Santa Rosa, CA FARMS to FUEL Project

Project Location:
Santa Rosa (Charles M. Schultz) Airport (KSTS)
880 Aviation Blvd (W. of Skylane),
Santa Rosa, CA 95403

Summary Information

Sonoma BioStar, LLC., a subsidiary of BioStar Systems, LLC, ( a producer of renewable energy and organic fertilizer has teamed with the Otto H. Rosentreter Co.,( a renewable energy and power development company to form OHR BioStar LLC which has subsequently partnered with the Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) to build the Sonoma County Farms to Fuel Project at no cost to Sonoma County.

The project will be located adjacent to the existing Airport Larkfield Wikiup Sanitation Zone Wastewater Treatment Plant and will consist of two phases. The first phase will include a biorefinery (thermophilic anaerobic digester) which will produce biomethane gas which will then be converted to electricity through the use of environmentally safe and friendly fuel cells. The second phase will include a biorefinery which will produce biomethane gas which will be compressed and used as an alternative renewable fuel by the Sonoma County Transit Fleet and at CNG filling stations. The residual solids remaining in the waste stream after BioMethane production will be dewatered and used to produce OMRI certified granulated and liquid organic Fertilizer. The phases will be built concurrently.

In 2005 all nine Sonoma County cities, the County of Sonoma (County), the Sonoma County Transportation Authority (SCTA) and the Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) committed to coordinating efforts to develop, disseminate, and implement climate change programs and policies regionally. These entities collectively established a bold goal to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 25% below 1990 levels by 2015.

In support of achieving this goal, OHR BioStar, LLC is partnering with the Sonoma County Water Agency and the Sonoma County Transit Authority to produce 1,260,000 cubic feet per day of biogas utilizing a waste reception and blending facility, a high temperature (500 C) thermophilic anaerobic digestion system, and a biogas conditioning and compression facility that will produce 300,000 MCF per year of pipeline quality BioMethane to be used to power fuel cells that would produce a minimum of 1.1 MWh of electricity and could produce up to 5.2 MWh of electricity annually, and to be used for fuel by the Sonoma County Transit Fleet. Excess BioMethane would be distributed through the existing PG&E pipeline to other electrical generation sites or cities and counties with existing natural gas fleets. Fifteen thousand tons of certified organic fertilizer will be produced and available to replace the current synthetic chemical fertilizer demand.

The project team has established the following goals for the Sonoma County Farms to Fuel Project:

  • Develop and demonstrate the viability of thermophilic anaerobic digestion of animal, agricultural, and food wastes for the production of BioMethane for use in producing electricity and for use in natural gas operated vehicles
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • Improve air quality
  • Create green collar jobs
  • Provide a platform for increasing regional independence and improving the local economy by shifting from grid supplied electricity to self distributed electricity and shifting from imported petroleum to locally produced low carbon fuels
  • Provide a viable cost effective waste reuse alternative for local agricultural industries and food processors, such that those industries choose to stay in Sonoma County to operate
  • Serve as a cost effective waste reuse model for other agriculturally based community economies
  • Provide electricity from renewable sources and generate that electricity locally
  • Increase market penetration of BioMethane production for use as a transportation fuel
  • Provide OMRI certified organic fertilizer

The operational objectives for this project are to:

  • Convert 387,000 gallons of substrate per day of combined animal, agricultural, food and other organic waste streams and completely mix them in a thermophilic digester, converting that waste stream into 820,000 cubic feet of BioMethane per day.
  • Use 250,000 MCF of BioMethane annually as fuel for fuel cells to produce up to 5.2 MW of electricity annually (minimum of 75,000 MCF to produce 1.1MW of electricity annually)
  • Compress 50,000 MCF annually to be used for fueling the county’s natural gas powered vehicles (sufficient to fuel 33 of Sonoma County Transit’s 45 bus fleet daily)
  • Reduce GHG by 41,300 tons per year


There are two advanced technologies utilized in this project. Thermophilic Anaerobic Digestion and Stationary Molten Carbonate Fuel Cells. Anaerobic digestion is a natural process involving the microbiological conversion of organic matter into methane in the absence of oxygen. It occurs throughout nature when high concentrations of wet organic matter are found in the absence of dissolved oxygen. The fundamental process of anaerobic digestion involves the conversion of the biodegradable portion of waste material into biogas composed primarily of methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2). The conversion actually occurs through the symbiotic actions of a complex consortium of three distinct groups of bacteria, which decompose the organic matter to feed their metabolism and produce methane as an end product. BioStar’s technology provides a thermophilic (500°to 55° C) environment in which this process takes place. The technology allows for the monitoring and controlling of the environment in the digester to insure the conditions are ideal for maximum methane production.

Stationary Molten Carbonate Fuel Cells in principle operate like a battery. A fuel cell consists of two electrodes sandwiched around an electrolyte. Oxygen passes over one electrode and hydrogen the other, generating electricity, water, and heat. OHR’s fuel cell includes a “fuel reformer” which enables it to utilize the hydrogen from any hydrocarbon fuel including the bio- methane produced in the anaerobic digesters. Since fuel cells rely on chemistry, not combustion, emissions are much smaller and cleaner than emissions from the cleanest combustion processes.


On August 12, 2010, BioStar Systems, LLC was awarded a grant from the California Energy Commission under the Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program, Solicitation PON-09-604, Biofuel Plants in the amount of $2,632,480.00 to build the bio-methane production facility for use as transportation fuel. These funds will be used as part of the funding for phase two of the project.

The CEC revised the award on February 4, 2011 to $3,372,314.00

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reductions

The BioMethane produced by digestion of the Sonoma County wastes is equivalent to 36,460 tons per year of CO2. The reduced hauling distance for the waste stream would conserve 80,000 gallons per year of diesel fuel, the equivalent of 800 tons per year of CO2. Using 50,000 MCF of BioMethane instead of diesel fuel in transportation fuel would save an additional 4,100 tons per year of CO2 emissions. The total reduction in GHG is 41,360 tons per year of CO2.

BioMethane is carbon neutral, and when used in vehicles has very low exhaust emissions and therefore complements efforts to achieve and maintain federal and state ambient air quality standards. The air quality benefits of BioMethane are:

  • NOx and PM emissions are lowered in comparison to typical public transportation fossil fuel transportation fuels, i.e. diesel fuel
  • Diesel fuel is replaced
  • Air pollution is reduced
  • Animal waste off-gassing methane to the atmosphere is eliminated
  • Organic wastes are used to produce BioMethane instead of being deposited in landfills
  • Carbon emissions from current transportation routes are reduced due to shorter hauling distances
  • The residual product of organic fertilizer is produced in conjunction with the BioMethane production


During the construction of the project, 94 temporary jobs will be created. Total full time employees employed at the completed facility will be 36.

Compliance and Permitting

The Sonoma Farms to Fuel Project will be constructed at the Airport/Wikiup Water Treatment Plant located on Aviation Blvd in Sonoma County and will comply with all Sonoma County, California, and Federal requirements. The actual permitting process will begin in September and is expected to be completed during the summer of 2011. The Sonoma County Water Agency owns the property and PRMD will act as lead agent in the CEQA process.

Required ARRA Information

The capital expenditures for this project will be used to build a biorefinery project for the purposes of producing electricity from renewable BioMethane. The BioMethane will be produced in thermophilic anaerobic digesters that will use animal, agricultural, and food waste as organic feed stock. The minimum amount of electricity produced on site will be 1.1 MW annually and electricity production could be as high as 5.2 MW annually.

Energy Efficiency

Thermophilic anaerobic digestion systems using BioStar Systems, LLC technology are perfect solutions for projects that benefit from cost effective waste management, a smaller carbon footprint, and renewable energy. Demand for energy produced without harmful emissions and food produced organically is growing. While alternative sources of energy are generally viewed in the role of backup power, anaerobic digestion is beginning to take center stage.

The processing efficiencies of BioStar Systems’ technologies enable an operating system with a small physical footprint. BioStar Systems’ modular system design is easily inserted within existing facility infrastructure.

BioStar’s systems:

  • Utilize a consortium of naturally occurring bacteria
  • Employ a redundant and secure process control system supported by the National Data Security Center
  • Achieve pathogen destruction and volatile solids reduction that exceed the USEPA Part 50 requirements for “Exceptional Quality”
  • Reduce regulatory exposure and environmental risks
  • Eliminate odors, pathogens, vectors and dust
  • Wliminate or reduce waste disposal costs and fuel costs

The facility will use co-generation and renewable energy to meet its power requirements including BioMethane powered fuel cells for electricity. There are distinct environmental benefits associated with capturing biogas via anaerobic digesters and using the biogas to produce pipeline quality fuel to generate electricity, and producing organic fertilizer from the waste stream byproducts. A portion of the biogas is used to fuel the dryer at the sludge drying plant. Recovered heat from the fuel cells is used to maintain the operating temperature of the digestion process. The water removed from the digested biomass is recycled to supply the makeup water for the digesters. The entire process is energy efficient, reduces GHG, and provides electricity from renewable sources.

Project Costs and Financing Information

The entire project cost will be borne by the project developer, OHR BioStar LLC. Any bonds that maybe used will be repaid, solely, by the developer, OHR BioStar LLC.

Neither Sonoma County nor Sonoma County Water Agency will be financially responsible for the construction of the project. At this time, the only dollars that will be paid from a government agency come from a grant from CEC (CA Energy Commission).

Closing the Organic Agricultural Loop

  1. Organic waste matter comes from the farmer.
  2. Organic matter will be pumped into a thermophilic anaerobic digester.
  3. Digester will produce BioMethane gas (BioGas).
  4. BioGas feeds a fuel cell generating electricity without pollutants.
  5. BioGas is injected into local PG&E pipeline for distribution to natural gas customers, both residential and commercial.
  6. BioGas is sent to CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) stations for commercial & private use in buses, cars, and trucks.
  7. Fertilizer in granulated form goes back to the organic farmer for next year's organic crops.
  8. Fertilizer in liquid form goes back to the organic farmer for next year's organic crops.
  9. Next year's organic waste matter starts the cycle all over again.