By: St. Louis Business Journal

The first renewable natural gas produced by Roeslein Alternative Energy’s $120 million manure-to-energy project in northwest Missouri is now being injected into the national pipeline for use around the country.

Roeslein Alternative Energy, which is based in south St. Louis County and founded by Rudi Roeslein, announced that it has completed the renewable natural gas (RNG) production facilities at Ruckman Farm, a Smithfield Hog Production farm near Albany, Missouri. Roeslein and Smithfield Foods’ Hog Production Division are working together to make natural gas out of livestock manure.

“What we hope to do is demonstrate that we can take the lead in alternative energy and environmental impact, and do it in a way that is profitable for farmers,” Rudi Roeslein said in a statement. Roeslein personally has invested $40 million into the project.

All nine Smithfield Hog Production facilities in northwest Missouri will soon have the manure-to-energy technology. When this is completed, hog manure from the project is expected to produce 2.2 billion feet of pipeline quality RNG annually, or the equivalent of 17 million gallons of diesel fuel.

The first phase of the project is nearly 50 percent complete, with covers installed on 41 of the 88 existing manure lagoons at Smithfield’s nine hog farms. The covers are meant to capture methane from the lagoons and turn the lagoons into anaerobic digesters that can produce biogas that can then be burned for energy.

Duke Energy in North Carolina has agreed to purchase a portion of the RNG to help meet clean energy requirements for power generation.

Phase two of the project involves producing additional RNG with biomass from restored prairie grasslands, Roeslein said.

“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.”