Toyota to build power plant to convert cattle manure into electricity, hydrogen

Toyota plans to build a power plant in California that captures methane gas from dairy cattle manure to generate water, electricity and hydrogen.

“We understand the tremendous potential to reduce emissions and improve society,” said Doug Murtha, Toyota's North America group vice president for strategic planning.

The company announced the project Thursday at the Los Angeles auto show. The Tri-Gen Project at the Port of Long Beach, Calif., will be the world’s first commercial-scale 100% renewable power and hydrogen generation plant. Toyota is betting heavily on fuel-cell technology, especially in Japan.

When it comes online around 2020, Tri-Gen will produce enough energy to power the equivalent of about 2,350 average-sized homes and meet the daily driving needs of nearly 1,500 vehicles — approximately 2.35 megawatts of electricity and 1.2 tons of hydrogen per day, according to Toyota.

In addition, the hydrogen fueling station will support the automaker’s operations at the port.

“Tri-Gen is a major step forward for sustainable mobility and a key accomplishment of our 2050 environmental challenge to achieve net zero CO2 emissions from our operations,” Murtha said.

The facility will supply all Toyota fuel cell vehicles moving through the port, including new deliveries of the Mirai sedan and Toyota’s Heavy Duty hydrogen fuel cell class 8 truck, known as Project Portal. To support these refueling operations, Toyota has also built one of the largest hydrogen fueling stations in the world on-site.

“In most states, you have a conventional natural gas pipeline network that provides heat for your stove or furnace. The majority of natural gas comes from drilling for well gases,” said Matt McClory, senior engineer with Toyota research and development. “We’re trying to green up this process. One way is to find renewable sources, like from gases emitted from landfills, wastewater treatment plants and farm animals.”

For this project, Toyota will source renewable methane from agricultural waste, primarily from dairy farm manure in California, said McClory, who graduated from high school in Lemoore, Calif., known for its dairy cattle operations.

Tri-Gen has been developed by FuelCell Energy with the support of the U.S. Department of Energy, the California Air Resources Board, South Coast Air Quality Management District, Orange County Sanitation District, and the University of California at Irvine, where research helped develop the core technology.

Thirty-one retail hydrogen stations are now open in California, and Toyota continues to partner with a range of companies to develop new stations. That includes a partnership with Shell that represents the first such collaboration between an automotive and oil company, Toyota said.