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Energy001 Anaerobic Digester Feasibility Study - Submitted

Posted by Meredith Moore on April 7, 2020

The Energy SWATeam made the following recommendation on 4/3/2020: 

The College of ACES should conduct a Feasibility Study to construct and operate an anaerobic digester on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus. The College of ACES should then proceed in accordance with the results of the Feasibility Study.

Recruit qualified faculty and staff and/or hire a contracting engineering firm to undertake this study and use the 2014 “South Farms Anaerobic Digester Feasibility Study” and David Rivera-Kohr’s “Anaerobic Digester at the U of I” presentation as references. This new feasibility study should help the University:

  1. identify the optimal location for the digester considering transportation of feedstocks (e.g. COW pipeline from 2014 study), proximity to the natural gas (NG) pipeline and campus fleet, and the College of ACES’ plans for future construction (e.g. new Dairy Farm);
  2. determine feedstock options (i.e. food waste from dining halls, campus buildings, restaurants and industrial partners, agricultural waste, animal manure and carcasses) and quantities from both on-campus and off-campus sources and projected monthly and annual outputs of biogas (cubic feet) and solid/liquid digestate (tons). This should include a breakdown of chemical constituents in biogas and digestates with specific focus on the monthly and annual outputs of valuable molecules (e.g. methane, nitrates, phosphates, potash);
  3. evaluate optimal biogas and digestate end uses for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and for best return on investment with particular focus on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) production for the campus vehicle fleet or MTD buses, Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) injection into the NG pipeline, biogas Combined Heat & Power (CHP) to meet parasitic energy load of digester and associated machinery, and applying digestates to agricultural fields as fertilizer. Include a recommended course of action for meeting the University’s sustainability goals;
  4. determine the optimal location for a CNG facility if the recommended option for biogas use is found to be RNG pipeline injection or CNG considering the most feasible CNG use scenarios (campus fleet trucks, cars, or MTD buses);
  5. determine prospective economics for implementation scenarios including life cycle costs of construction, equipment, transportation, etc., prospective savings from reduced expenditure (e.g. natural gas, vehicle fuel, fertilizer, waste transportation and disposal) and projected profits from energy credits (RECs, RINs, LCFSs), sale of digestion and upgradation byproducts, charges for facility use, acceptance of outside waste, etc.;
  6. evaluate mechanisms for integrating the recovered energy into campus’ energy generation and distribution system, e.g. determine the feasibility, economics and emissions associated with RNG pipeline injection, converting 8-12 campus fleet vehicles to CNG annually, using an Internal Combustion Engine to meet electricity needs of the host facility and dumping excess electricity onto the local grid, using biogas CHP with renewable energy technologies (e.g. solar, Deep Direct Use geothermal) to meet parasitic energy loads;
  7. determine potential sources of funding and evaluate the feasibility of owning and operating the system considering different partnership scenarios including the University alone and partnerships with private entities (e.g. GESS International, Inc., American Biogas Council, CR&R Environmental Services, EESI) or surrounding cities or counties—include other parties’ willingness to participate;
  8. compile a list of environmental, economic and other benefits associated with anaerobic digestion and utilization of biogas and digestate byproducts including those mentioned in the references. Include whether global water consumption will be reduced if digestate is used for fertilizer as opposed to generating an equal amount of traditional fertilizer and estimate time for return on investment given different biogas use scenarios;
  9. address and/or update the “recommended next steps” from 2014 feasibility study;
  10. investigate reasons why the previous feasibility study did not lead to digester construction and, if not already addressed by the previous criteria, collect information or take necessary steps to address those concerns.

This study should be completed by FY22 (June 30, 2022).

Attached is the SWATeam recommendation Energy001 Anaerobic Digester Feasibility Study with comments from the Energy SWATeam.