by Adam Voight Adam Voight

Published by Daily Press
Written by Kimberly Pierceall

Dominion Energy announced Tuesday that it is teaming up with Smithfield Foods to turn that company’s hog manure into natural gas that could eventually heat homes and stoves.

The utility and the world’s largest pork producer said the companies had formed Align Renewable Natural Gas with plans to jointly invest at least $250 million over 10 years on projects to capture the methane released by Smithfield hogs. The effort will begin in North Carolina, Utah and Virginia — in Waverly.

Smithfield, in partnership with hog farmers, will cover hog waste with “lagoon digesters” to trap the methane. Dominion will take it from there, processing it to bring it up to pipeline quality and then sell it to local gas utilities before sending that gas through existing pipelines. Farmers are expected to share the cost to cover the hog lagoons but also share in revenue from gas sales.

Smithfield has been working on capturing methane gas from its hog farm lagoons for several years, starting in 2012 with a plan to turn hog manure into electricity at a Utah farm. Two years later, it had partnered with Roeslein Alternative Energy LLC to produce natural gas with the waste in Missouri.

Both projects are still happening, but Smithfield has since learned that producing natural gas from the waste has been more efficient than making electricity. And now, Smithfield is investing more of its own money as it expands that effort.

Smithfield has pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2025. The joint venture also said the lagoon coverings could protect the waste reservoirs from hurricane-related damages. In North Carolina, flooding from Hurricane Florence caused multiple lagoons filled with hog waste to overflow. Smithfield said it was aware of one farm out of more than 200 it owns in the state that had been inundated by flood water.