Dairy and tourist attraction uses cow power to fuel Cummins engines

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A Fair Oaks truck fills up with natural gas at the natural gas station on site.
A Fair Oaks truck fills up with natural gas at the natural gas station on site.

Some big changes have been going on this fall at Fair Oaks Farms in Northwest Indiana that should help the popular dairy and tourist attraction deliver the more than 250,000 gallons of milk it produces each day.

Fair Oaks, which runs its trucks and most of the sprawling dairy on the natural gas it generates from cow manure, has been converting its fleet from Cummins Westport’s 8.9 liter ISL G natural gas engine to the joint venture’s new ISX12 G engine.

“Our fleet is really, really pressed hard,” said Mark Stoermann, Director of Operations for AMP Americas, which partners with Fair Oaks to produce the compressed natural gas, or CNG. “We are running 42 trucks, delivering 53 loads of milk a day. Most trucks average 720 miles a day so each truck is averaging over 250,000 miles a year.”

The dairy has been using the smaller engine, knowing it was undersized for pulling payloads of close to 80,000 pounds when its tankers are full of milk. The new, larger engines are designed for the kind of demands the operation puts on its trucks.

Fair Oaks believes the new engine will help it generate greater efficiencies in its operations as it strives to show dairies and similar businesses around the country that converting waste to fuel is a viable and sustainable option.

The dairy estimates it is taking 2 million gallons of diesel fuel off the road annually by converting the 1.5 million gallons of manure its cows produce daily into fuel. The United States Department of Energy says Fair Oaks is the largest natural gas fleet in the country using agricultural waste as its primary fuel source.

Facing growing concern about the odor from its operations, the dairy made a critical decision more than a decade ago to begin experimenting with anaerobic digestion. Fair Oaks was looking for an alternative to the traditional disposal method of storing manure in pits until conditions were right to apply it on area fields.

Today, the dairy is garnering attention from the likes of The New York Times and sustainability experts around the country. You can learn more about its incredible story by going to www.cummins.com/sustainability. You can also watch the video above that shows how Fair Oaks converts manure into energy.

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1 Comments

  • Lionel O'Byrn says:
    January 25, 2014 at 10:51 am Reply

    I was born on a dairy farm in Vermont. After leaving the farm I spent my next four years in the US Marine Corps. Upon leaving the service I went to college and received a BS Degree in Mechanical Engineering. I joined Cummins Engine Company and for the next 30 years enjoyed a successful career with a very good company. In looking at the Cummins Website I saw this article and found it very interesting. I have heard about Fair Oaks Farms but have never visited their location. I currently live in Henderson, Nevada, but on my next trip to the Mid West I plan to take a tour of their facilities.

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