Biomethane for Transportation

EPA Grant Number: SU833684
Title: Biomethane for Transportation
Investigators: Leonhardt, Eric , Castillo, Anthony , Cruse, Ryan , Freund, Alex , Jopin, Matt , Parent, Sean , Shaw, Todd , Sjodin, Jeremy , Stazel, Jordan , Swazo, Jamin , Welsh, Geoff , Wohlenhaus, Drew
Institution: Western Washington University
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: II
Project Period: August 31, 2007 through July 31, 2008
Project Amount: $75,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet - Phase 2 (2007) Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Energy , P3 Awards , Sustainability


To demonstrate the ability of dairy farm anaerobic digesters to produce biomethane for use in a vehicle. To improve the economic value of the anaerobic digester in the Pacific Northwest and therefore increase the number of digesters operating in the region. To improve regional air, water and soil quality and to reduce the effective greenhouse gas emissions from dairy farming.


This project will develop a biogas refining process for use with an anaerobic digester. The resulting biomethane will then be used to power two public buses. The refining process will produce biomethane of sufficient quality—less that 15 ppm hydrogen sulfide and greater than 90% methane—that the gas may be compressed and used to fuel an emission controlled vehicle. The initial system will involve a refinery unit, compressors, compressed natural gas storage tanks, a portable storage capacity, and a secondary compressor located at the bus terminal. The refueling infrastructure will be designed to provide a minimum of ten standard cubic feet of biomethane gas per minute (scfm). The final refining unit will be designed to process the entire gas flow of the Vander Haak Dairy anaerobic digester. Digesters are often funded by the sale of electrical power generated by engines fueled by the biogas. Low cost electrical power in the Pacific Northwest prevents the economic viability of digester projects. Power utility reluctance to connect to dairy digesters poses an additional obstacle. Engine, generator and interconnect technology may account for one third to one half the cost of a digester project. A sustainable transportation system fueled by biomethane provides an alternative market. The biomethane value may be increased from $0.50 per gasoline equivalent gallon (gge) to $2.00 per gge. The costs for building the infrastructure may be as little as 10% of the total digester cost.

Expected Results:

Success will be measured by achieving the following goals during the pilot:

  • Displace a minimum of 10 gallons of daily diesel consumption
  • Reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions per passenger by 720 kg
  • Develop a cost/revenue strategy that reduces the 10 year return on investment to 5 years for anaerobic digester projects
  • Collect data on bus performance and emissions
  • Develop a working model with collected data to compare the costs of biomethane transportation with existing diesel and gasoline alternatives on a county wide basis

Supplemental Keywords:

biofuel, biodiesel ethanol, CHP, natural gas vehicle, hybrid vehicles, NGV, CNG,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Sustainable Industry/Business, POLLUTION PREVENTION, Sustainable Environment, Energy, Environmental Chemistry, Technology for Sustainable Environment, Environmental Engineering, sustainable development, environmental sustainability, alternative materials, biomass, alternative fuel, biodiesel fuel, energy efficiency, energy technology, alternative energy source

Relevant Websites:

Phase 1 Abstract
Phase 1 Final Report

Progress and Final Reports:

Final Report

P3 Phase I:

Biomethane for Transportation  | Final Report