Hog producer Smithfield Foods has completed a pipeline in Missouri to transport natural gas derived from pig manure.
The company announced Monday that it finished building a pipeline that connects one of its farms to Milan, a city located 130 miles north of Columbia. Smithfield Foods also captures methane, or natural gas, at two other Missouri farms, near Bethany and Princeton.
Capturing gas from pig manure is a key part of the pork producer’s goal to reduce 25% of the greenhouse gas emissions it produced in 2010 by 2025. Many of the company’s farms capture the methane and carbon dioxide created from pig manure, said Kraig Westerbeek, senior director of Smithfield Renewables and Hog Production Environmental Affairs.
“Capturing those emissions is clearly the biggest benefit from these projects,” Westerbeek said.
The 18-month-long project was built by Monarch Bioenergy, a joint venture between Smithfield and St. Louis-based Roeslein Alternative Energy. Smithfield did not disclose the cost of building the pipeline.
Smithfield’s farms store pig waste inside large lagoons called anaerobic digesters. Bacteria consume organic matter that releases methane and carbon dioxide. Covers over the lagoons capture those gases and then equipment at the farms remove carbon dioxide. The company then transports methane, or natural gas, to cities. Oil and gas companies can also purchase credits from the manure-to-energy projects in order to certify that a portion of their transportation fuel comes from renewable sources.
Monarch Bioenergy will seek to build more pipelines to transmit the biogas to Missouri communities, Westerbeek said.
“We would rather transmit this gas through gathering pipelines than hauling gas, so as that need arises, we’ll be looking for those opportunities,” he said.
Animal manure is an uncommon source of energy, largely because of the high cost and the amount of space needed to build anaerobic digestion facilities. There are about 100 of them in the United States, located primarily in states like Wisconsin, New York and other dairy-producing states, said Daniel Andersen, an agricultural and biosystems engineering professor at Iowa State University.
“With dairy farms, they tend to be larger in size generally, which gives them an economies of scale where it’s been historically more cost-feasible to put anaerobic digestion on farms,” Andersen said.
While there are few manure-to-energy systems in Midwestern states, Andersen expects that federal government incentives, energy prices and other factors could drive growth in the region.
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 8:20 a.m. Aug. 8 with corrections about what hog producer Smithfield Foods has done to transport natural gas derived from pig manure. The company has completed a pipeline in Missouri to connect one of its farms to Milan. Equipment at the farms will remove carbon dioxide from lagoons where pig waste is stored. Oil and gas companies can purchase credits from manure-to-energy projects to certify that some of their transportation fuel comes from renewable sources. Monarch Bioenergy will seek to build more pipelines to transmit the biogas to Missouri communities.
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