… Smithfield and the electric and gas utility Dominion Energy have formed a partnership with much bigger plans. They want to expand this to industrial scale…
Big Companies Bet On Cleaner Power From Pig Poop Ponds
Dan Charles, Heard on All Things Considered, NPR
November 22, 2019
In a secluded corner of rural eastern North Carolina, at the end of a long and winding farm lane, a pit of stinking hog manure is doing its bit to save the world from climate change.
It may be a whiff of things to come.
"You're standing in the middle of about 12,000 head" of hogs, says Kraig Westerbeek, an executive at Smithfield Foods, the country's biggest pork producer. The animals live in rows of buildings nearby, eating and excreting. Their manure flows into a big pond, called a lagoon, right in front of us. This is the standard form of treatment for hog waste in this part of the country. In the lagoon, bacteria go to work on the manure, breaking it down.
"The bacterial action releases a biogas that's 60% to 65% methane," Westerbeek says.
On most farms, that gas just goes floating off into the air — and contributes to the overheating of the planet. Methane is a greenhouse gas with a warming impact at least 25 times greater, per pound, than carbon dioxide.
At this lagoon, though, the gas is trapped by a blanket of rugged black plastic that covers the manure pond. The gas lifts the plastic layer and makes it bulge like the floor of a child's bouncy castle.
The gas then gets pumped out to processing stations that remove water vapor and carbon dioxide. What's left is almost pure methane, also called natural gas, ready to burn in any gas-fired home furnace or electric power plant.
This basic idea — turning manure into energy — is not new. Many dairy farms are doing similar things, often using biogas on-site to power a generator.
But Smithfield and the electric and gas utility Dominion Energy have formed a partnership with much bigger plans. They want to expand this to industrial scale.
They're planning to spend $500 million building the infrastructure to capture methane from hundreds of hog farms, mostly in North Carolina. They'll connect farms with miles of underground pipes, collecting methane and feeding it into existing natural gas pipelines. If no pipelines are close by, the gas may have to be trucked to its destination.
"We've got audacious goals," says Ryan Childress, director of gas business development for Dominion Energy. "We've got half a billion dollars behind it. We intend to see that through and make a big difference for the environment, for farmers, and for customers who are looking for low-carbon energy."
This methane, in fact, is even better than "low-carbon." Since capturing it actually prevents greenhouse emissions, it's considered a zero-carbon fuel under the rules of emissions accounting. If you burn this "renewable natural gas," the carbon dioxide that's inevitably released isn't counted as part of your carbon footprint. In fact, because the reduction in methane emissions from manure lagoons far outweighs the carbon dioxide emissions from burning it, it's sometimes considered a "negative-carbon" fuel that cancels out other greenhouse emissions.
That's the key to this business: People or companies who are trying to reduce their carbon emissions will pay extra for it — perhaps twice as much as regular natural gas.
"What changed, fundamentally, is the market for renewable natural gas, [and] the market for carbon, have allowed us to develop a business model, an economic model, that works for everybody involved," Westerbeek says.
According to Smithfield and Dominion Energy, the project will capture about 105,000 metric tons of methane each year. That will reduce the country's greenhouse emissions as much as taking half a million cars off the road.
For people who worry about climate change, it's a clear win. Farmers also stand to earn more money, since they'll get a share of the methane sales.
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Smithfield Foods Kicks Off 23rd Annual Mayflower Marathon Food and Fund Drive with 80,000-Pound Protein Donation to Local Food Banks
Source: Smithfield Foods
via Globe Newswire - November 22, 2019
HAMPTON, Va., Nov. 22, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Smithfield Foods, Inc. donated more than 80,000 pounds of protein to kick off the 23rd Annual Mayflower Marathon food drive, benefitting the Virginia Peninsula Foodbank and the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore. Equivalent to more than 320,000 servings of center-of-the-plate protein, the donation will provide assistance to those struggling with hunger throughout Hampton Roads.
“We’re very grateful for this continued support from Smithfield during this food drive and throughout the year,” said Karen Joyner, chief executive officer of the Virginia Peninsula Foodbank. “The Mayflower Marathon is a wonderful opportunity for our community to come together to make an impact for those in need, and we’re pleased to have Smithfield leading the way with such a significant donation.”
Smithfield’s donation was presented during the kick-off event for the 58-hour “drive through food drive,” where community members can contribute directly from their vehicle at four locations across Southeast Virginia in Hampton, Virginia Beach, Yorktown, and Suffolk from Nov. 22–24. All food and monetary donations collected throughout the weekend will benefit Virginia Peninsula Foodbank and Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore.
“This donation from Smithfield is an incredible way to kick off this year’s Mayflower Marathon,” said Ruth Jones Nichols, president and chief executive officer of the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore. “Smithfield has been a strong partner in the fight against hunger, and we’re eager for the rest of our community to come out and support this year’s food drive efforts.”
Headquartered in Smithfield, Virginia, Smithfield Foods’ involvement with the Mayflower Marathon aligns with its commitment to support local communities, as well as the company’s social purpose to alleviate hunger nationwide. Employees from across the company’s local offices volunteered during the event, helping to sort and process incoming donations. Smithfield’s donation of protein is part of the company’s signature hunger-relief initiative, Helping Hungry Homes®, through which it has donated more than 140 million servings of protein to food banks, disaster-relief efforts, and community outreach programs across all 50 states.
“As a Virginia-based company, Smithfield is excited to once again be part of the Mayflower Marathon to help support our neighbors in need,” said Jonathan Toms, associate manager of charitable initiatives for Smithfield Foods. “As we prepare to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday with our own families, this food drive gives our community an opportunity to provide the gift of a meal for the thousands of individuals who struggle with hunger. We are proud to present this donation of protein during today’s kick-off event and look forward to another successful food and fund drive throughout the weekend.”
For information about Smithfield’s Helping Hungry Homes initiative and a list of upcoming donation events, visit smithfieldfoods.com/helpinghungryhomes.
About Smithfield Foods
Smithfield Foods is a $15 billion global food company and the world's largest pork processor and hog producer. In the United States, the company is also the leader in numerous packaged meats categories. Popular brands include Smithfield®, Eckrich®, Nathan's Famous®, Farmland®, Armour®, Farmer John®, Kretschmar®, John Morrell®, Cook's®, Gwaltney®, Carando®, Margherita®, Curly's®, Healthy Ones®, Morliny®, Krakus® and Berlinki®. Smithfield Foods is committed to providing good food in a responsible way and maintains robust animal care, community involvement, employee safety, environmental and food safety and quality programs. For more information, visit www.smithfieldfoods.com, and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.
About Virginia Peninsula Foodbank
Since 1986, the Virginia Peninsula Foodbank has been providing hunger relief to the cities of Hampton, Newport News, Poquoson, and Williamsburg, and the counties of James City, Gloucester, Mathews, Surry, and York. With the support of over 170 member agencies and programs, the organization has provided over 147 million meals. The Foodbank is a proud member of Feeding America, the Federation of Virginia Food Banks, and the United Way of the Virginia Peninsula. Our vision is to inspire hope by leading the effort for a hunger free and properly nourished community. For more information, visit us online at our website, on Facebook, and on Twitter.
About the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore
For over 35 years, the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore has provided over 300 million meals to those in our community who face hunger. Through our programs, facilities, and large network of community partners, we “eliminate hunger” on a daily basis for many. However, we understand that our current work addresses hunger for individuals in the short term. It does not address the root causes which force individuals to return to a food pantry again and again. This understanding has led to the creation of a 3-year strategic plan aimed to move Hampton Roads closer to achieving the mission of eliminating hunger for those we serve—not only for the day, or for the week, but for a lifetime. For up-to-date information on the Foodbank, visit www.foodbankonline.org, Facebook, or Twitter.
Dalton Agency for
Virginia Peninsula Foodbank
Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore