Meeting set for $13.9M Minnesota pipeline that would source natural gas from dairy farms

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BENSON, Minn. — Swift County and the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission will co-host a public information meeting later this month on a proposed $13.9 million pipeline project.

The Swift County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, Jan. 2, approved hosting the joint meeting, set for 6 p.m. Jan. 30 at McKinney’s in Benson, Minn.

Dooley’s Natural Gas , headquartered in Willmar, is proposing a 28-mile-long pipeline to capture renewable natural gas from the four Riverview dairy operations located in Swift, Chippewa and Kandiyohi counties. Riverview, based in Morris, operates several large dairies in the region.

The renewable natural gas will be transported to the Alliance Transmission Pipeline at a connection site in Swift County.

Renewable natural gas, often referred to as RNG, is produced by capturing and recycling organic waste materials from farms, landfills, food waste, wastewater facilities and other sources.

The Dooley’s Natural Gas project consists of laying 28 miles of two- and four-inch diameter, high-density polyethylene pipe to transport the gas at low pressure, at 100 pounds per square inch, described as similar to the pressure for natural gas lines to homes and businesses. It also includes a final 100-foot pipeline segment operating at high pressure of up to 2,000 pounds per square inch gauge to connect to the Alliance Transmission Pipeline.

The individual counties are responsible for permitting the low-pressure segments of the pipeline within their boundaries.

The 100-foot high-pressure line meets the state definition of a “pipeline” and requires approval from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, according to information presented to the Swift County Board on Tuesday by Micah Revell, a Minneapolis attorney representing the project.

Dooley’s will place the pipeline underground along the existing right of way to connect the Meadow Star Dairy, East Dublin Dairy, Swenoda Dairy and Louriston Dairy. Natural gas compressors, shutout valves, a control center and flaring equipment are also part of the project.

Riverview and Amp Americas, a company invested in the renewable transportation fuel industry, currently operate a similar line connecting three Riverview dairies in Stevens County.

The gas is delivered to the Alliance Transmission Pipeline and transported for use as transportation fuel. California and the federal Environmental Protection Agency offer credits to incentivize the use of renewable natural gas for transportation, Andy Dvoracek, with Amp Americas, told the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners during an October presentation on the local project.

According to Dvoracek, the project is fully funded and work is underway to build biodigesters at each of the four Riverview dairies in the three counties. The digesters convert manure into renewable methane, which is purified into renewable natural gas for injection into the pipeline.

The company has asked each of the counties to consider authorizing up to $45 million in tax-exempt bonds. The company could seek to refinance its debt with tax-exempt bonds at a later date, according to Dvoracek.

The company is not asking for tax-exempt bonds at this time. If it would seek authority for the bonds, it — and not the individual counties — would be entirely responsible for the debt. Agreeing to consider the tax-exempt bonds at this time does not obligate the counties to award bonds if the company requests them.

Dooley’s Natural Gas has submitted its request for a permit to the Minnesota PUC. The PUC has accepted the application, but has not acted on the permit.

According to the application, the project will reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the four dairies by 907,064 tons per year by the conversion of manure to renewable natural gas.

The application by Dooley’s is supported by the Laborers International Union of North America and Engineers Local 49 for the jobs that the pipeline construction will create.

The application was challenged by Clean Up the River Environment of Montevideo and the Land Stewardship Project. They asked for public information meetings to consider the potential community and environmental impacts of the project.

The two organizations charge that the project will ultimately lead to more greenhouse gas emissions by incentivizing the large farms to continue to expand methane-emitting operations. They also argue that the project will adversely impact the economics of smaller dairies unable to afford the upfront costs associated with capturing methane for renewable natural gas.

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