Click on “Download PDF” for the PDF version or on the title for the HTML version.

If you are not an ASABE member or if your employer has not arranged for access to the full-text, Click here for options.

An Engineering-Economic Model for Analyzing Dairy Plug-Flow Anaerobic Digesters: Cost Structures and Policy Implications

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Transactions of the ASABE. 55(1): 201-209. (doi: 10.13031/2013.41247) @2012
Authors:   C. R. Faulhaber, D. R. Raman, R. T. Burns
Keywords:   Anaerobic digestion, Economics, Economy of scale, Renewable energy, Scale factor

Treating animal wastes through anaerobic digestion (AD) yields methane-rich biogas that can be used for power generation or heating, and a nutrient-rich digestate that can be land-applied as fertilizer. Furthermore, AD reduces odors from stored and land-applied manures. Despite these benefits, AD deployment rates in the U.S. are only 5% for dairy farms identified as suitable for AD by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The objective of this study was to analyze the economic and technical limitations of farm-scale anaerobic digesters using a simple model permitting insight into the fundamental constraints on the technology. A model was developed to determine the cost of methane produced via AD based on operation size. Dairy plug-flow systems were modeled because of their well-documented economic performance, and model validation used data from AgSTAR's FarmWare program. The analysis shows that farm size is critical to make digestion-derived methane cost-competitive with natural gas. At low herd sizes (<400 animals), carbon credits and odor reductions alone appear insufficient to overcome the low commercial energy rates in the U.S. However, moderate reductions in digester cost and interest rate, coupled with moderate increases in amortization period and/or natural gas prices, could make AD more competitive with commercial energy in the U.S. even at relatively small herd sizes (approx. 400 animals).

(Download PDF)    (Export to EndNotes)