Smithfield Foods, Inc., Smithfield, Va., and Dominion Energy, Richmond, Va., broke ground on what is said to be North Carolina’s largest renewable natural gas (RNG) project through their joint venture, Align Renewable Natural Gas (RNG).
Located in Duplin and Sampson counties, N.C., this project will generate enough energy to power more than 3,500 homes annually upon completion. Align RNG is a multi-state joint venture between Dominion Energy and Smithfield that will capture methane emissions from hog farms and convert them into RNG to power homes and businesses.
“Breaking ground on this project with Dominion Energy is an exciting first step in bringing Align RNG to life,” says Kraig Westerbeek, senior director of Smithfield Renewables and hog production environmental affairs for Smithfield Foods. “This project implements proven ‘manure-to-energy’ technology across a number of farms to produce reliable renewable energy for our community, and contributes to our company’s ambitious goal to reduce our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 25% by 2025.”
This initiative will install technology across as many as 19 area farms to transform manure into RNG that will be processed and injected into existing natural gas distribution systems to serve local homes and businesses. This project is modeled after the Optima KV project, which captures biogas on five Smithfield contract farms in North Carolina, and similar projects on Smithfield farms in Northern Missouri and Utah.
“What we are starting today is truly transformational,” says Gary Courts, general manager of new gas business development for Dominion Energy. “We’re using the power of innovation to make our energy cleaner and our farms more sustainable than ever before. With renewable natural gas, everyone wins. It’s good for the environment and our planet. It’s a huge win for the farmers. And, it’s around-the-clock renewable energy for consumers.”
This project is estimated to produce 300,000 MMBTU of renewable energy, which will play a key role in North Carolina’s initiative to reduce GHG emissions over the next decade and will help expand the state’s energy portfolio with a reliable source of renewable energy. The sale of RNG generated by these projects will also provide family farmers with an additional source of revenue.
“This project is providing an incredible opportunity to turn one of our largest cost drivers – manure management – into a new revenue stream,” says Terry Tate, manager of DM Farms, Rose Hill, N.C., and a contract grower for Smithfield. “Working with Dominion Energy and Smithfield on this project was an easy choice. I’m proud to be part of an initiative that is improving both the viability and durability of our farms while benefiting the local community with a renewable energy source.”
This is the first “manure-to-energy” project since the joint venture was announced in late 2018. Additional projects are planned in North Carolina, Utah, and Virginia, and are projected to produce enough energy to power 14,000 homes and businesses in total. The emissions reduction associated with these projects equate to planting 7.8 million new trees or taking 100,000 passenger vehicles off the road.