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Poop Power: California Company Converting Cow Crap to Cleaner Combustibles

Poop is power, says California’s Brightmark Energy, which plans to come from San Francisco to South Dakota to turn factory feedlot manure into natural gas:

California-based renewable energy company Brightmark Energy announced plans on Feb. 5 to capture, refine and sell methane gas rising off the decaying manure produced at three dairy farms in Minnehaha County near Sioux Falls. The project could be the first of many renewable natural gas projects built at South Dakota dairy and hog farms and is being driven by rising demand for cleaner, more sustainable energy, experts say.

The Brightmark Energy project will collect manure from nearly 12,000 dairy cows at the Boadwine, Pioneer and Mooody* County dairy farms. The manure will be placed in large, oxygen-free tanks and, essentially, left to rot. One of the byproducts of rotting manure is methane gas, a major component of the natural gas already piped to thousands of South Dakota homes. Brightmark expects to harvest enough of the gas each year to cover the annual average energy needs of more than 2,400 homes, based on average energy consumption as reported by the Energy Information Administration [Nick Lowrey, “California Energy Firm Will Turn S.D. Farm Wastes into Usable Natural Gas,” South Dakota News Watch, 2020.02.12].

*No, really, SD News Watch printed Moody with the extra o.

There’s Governor Noem’s next big thing: “South Dakota: Powering America with Poop!”

Poop Power South Dakota
Kristi Noem’s Next Big Thing

Brightmark is working on gas projects in New York, Wisconsin, Washington, and South Carolina. South Dakota communities may also want to partner with Brightmark Energy on disposing of all those cups and straws they won’t be able to ban anymore. Brightmark is building a big plant in Indiana to recycle plastic into diesel fuel, naphtha, and wax. Brightmark is keenly concerned about the environmental impact of plastics:

Only 9% of the plastic manufactured in the United States each year is recycled. The rest ends up in an incinerator, a landfill, or as litter in the natural environment, where it is doomed to sit for thousands of years. Post-use plastic is choking our waterways, littering our communities, and harming our wildlife. We need better mechanisms for managing this waste stream, limiting its impact on the planet, and turning plastic back into useful products [Brightmark Energy, “Plastics Renewal,” retrieved 2020.02.19].

Translation: Senator Monroe, quit throwing your trash in the Missouri!



  1. Robert McTaggart 2020-02-19 08:26

    The challenge for biogas to mix with other sources of natural gas for commercial use is the filtration of other items in the biogas. This includes but is not limited to hydrogen sulfide and water.

    If they can engineer things so those items do not pose a hindrance, that would be a great step forward.

    It would convert wastes into beneficial uses, and it would reduce the fracking (i.e. the “mining” of natural gas) that would otherwise need to be done.

  2. bearcreekbat 2020-02-19 12:09

    That is an abundance of absolutely awesome alliteration Cory!

  3. jerry 2020-02-19 15:19

    Crap and pollution, GNOem’s way to keep your grandkids here in Stinky South Dakota.

    “PIERRE | After a two-hour hearing in a packed committee room, Gov. Kristi Noem’s legislation designed to streamline the zoning permitting process at the county level was approved by the Senate State Affairs Committee.

    Testifying about the bill, Noem said its passage would spur economic development in the state and ensure that more South Dakotans “don’t have to say good-bye to their grandkids.”

    Streamlining the process was needed, Noem said, because permitting for conditional use permits, often used for large livestock operations, is “hijacked by the vocal few.””
    Rapid City Journal 02.19.20

    Great news, more economic development for crap shovelers. #crapshovelers will now be a critical part of the curriculum in higher education in South Dakota. A Master’s Program on crap shoveling is now being considered as we now have the gunslinger bills passed. Hard to tell the difference between the two slingers. Talk about progress, oh yeah baby, it’s here for sure.

  4. mike from iowa 2020-02-19 16:16

    Where’s the companion bill saying whites only get these low paying/high stress jobs? Might just as well take another shot at migrant labor while they are at it.

    IMHO I’d rather have the immigrants than the stink factories.

  5. jerry 2020-02-19 16:25

    But.. but..the grandkids mfi!! This is their future according to Crystal GNOem. They will then be able to thank their moms and dads for standing by and watching the state become a cesspool. Ahhhh, smell the pride.

  6. mike from iowa 2020-02-19 17:41

    Nothing says loving like smelling like a waste pit. Guaranteed to make the youngun’s eyes water like they were shedding tears of joy, Jerry.

    Black lung has nothing on farmer’s lung from being around hog waste your entire life.

  7. Porter Lansing 2020-02-19 18:18

    Don Pay is correct, as usual. There’s even a quicker way, though.
    -Things we know. Trump hasn’t eaten pork in forty or more years. He’s deathly afraid of it because pigs carry disease, he thinks. The only thing he eats is beef, bread, and cheese. The White House chef has written about it.
    – We also know that he doesn’t care a hoot about farmers and that he views China as a mortal enemy. Should the bug get in his ear that regulating the Chinese owned American pork industry would severly hurt Xi Jinping, those nasty SD CAFO’s would be hamstrung, quickly.
    – Trump wouldn’t care if no Americans had bacon, pork chops, or ham to eat for a year or two, as long as he could score a strike on the Chinese economy.
    – A Machevellian idea, I know but we’re dealing with a Machevellian President and a self consumed Governor.
    – Steer (pun intended) Trumpie to STOP SMITHFIELD! They’re a Chinese infiltration equal or worse than Huawei!
    – America’s farmers would take a big hit but all you have to do is put a seed in the ground and corn pops up. Any dolt can do that. – Mayor Mike

  8. jerry 2020-02-19 18:44

    To show how Crystal GNOem’s dedication should be, she should demand that a CAFO be constructed near her home place, just to the north. Furthermore, there should be a couple of these just outside of the city limits of Pierre, where Pierre is downwind. Plenty of corn around both places!! Booyah!! Economic development.

  9. Clyde 2020-02-19 19:24

    The fact is that these CAFO’s are putting farmers out of business. Of course Kristi and her party are fine with that and the blind electorate will keep checking the R box.

    I’m proposing that we force every CAFO in the state now and in the future to be environmentally more friendly by forcing ALL of them to capture their methane and either sell it as gas or burn it in a generator to feed electricity back into the grid. That won’t pay in most places but would just be a cost of these CAFO’s doing business.

    How about an initiated measure. I think the voters will love it.

  10. Porter Lansing 2020-02-19 19:36

    Speaking of Gov. Noem’s home, I grew up very near there and drove that road often. Since when did the farm become a ranch? Has she no pride in the land her father bequeathed to the family? There are no ranches in ESD. Only farms and proud farmers of which she no longer wants to be associated. “I’m a rancher.” she told America on FoxNews. No, you’re not Kristi. And neither are your brothers.

  11. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-02-19 20:23

    BCB, thank you for returning the favor with your assonance. Wordplay is fun, and it’s free!

    Now if I could just turn consonants into kilowatts….

  12. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-02-19 20:25

    An initiated measure mandating methane recapture—now that’s some serious policy thinking, Clyde! Any idea how we’d draft that bill? Might our new friends at Brightmark Energy help draft it… and fund the petition drive? And if we proposed such an amendment, would CAFO opponents be willing to sign and circulate it, or would they contend that promoting methane recapture, while good for the environment, might improve the business model for CAFOs and further entrench them in our economy?

  13. Clyde 2020-02-19 21:24

    Cory, as of now the business model for very few of these CAFO’s would be enhanced. The KELO article cites the sale of the gas to California who is willing to buy it at a cost way above other gas because it is Greeen. Perhaps individual users are voluntarily paying a premium for all I know.

    I’ve been watching alternate energy of all sorts since our so called “Energy Crisis” of the 1970’s. The powers that be will always price their product at just such a price that independent produced energy won’t quite pay. Perhaps in the future their model would be enhanced but I doubt it. As of now, it appears that the gas can only be sold to California if it enters a gas pipeline that also delivers gas to that state.

    Such a measure by this state would likely be noticed nationally and would put lots of pressure on the rest of the nation. Besides being another source of energy it would be cutting down on the release of a much worse green house gas than CO2.

    One would have to know approximately how much gas should be produced by given animal units and hold the CAFO’s to that with a large fine for not meeting production. Using it for electrical generation or process gas is easy to meter.

    I’ll petition!

  14. Clyde 2020-02-19 21:50

    I’m sure that Brightmark Energy would be more than willing to help considering they might pick up quite a lot of business because of it.

    One would have to administer a small fee or “tax” to the CAFO industry to cover administration and policing of the CAFO’s. Someone would have to make sure their excuses for low production were viable. For instance, a hog finishing unit is not necessarily full all the time and at those times no one would expect gas production. I imagine meter reading could easily be transmitted to a central facility.

  15. Debbo 2020-02-19 23:06

    If people want to continue being carnivorous, and I enjoy it, then something like this is a must.

    65° in Antarctica!! 🥺 Sixty-five. We must capture every source that damages our climate or stop creating that source. The pressure to do so will only increase. If we’re very fortunate and have a Democratic federal government in 2021, changes in environmental laws will come quickly. They have to.

  16. Robert McTaggart 2020-02-20 08:33

    Methane is great, until it leaks.

    “The oil and gas industry has had a far worse impact on the climate than previously believed, according to a study indicating that human emissions of fossil methane have been underestimated by up to 40%.”

    If you are a proponent of the oil and gas industry and/or biogas, you should want to reduce losses of methane because that is methane you cannot sell to anybody. If you are not, you want methane to back up the renewables that you want…and capturing methane would reduce the carbon impacts.

    At the end of the day, we will continue to use methane because both sides of the political aisle have an interest in it. But I hope we will invest in nuclear, energy storage, and carbon capture at the same time.

  17. Richard Schriever 2020-02-20 13:24

    McTaggart – Nuclear energy is great! Until it leaks. See how this works?

  18. Richard Schriever 2020-02-20 13:27

    For several years now, the POET ethanol plant in Chancellor, SD has been using methane gas captured from the SF regional landfill and piped south, along with ground up used shipping pallets from the area to power their processes.

  19. Clyde 2020-02-20 16:13

    I’m thinking I could get Richard to petition with me! Anyone else?

    Anyway, I just posted a vid on the “Lessons to be learned” topic that I think everyone on this forum should be interested in.

  20. Robert McTaggart 2020-02-20 18:37


    If an NRC inspector ever found a leak of anything, they can shut operations down until it is fixed. The conservative approach to radiation safety is to eliminate potential pathways for any dispersal of radionuclides.

    A similar approach would be useful regarding the isolation of spent batteries or e-waste from solar and wind energy. Some things you do not want to get into the water supply. Recycling would be better though.

  21. jerry 2020-02-20 21:18

    There are 150 NRC inspectors for 96 reactors in the US…Those 150 fellers apparently do not sleep or take a day off.

  22. Robert McTaggart 2020-02-21 10:09


    Have no doubt that the power plant has an interest in not being shut down and not paying fines, so there are health physicists and engineers tasked with finding potential issues before they can occur. Moreover, they pay on-going fees to have the NRC inspector(s) there.

    Those oversight positions are STEM and STEAM positions…they have to understand the science and engineering at hand, but they also must be able to communicate their findings with the public.

    One of the things we could be using our present nuclear power plants for would be carbon capture. When wind and solar are plentiful, direct the excess nuclear energy to power the capture of carbon from our natural gas and/or coal backup. Heck, why not recover carbon from the atmosphere and make the graphene batteries?

  23. Robert McTaggart 2020-02-21 10:55

    They do not appoint their own inspectors, but those costs are definitely covered, and then some (particularly to prevent issues).

    Nuclear jobs are STEAM jobs….and one of the byproducts of nuclear power is actual steam :^). You should be happy about that on both accounts.

  24. Debbo 2020-02-21 14:10

    Mike, I’ll undoubtedly mourn when the Carters, the USA’s best family, die. I don’t even like thinking about it. 😢

    Regarding the other part of your comment, negativity is what Mac does. Obviously he sees it as his job to crush hope. I just accept that and don’t read his comments.

    Hope is what gets me out of bed in the morning. Maybe I’m being slightly delusional, but I believe hope probably always is to some extent.

  25. Robert McTaggart 2020-02-21 15:16

    I have hope that we can have a future filled with clean energy and high-paying STEAM jobs.

    I have hope that all of the energy that we actually use will be delivered as clean energy whenever we want it. That means not doing carbon trading or carbon offsets…just use clean energy.

    That means more nuclear and more renewables. I am not campaigning for an “I win, you lose” approach.

  26. mike from iowa 2020-02-24 14:49

    Wingnuts sifted the slime in the swamp and came up with their version of the anti-Greta Thunberg troll, a nineteen year old German lass who is apparently willing to espouse just the opposite of whatever Miss Thunberg says. Bet she costs a pretty penny. And of course, whatever she ejaculates is likely to be wingnut gospel.

    Something tells me she is not doing this for love of the planet.

  27. Debbo 2020-02-24 14:54

    For love of the €€€€€.

  28. Debbo 2020-02-27 21:09

    I kind of hate to do this because I know it’s going to get Mac cranked up, but I try to be unbiased in matters of energy.

    “For the past year, scientists at INL [Idaho National Laboratory] have started recycling spent uranium to meet the fuel needs of a new generation of small commercial reactors.”

    There are little A-frame reactors that look like a summer cabin and generate 1½ megawatts of power. Those will begin reusing uranium from the lab. Lots of details here,

  29. grudznick 2020-02-27 21:13

    Ms. Geelsdottir, despite the Perpetual Motion Machine beliefs of you and your Republican clone, Lora Hubbel, I sure wish your blue links worked. At least you give take, but your links are not blue. Can you get a grandkid or someboy to show you so people like me, who know about matters of energy a lot because I am #4Science and have the shirt to prove it, can read your Fake Science links. And grudznick appreciates the take.

  30. mike from iowa 2020-02-28 06:45

    Grudzilla, if you would copy and paste the links that are not blue, you would find interesting and enlightening information for yer brain, because that is all Debbo posts. This is so simple even drumpf could figure it out.

  31. Debbo 2020-02-28 14:04

    Mike, is Grudz stalking me again? Never mind.

    I’ll never be his girlfriend so he might as well move on. Sad, angry, impotent little men have never been my type so he’s out.

  32. Clyde 2020-03-01 20:03

    Sounds like they could put those little reactors in your neighborhood or mine, Debbo. No one would even know they were there. H’mmmm

  33. Debbo 2020-03-02 14:47

    From Numlock News by Walt Hickey:

    In 2017, Tesla Inc. installed the world’s largest lithium-ion battery in South Australia, the Hornsdale Power Reserve, owned by Neoen. Friday an engineering consultant group announced the extent to which having this power reserve has stabilized the entire grid in South Australia, and has also facilitated a transition to green energy that can be plagued by boom periods (sunny, windy) and bust periods (night, calm) while still satisfying demand. Aurecon announced that in 2019, the Hornsdale facility reduced network costs by $116 million Australian dollars ($76 million USD). The battery — and the added slack it permits — has cut the cost to regulate the South Australia grid by 91 percent. Neoen announced it will add another 50 megawatts of capacity at Hornsdale in 2020 on top of the 100 megawatts there now.

    James Thornhill, Bloomberg

  34. Clyde 2020-03-02 18:22

    Thanks, Debbo. Interesting.

  35. Debbo 2020-03-09 15:51

    From Numlock News by Walt Hickey:

    Companies that sell natural gas have partnered with hog farms and sewage plants to wring a little more value out of poop. A Massachusetts dairy farm, home to 800 Holstein cows, loaded its waste into a silo called an anaerobic digester, mixing it and heating it for a month. Once concentrated and purified, it produced enough natural gas to heat 1,600 homes, raising income per cow by 15 to 25 percent. A sewage treatment plant in Phoenix previously burned off its methane emissions — CO2 is better than emitting methane — but after constructing a facility to process, purify, and pump the methane emissions into a pipeline, the system now produces 600,000 cubic feet of natural gas per year, earning a further $1.2 million in revenue split by the plant’s municipal owners.

    John Fialka, E&E News

  36. Clyde 2020-03-17 19:43

    Where electric power is more expensive with a big push to ‘green’ as well then methane digesters work. Here in So Dak and immediate area they are for demonstration only. That is unless you can do as the Bones are and find a way to sell to Cali.

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