biomethane from cow manure provides fuel for the tractor

In the barn, the cows take turns heading towards the robotic milking station. Throughout the day, they take turns. They no longer seem to pay attention to the automatic scraper that passes at their feet. It allows the dung to be recovered and transported to the methanizer installed a few meters away.

These domes, like giant mushrooms, are multiplying in our countryside. Under their taut canvas, often gray or green, biogas floats. In Beaumontois-en-Périgord, 30 kilometers from , Bertrand Guérin was one of the pioneers. Its dairy farm is equipped with a…

In the barn, the cows take turns heading towards the robotic milking station. Throughout the day, they take turns. They no longer seem to pay attention to the automatic scraper that passes at their feet. It allows the dung to be recovered and transported to the methanizer installed a few meters away.

These domes, like giant mushrooms, are multiplying in our countryside. Under their taut canvas, often gray or green, biogas floats. In Beaumontois-en-Périgord, 30 kilometers from Bergerac, Bertrand Guérin was one of the pioneers. Its dairy farm has had a methanization unit since 2011.


On the Guérin farm, cow milking is automated.

PHILIPPE GREILLER / SO

He goes back twenty years to the time of his first discoveries. “We were looking for income diversification. I visited farms in Germany. We realized that we could valorize this inexhaustible material that is slurry,” explains the farmer. The gigantic units he visited across the Rhine interested him, but he chose a model adapted to the size of his farm.

A profitable investment

In the large tank, called a “digester”, heated to 38 degrees, the organic matter ferments and releases biogas. This is then burned to power a motor which generates heat and electricity. “We heat the five houses in the hamlet using this heating network. We got rid of the last fuel oil tank in 2014. We therefore no longer consume fossil energy on the farm,” assures the methanizer farmer.

Although he highlights the decarbonization of his farm, Bertrand Guérin remains pragmatic: “We think first and foremost about the economy, ecology comes next. » The annual turnover for electricity production amounts to 900,000 euros thanks to a guaranteed purchase contract. “This income enabled other investments such as robotic milking, better insulation of the barn and photovoltaic panels,” he explains.


The farm has a tractor that runs on biogas produced by its methanizer.

PHILIPPE GREILLER / SO

Since 2022, the farm has also had its own fuel station which supplies a tractor and five light vehicles with organic CNG (natural biogas for vehicles). The installation was supported by Ademe and the Nouvelle-Aquitaine Region, but the fuel does not benefit from subsidized purchase prices. According to Ademe, there are only five stations of this type in . A new call for projects has just been launched to develop them. “We are still in the development phase,” recognizes Bertrand Guérin, “our station has some functional problems. We also need to make progress on repurchase prices for the model to be interesting. »

“There is enormous unused methanogenic potential. We must not lose this activity which is consistent with our profession”

As vice-president of the Farmers of France association, he tries to convince more people to embark on the adventure. “There is enormous unused methanogenic potential. There are people who say that this is not the job of farmers,” he complains, convinced of the contrary. We must not lose this activity which is consistent with our profession and which allows diversification. We must avoid what we experienced with milk: that others recover the value that we produce. »

According to him, methanization serves the objectives of greener agriculture. He emphasizes the function of digestate, the material remaining after the degradation of organic matter. “We have changed our practices thanks to the digestate that we use for spreading. We no longer plow, our soils are healthier. Our dual strength is being able to produce biomass and bring the digestate back to the field,” he argues.

Develop organic NGV

To feed the methanizers, livestock effluent is not enough. “It’s like a cow, you have to feed it morning, noon and evening,” jokes Bertrand Guérin. In the digester, managed by his brother Patrice, we find 65% manure but also plant residues and industrial waste such as vegetable fats or whey.

Livestock effluent makes up the majority of the deposit for the methanizer.


Livestock effluent makes up the majority of the deposit for the methanizer.

PHILIPPE GREILLER / SO

His nephew Mathieu, living a few kilometers away, followed the movement. Its operation includes a methanization unit and an organic NGV station. Like other farmers, he also uses intermediate crops with energy recovery (Cive). Different varieties are planted and harvested between two main crops. “This makes it possible to secure a Source of supply for the methanizer. We are forced to buy the waste now. It has become a very competitive market,” explains Bertrand Guérin.

As he passes the baton of the farm to his son Clément, he is thinking about new outlets for biogas. “We need to develop the fuel station. There are a lot of vehicles that pass through the farm: the milk truck twice a day, the trucks that transport livestock feed, the road workers… We can decarbonize the farm and everything that revolves around it,” maintains the farmer .

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