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Okeechobee County company turning manure into natural gas

Posted at 12:55 PM, Feb 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-20 19:12:30-05

OKEECHOBEE COUNTY, Fla. — Soon there will be gold coming out of Okeechobee County in the form of renewable energy.

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J.M. Larson, Inc. has partnered with Brightmark Energy to convert 230,000 tons of manure per year into renewable natural gas. Advocates said it speaks to the growing power of dairy in Florida.

Since 1947, the Larsons have been known for dairy in support of Florida’s $21 billion industry.

"Our cows produce nearly 20,000 gallons of milk a day," said John Larson, President of J.M. Larson, Inc. "We need to make a good product for our consumer. At the same time we need to be able to be sustainable."

But being sustainable when you have 10,000 cows on four farms requires the right total mixed ration and a sophisticated way to recycle a lot of waste.

"It’s roughly about 40 to 50 tons a day," Larson said. "We need to apply all of the available technologies out there."

In fact, Verano’s son recently completed a science project on "The Power of Poo."

A precursor to a biogas project coming to Okeechobee County after J.M. Larson, Inc. signed a biogas contract with Brightmark energy to build anaerobic digestors, which will generate natural gas.

"Cows only represent only about 3-percent of the world's greenhouse gas, but they have carbon index score that’s higher than some of the landfills that you see," Larson said. "And so it’s more bang for the buck if we can capture that and turn that methane into natural gas."

Brian Chapman, Director of Industry Relations for Florida Dairy Farmers issued this statement to WPTV:

"This is a win-win for dairy farms and the state of Florida. Dairy digesters help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, create renewable natural gas and electricity to replace fossil fuels and bring jobs and improved environmental benefits to the local community. We anticipate that this type of technology will become more commonplace over time and augment the many other sustainable on-farm conservation practices in place today."

The anaerobic digestors should be fully operational at all four Larson family farms by the end of 2021.

Brightmark Energy anticipates the digesters to generate approximately 171,000 MMBtu of renewable natural gas each year, which will be delivered into the local interstate gas pipeline system.