Vermont company plans to pipe digester gas to college

By Anna Simet | May 21, 2015

A Vermont company is waiting on permission from the Vermont Public Service Board to construct a project that will, via pipeline, transport dairy digester-derived biogas to Middlebury College to displace around 640,000 gallons of No. 6 fuel oil annually.

Integrated Energy Solutions President Daniel Smith, who is also executive director of the Northeast Dairy Compact Commission, said it isn’t clear which permit procedure the commission will decide to implement: making a decision off of a paper record, usually a three to four month process, or first hold a public hearing, which could take anywhere from six to nine months. Either way, the project, Lincoln Renewable Natural Gas, must receive a Certificate of Public Good before it can proceed.

The digester, yet to be built, will be located at the Goodrich Family Farm in Salisbury, Vermont, and take in manure from a few nearby farms, Smith said, adding that the company will use a manure tanker to pick up manure and deliver it to the digester.

Middlebury College, a minority investor in the project, will receive 75 percent of the gas. Vermont Gas Systems will purchase about 25 percent of the gas and is responsible for constructing the pipeline, which will be about five miles long and will connect the farm to its gas island in Middlesbury, said Elizabeth Parent, corporate communications manager of Vermont Gas Systems.

Parent said the gas utility has never done a project quite like this one. “It’s really exciting, we’re thrilled to come on board. It supports Vermont agriculture, reduces our emissions and gives our customers a renewable energy choice.”

Over time, the renewable natural gas (RNG) may be marketed to other large-scale users of heating fuel and also for use as compressed-RNG vehicle fuel.

Smith pointed out that the project is fairly unique in that Lincoln Renewable Gas is leasing the land from the farmer, whose only involvement is providing the feedstock. “The private company is doing all of the construction and operation, so in that sense, it’s a bit more unique than the technology,” he said. “This is a private venture, opposed to a farmer venture.”

Lincoln Renewable Gas has asked the commission for an expedited application process. It is possible the project could be operating by the end of the year, but Smith said it’s unlikely. “We also have to go through the federal loan guarantee process, so it’s a pretty time-consuming process, one that will probably take me out of the possibility of getting built this year, it’ll most likely be spring of next year.”

The project has been in development for many years, according to Smith.