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New Mexico Business Weekly Passing biogas: R-Qubed project converts cow manure to methane

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Courtesy of entec biopower gmbh

Some locals sarcastically joke that the stretch of dairy farms along Interstate 10 south of Las Cruces should be re-named “Buenos Aires” (fresh air).

It’s a reference to a less than aromatic sector of I-10 in southern New Mexico, not a reflection on the capital of Argentina. But that soon might change, thanks to a US$72 million plan by R-Qubed Energy Inc. of El Paso to build one of New Mexico’s first biogas plants, near the towns of Vado and Berino.

The plant will convert cow manure from local dairies into methane gas for use at Public Service Co. of New Mexico’s natural gas plants. It also will make fertilizer and compost from manure, and recycle effluent water for re-use on farms, said R-Qubed President Eduardo Rodriguez.

“The plant will help dairy operations deal with environmental issues caused by manure piling up on the ground,” Rodriguez said. “The manure releases methane, a greenhouse gas, and it endangers water resources through storm runoff. By recycling the manure, we’ll also reduce odor and fly populations significantly.”

Once fully operational, the plant will create enough methane to supply energy to about 4,000 average households, Rodriguez said.
PNM has sent R-Qubed a letter of intent to purchase its gas. The utility also requested permission from the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission to count methane purchases toward its compliance with the state renewable energy portfolio, which requires large utilities to derive 10 percent of their power from clean sources by 2011, and 20 percent by 2020.

Cynthia Bothwell, integrated resource planning manager for PNM, said methane gas from manure offers a more consistent power source than other alternatives, such as solar and wind.

“Unlike other renewable resources that are intermittently available, PNM can use renewable fuel purchased from R-Qubed in existing fossil fuel facilities that are dependable and reliable, without the need to build additional infrastructure,” Bothwell said.

However, it could take a few years before R-Qubed delivers much methane, since the company plans to build its plant in phased quadrants.

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