A $120 million animal waste-to-energy (WTE) operation in Missouri is under way and should begin operations by mid-2016.
St. Louis-based Roeslein Alternative Energy is nearly 50-percent through Phase One of the project, which will generate renewable natural gas (RNG), from several of food producer Smithfield Foods Inc.’s Missouri farms, according to a news release. Phase One involves the installation of impermeable covers and flare systems on the 88 existing manure lagoons at Smithfield Foods large hog finishing farms in northern Missouri. The developments were disclosed at Ruckman Farm, is one of nine Smithfield Foods Missouri hog production facilities involved in the project. That is one of the largest concentrations of finishing hogs in the Midwest. Smithfield Foods in based in Smithfield, Va.
The project will produce about 2.2 billion cubic feet of pipeline-quality RNG, or the equivalent of 17 million gallons of diesel fuel annually.
"The technology we have developed is ready to be deployed commercially in a project that makes both economic sense and environmental sense," said Rudi Roeslein, founder and president of Roeslein. "This is not just about converting the manure from almost two million pigs into renewable energy. It's about taking environmental sustainability to a new level."
The project began in 2014 and remains on schedule. Phase Two involves fabricating and installing technology to purify the biogas captured by the impermeable covers and developing an inter-connection to a natural gas pipeline operated by ANR, which transverses Ruckman Farm. Roeslein projects RNG to enter the pipeline in the summer of 2016.
Duke Energy in North Carolina agreed to buy a portion of the RNG to help meet clean energy requirements for power generation.
Part of the next phase, Horizon Two, will add biomass from native prairie grasses to create RNG. Roeslein intends to supplement the hog manure feedstock with that prairie grass biomass. The intent of Horizon Two is to provide an economic incentive to convert highly erodible or marginal land, currently used for commercial agriculture production.
RNG production will double under Horizon Two.
"We are developing a mixture of grasses and native species that provide ecological services, wildlife habitat and biomass that will be co-digested with manure," Roeslein said. “We hope to demonstrate the concept on a small scale at Ruckman, move it to other farms and then hopefully across the Midwest."
The project initially was a valued at $80 million, characterized as an anaerobic digestion plant developed in collaboration with Princeton, Mo.-based Murphy-Brown of Missouri LLC (MBM), Smithfield’s livestock production subsidiary.
Some North American zoos have recently made moves to capitalize on its animal waste by converting it to energy.
Earlier this year the Detroit Zoo announced a crowdsourcing plan to raise funds to purchase a biogas system to process 400 tons of waste annually into energy. The zoo has partnered with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, who will match the $55,000 the zoo needs.
The Toronto Zoo in Canada also has plans to use animal waste as energy. With more than 5,000 animals on-site, the zoo anticipates it can process about 3,000 tons of animal waste and 14,000 tons of food waste a year from a large Canadian grocery chain, creating 500 kilowatts of generating capacity and about 4 million kilowatts of output.