce syngas. The gas is then scrubbed of impurities and compressed for storage.
Using a Fischer-Tropsch process, the hydrogen and carbon in the gas is then converted in the system’s final stage into no-sulfur renewable diesel products. The Fischer-Tropsch process had been used to convert other feedstocks to renewable diesel but until recently was never proven to work with manure, let alone on a farm.
Perhaps more importantly than producing diesel, the process also produces a refined wax product in a controllable diesel-to-wax ratio. McCorkle says the wax product’s market value is three times that of the renewable diesel and can be further processed or blended off-site with other petroleum products, such as jet fuel or kerosene.
“We exceeded our own expectations on the first pass,” McCorkle says. “We were able to control the types and factions of liquids and waxes created. And we were able to attain the optimal ratio of liquids and waxes. This satisfies our business model of making enough diesel fuel for farm use and selling the wax products off-farm to create additional profit centers from manure.”
The system on Scott Brothers Dairy that produces renewable diesel products was built at pilot-project scale, meaning it is not commercially sized nor automated enough in order to operate 24-7 with minimal manpower.
If the dairy had an adequately sized liquid fuels production module that ran continuously, it could produce at least 1 gallon of diesel fuel from three cows’ manure for a day. Right now the system can convert only one-eighth of the dairy’s gasified manure per day and has not yet been automated to run continuously.
The first production run of renewable diesel products was evaluated in an on-site lab as well as sent to an external lab for validation. Future production runs will be tested to validate the fuel is consistently comparable, or superior, to other diesel fuels. Initial tests have shown the fuel has very similar characteristics to pump diesel but without detectable levels of sulfur. Even ultra low-sulfur pump diesel contains up to 15 ppm of sulfur.
When asked if it passed the sniff test and whether he would put it in his own tractor, Scott says: “No question about it.”
McCorkle suggests the next steps toward a commercially viable, 24-7 system require more funding to upsize the liquid fuels production module in order to match the size of the rest of the system and to demonstrate that the system can run continuously and more automatically with predictable results and with minimal personnel.
McCorkle is optimistic both goals can be achieved. For now, his countenance glows over the petrochemical milestone he and the dairy have achieved almost entirely by themselves.
“We didn’t achieve these results in a large, complex refinery with tens of engineers, chemists and scientists. We achieved these results with only a handful of people working in a remote farm environment,” McCorkle says.
Article Credit - Progressive Dairy (www.progressivedairy.com)
Luis Laracuente, USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Conservation Engineer for California, along with other NRCS representatives, visited the Ag Waste Solutions project site at Scott Brothers Dairy Farms on February 5, 2015. Steve McCorkle, Bruce Scott and Michael Bagtang are shown here hosting a tour of the system for Mr. Laracuente (fourth from the right) and the other NRCS visitors. The AWS project is partially funded by a national grant from NRCS, in addition to a state grant from the California Energy Commission (CEC). There is tremendous interest on a international, national, state and local level in the first-ever project to convert manure and other potentially polluting ag wastes into valuable fertilizers, clean water and the cleanest burning diesel fuel available on the planet - all in a closed-loop system that creates additional profit centers on farms to help Sustain Global Farming.
AWS welcomes Michael Bagtang to the team as our first Project Engineer! Michael is a graduate of the University of California Riverside, graduating with a B.S. in Environmental Engineering with a Chemical Engineering focus. He worked with USDA in a paid internship during his college years and as a USDA employee for the last 1 1/2 years since his graduation. Michael's academic and work experience are extremely relevant to AWS' needs, and Michael wanted to join a technology-based solution company focused on the future needs of agriculture, renewable energy, clean water and the environment. Michael also met with the Spanish visitors when they visited AWS in California, and we discovered an additional little secret that he was keeping from us - his Spanish is very good!
Michael's immediate assignment will be to bring the Scott Brothers Dairy Farms project to a continuous 24/7 operating basis in order to meet the requirements of the California Energy Commission (CEC) and USDA while establishing an operating model for AWS' commercial projects in Spain, the U.S. and elsewhere. Please welcome Michael to the AWS team!!!
Adapted from a news release from Spain’s Department of Agriculture and Livestock for the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries, Food and the Environment.
Miquel Molins, Spain’s Director General of Agriculture and Livestock for the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries, Food and the Environment, (fourth from left), and other representatives, visited the AWS system on the Scott Brothers Dairy Farm. The purpose of the visit was to better understand the environmental regulations regarding the management of fertilizer, livestock manure and manure treatment technologies. Steve McCorkle, AWS CEO, (third from left) led the tour and explained how the AWS system converts agricultural waste into clean water, renewable energy and green diesel fuel.
A group of experts from the Spanish Government, headed by Miquel Molins, the Director General of Agriculture and Livestock for the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries, Food and the Environment visited California in mid-November. The purpose of the visit was to better understand the environmental regulations regarding the management of fertilizer, livestock manure and manure treatment technologies. Government officials were joined by representatives of municipalities and farmers affected by the closure of plants that were previously drying waste slurry.
Representatives learned about California’s environmental regulations relating to livestock production. The objectives of these regulations are to protect the surface and ground water as well as the atmospheric environment and, in particular, positively impact climate change.
The group of experts visited Scott Brothers Dairy Farms to learn about Ag Waste Solution’s waste-to-energy system, including recovery of nutrients from the slurry in a mineral form. The meeting with Scott Brothers and Ag Waste Solutions’ representatives focused on their renewable energy systems, and the treatment and implementation of manure management plans, which in this case are closely tied to the analysis of the soils and the balance of the nutrients.
The Ag Waste Solutions system is part of a project that generates renewable energy that is readily transportable. This novel technology is a very interesting approach that could enable the treatment of the waste surplus generated by the closing of Spain’s plants. The visit resulted in establishing contacts to study the feasibility of implementing this technology in Catalonia. California is well known in the U.S. for being among the states with the most stringent agricultural environmental regulations. The characteristics of California’s climate are very similar to those of Catalonia, Spain, making it particularly well suited to study regulations regarding livestock manure management.
For the release in its entirety visit http://premsa.gencat.cat/pres_fsvp/AppJava/notapremsavw/detall.do?id=276753&idioma=0&departament=5&canal
The recent White House report, “Climate Action Plan Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions” included the development of a Biogas Roadmap.
“Although the ‘bio-syngas’ AWS creates is not technically a 'biogas' in its chemical makeup, it is a better feedstock for diesel fuel production,” said Steve McCorkle, AWS founder and CEO. “Ag Waste Solutions system’s benefits compare favorably against methane digesters and other 'biogas' systems that produce methane, the most potent greenhouse gas.”
Biogas systems allow manure to decay and generate methane. The methane gas then has to be captured and subsequently burned in a device that creates further emissions. Biogas systems typically do not convert a high percentage of the available manure energy to saleable energy, so the left over by-products often contain a significant portion of the original energy that can generate even further emissions.
“By contrast, AWS does not allow methane or other greenhouse gases to be formed from manure decay, and the clean diesel fuel AWS produces will replace petroleum fuel usage with significantly lower emissions,” said McCorkle. “The AWS system also produces higher profits for the farm than 'biogas' systems, because the conversion of available manure energy to saleable energy is substantially higher and there is very little unused energy left at the end of the process.”
Barb O’Brien, president at the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy® recently mentioned the project in a blog post on the Biogas Roadmap. http://www.usdairy.com/dairyminded/2014/august/long-term-potential-for-dairy-in-biogas-roadmap
Click here to watch Progressive Dairyman’s virtual World Ag Expo Farm Tour Agricultural Waste Solutions (AWS) CEO Steve McCorkle spoke to a standing room only crowd at World Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif. about AWS’ groundbreaking new circle of energy on Scott Brothers Dairy Farm in Moreno Valley, Calif. McCorkle was joined by Scott Brothers Dairy Farms owners Brad and Bruce Scott, who operate the first farm to use AWS’ system. The presentation explained the process and paybacks of its unique, proprietary waste-to-energy system that produces clean, renewable energy and preserves and improves air quality. “The AWS system allows America’s dairy farmers to continue producing the world’s safest food in a sustainable manner — socially, economically and environmentally. AWS creates a profit center for dairy farmers while protecting the environment and improving the lives of those that connect or intersect with agriculture,” said McCorkle. McCorkle and the Scott Brothers were invited to speak by Walt Cooley, managing editor of Progressive Dairyman magazine as one of their virtual farm tours. The brothers were also featured on the cover of the February issue of the magazine. “The project at Scott Brothers Dairy farm is truly forward-thinking. I was interested in featuring this story in our magazine because I think their gasification project has the potential for huge ramifications for the dairy industry,” said Cooley. “In the future, when production of renewable diesel from livestock manure becomes commonplace, we will look back and say, 'Wow, this is the farm where it all started.'" Ag Expo is the world’s largest annual agricultural exposition, boasting 100,000 attendees during this year’s three-day event.
More than 120 representatives from Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) visited Scott Brothers Dairy Farms in Moreno Valley, Calif. to learn of their partnership with Ag Waste Solutions (AWS), that has made the farm the first in the nation to turn animal waste into diesel fuel, potable water and fertilizer. Funded by America’s dairy farmers, DMI works to maintain confidence in dairy foods, farms and businesses. Steve McCorkle, CEO of Ag Waste Solutions demonstrated the process of AWS’ unique, proprietary waste-to-energy system that produces clean, renewable diesel fuel using manure from cows on the farm. “Visitors were very interested in our groundbreaking solution to manure management,” says McCorkle, “and there was a great deal of discussion and interest in how it could help sustain farmers and the American dairy industry.” Scott Brothers Dairy Farms owners Brad and Bruce Scott and their families assisted in giving tours to the DMI group. This innovative system has been permitted, installed and operating since early 2014. The self-sustaining circle of energy will begin and end with the Scott Brothers Dairy Farms’ cows eating high quality forage feeds produced from the fields and harvested with machinery powered by fuel derived from the cows’ waste. “This circle of sustainability has the potential to change agriculture as we know it, and we are proud to be partners and pioneers of this visionary project,” said Bruce Scott.