Planting prairies to make renewable natural gas

An alternative energy company making natural gas from Smithfield hog waste plans to soon make the same fuel from prairie plants.

Roeslein Alternative Energy spokesman Brandon Butler says they’ve partnered with Smithfield in north Missouri to grow native prairie grasses and are working with Iowa State University scientists, “We’re just trying to find the best mixes and the best system that we can put in place to ensure a good yield and the opportunity to create this new economic driver through renewable gas production from native grasses.”

Butler tells Brownfield Ag News that fuel derived from prairies has ecological and environmental benefits, “All of us in Missouri know right now what we’re dealing with in the flooding. A lot of that has to do with the fact that we’ve eliminated nature’s sponge. We don’t have these prairies anymore to sequester that water as it comes down the river system. There’s SO many positives that come from this system.”

And Butler says they want it to be a source of income for farmers, similar to CRP, “You know, when farmers enter into CRP, it’s not one year or two years, it’s for a long-term contract. And we want to be able to offer the same sort of situation where they know how much money they’re going to make.”

Butler says the idea is to plant the native prairie grasses on marginal lands, instead of into row crops.

Interview with Brandon Butler, June 12, 2019

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