Manure-to-energy joint venture looks to transform sustainability

Manure-to-energy joint venture looks to transform sustainability

Technology News |
By Rich Pell

Together, the companies are forming a joint venture called Align Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) that will capture methane emissions from hog farms and convert them into clean renewable energy for residential home heating and power for local businesses. By capturing methane that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere, say the companies, the use of RNG can lead to a significant reduction in methane emissions from the agriculture and energy industries.

“At Smithfield, we recognize true, enduring sustainability initiatives require collaboration with other proven innovators who share a similar vision,” says Kenneth M. Sullivan, president and chief executive officer of Smithfield Foods. “Dominion Energy is one such proven innovator and we are proud to partner with them in our longstanding pursuit of renewable energy. Align RNG is part of our nationwide expansion of Smithfield Renewables, innovative projects designed to help meet our goal to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2025.”

RNG is produced from the methane generated from hog or dairy farms, landfills, wastewater treatment plants, and food processing facilities. The methane gas captured from hog farms, say the companies, can be stored and delivered to homes and businesses through existing natural gas infrastructure, making it a cost-effective, renewable option.

The new joint venture will leverage Smithfield’s relationships with its contract hog farmers, as well as the decades the company has spent studying and perfecting the commercial viability of ‘manure-to-energy’ projects. Using a technology known as anaerobic digestion, the projects will capture and process methane from large clusters of Smithfield’s company-owned and contract hog farms, and, once collected, the natural gas will then be transported to a central conditioning facility where it will be converted into RNG.

Thomas F. Farrell, II, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Dominion Energy says, “Our companies recognize the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the future of our planet. RNG is an innovative and proven way to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the agriculture industry by converting it into clean renewable energy. RNG is considered carbon-negative because it captures significantly more greenhouse gas emissions than are released from its end use in homes and businesses.”

RNG, says the companies, will also provide a new revenue stream for family farmers. The initiative will turn one of farmers’ largest costs into a new revenue source. Farmers who participate in the program will be paid for the energy their farms produce through long-term contracts.

The two companies say they plan to jointly invest at least $250 million in this initiative over the next decade, with initial application on 90% of Smithfield’s finishing spaces in North Carolina and Utah. In addition to these states, projects will be implemented in Virginia and have the potential for wider-scale application across the country.

The initiative builds on Smithfield’s Optima KV pilot project, which uses five anaerobic digesters to capture and clean biogas collected from in-ground digesters at five of the company’s contract hog farms. The new joint venture will immediately expand the program to two larger farm clusters in Duplin and Sampson Counties, North Carolina; Waverly, Virginia; and Milford, Utah. Construction of the new facilities is expected to begin in late 2018 with the first projects scheduled to be in-service in late 2019.

Smithfield Foods
Dominion Energy

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