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Shell Oil plans to construct a new renewable natural gas facility in Southern Idaho

Shell Oil will be beginning construction next month of dairy manure to a renewable natural gas facility, located at the Bettencourt Dairies in Wendell.
Published: Oct. 19, 2021 at 4:54 PM MDT
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WENDELL, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — Shell Oil plans to build a new renewable natural gas facility in Southern Idaho, and there may be more coming online in the very new future that will not only help reduce CO2 emissions but also help the dairy industry in Idaho.

Over the last couple of years, there has been a lot of interest in constructing renewable natural gas facilities in Idaho coming from companies in California, due to the Golden State creating a marketplace with its low carbon fuel standards and its cap and trade system. The primary reason Idaho is seen as such a valuable partner is the facilities will be creating renewable natural gas with something cows and dairy farmers really have no use for

“Yes, cow manure would be the feedstock used to create the renewable natural gas,” said Rick Naerebout, Chair of the Idaho Dairymen’s Association.

He said Idaho has about 650,000 head of dairy cattle, and the Gem state is the third-largest dairy-producing state in the country. He also added some of the biggest dairies in the country are in Idaho.

“You just can’t put this technology on a 200 cow dairy. You have to have the size to make this technology work and be efficient enough to be sustainable,” Naerebout said.

It was recently announced Shell Oil Products US, a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell, will be beginning construction next month of a dairy manure to a renewable natural gas facility, located at the Bettencourt Dairies in Wendell. The facility will only use manure that is onsite at Bettencourt Dairies. No outside manure will be shipped into the facility.

“The Bettencourt’s are one great example of how our farmers in Idaho and in Utah can help the dairy industry achieve its commitment to carbon neutrality by 2050,” said Marissa Watson, vice president of sustainability for Dairy West. “This project demonstrates how technology can support farmers who are working to be good stewards of our air, land, and water.”

Once operational the RNG facility, Shell Downstream Bovarius, is expected to produce approximately 400,000 MMBtu per year of negative carbon intensity RNG using cow manure from the dairy. The gas will be shipped by pipeline from Idaho to California using an existing pipeline. The use of RNG in the form of compressed natural gas can reduce CO2 emissions from around 50 percent to 100 percent compared to fossil fuels.

“To see Shell Oil take an interest in investing in Idaho’s dairy industry and helping us to be part of reducing greenhouse gas emissions that is exciting,” said Naerebout. “We are seeing a number of other conversations happening around the state for additional facilities like this.”

Bettencourt Dairies has been a family-owned commercial dairy since 1982. Headquartered in Wendell, the dairy owns and operates several dairies across Jerome and Gooding counties. The dairy currently produces over three million pounds of milk per day, all of which are processed in the Magic Valley. Bettencourt CFO Rick Onaindia said the project is a natural extension of the dairy’s existing and future business.

Naerebout said dairy producers continue to see their cost of fuel, equipment, and labor increase, but they don’t see the same increase in milk price and revenue. He said future projects like Shell’s RNG facility will create opportunities for dairy producers to capture a new revenue stream to offset their compressed dairy revenue margins.

“This is one of those opportunities where we can try to capture a carbon market which is a new marketplace, and be part of that marketplace and generate revenues on facilities we have not generated in the past,” Naerebout said.

Eli Bowles, an assistant professor of Renewable Energies at the College of Southern Idaho, said projects like Shell’s RNG facility are fiscally responsible. Fossil fuels are going to cost more, which people have seen over the last two decades. He also thinks if more RNG facilities start popping up in Idaho it will help the local workforce with the creation of high paying jobs, and Southern Idaho has the workers

“The cool thing about this is CSI is right here. We have a renewable energy program. We have classes that talk about this stuff,” said Bowles. “If we can visit these facilities right out our backdoor this is going to be phenomenal for students.”

In October this year, Shell successfully achieved startup and production of renewable natural gas at its first U.S. biomethane facility, Shell New Energies Junction City in Oregon. The facility utilizes locally sourced cow manure and excess agricultural residues to produce an expected 736,000 MMBtu a year of RNG.

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