When you are a pig farmer, there is one thing you are guaranteed to have to deal with: poop and lots of it. Large scale hog farmers deal with massive amounts of pig poop, which ends up being thrown away or processed for manure. But what if there was more that could be done with this poo that would help reduce waste on the farm and increase the amount of renewable energy available for the rest of us? Fortunately, Smithfield Farms is implementing a manure-to-energy program that is tackling the issue of pig manures negative environmental effects.
Does Manure Effect the Environment?
Pig manure has a detrimental environmental effect. Besides stinking up the neighborhood, pig manure releases a large amount of methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas that’s more potent than carbon dioxide by 25 times. Not only does this have a detrimental worldwide environmental effect, but it also makes any area near a hog farm struggle to maintain clean air.
Manure to Biogas
Smithfield Foods is increasing their workforce while rolling out its manure-to-energy program in North Carolina. The program, called Optima KV, has been operational since the end of March 2018. Optima KV works by using five different anaerobic digesters. These anaerobic digesters capture the biogas from in-ground manure digesters and then cleans the biogas.
Once the gas has been collected and cleaned, it is transported to a central facility that is located on a Smithfield property and operated by a consulting engineer firm, Cavanaugh & Associates. Cavanaugh & Associates partners with OptimaBio, LLC, a waste-to-energy project developer. This facility converts the biogas into Renewable Natural Gas (RNG).
Optima RV is on track to power 1,000 homes every year. It also is the first project in North Carolina that sources and creates RNG right in the state. Optima RV has shown to be so successful that it is on track to expand across all of Eastern North Carolina. As it expands, the current lagoons will be converted to be covered digesters, mitigating the issues with flooding lagoons that have cropped up in recent years.
Passing on the Power
The goal is to have 90 percent of Smithfield owned hog farms to convert to creating biogas in the next ten years. Maggie Monast, the North Carolina Environmental Defense Fund’s senior manager of agricultural sustainability say:
“It will take investment by the major integrators. But that’s happening, so I think we are about to see much more rapid and large-scale implementation of biogas.” It will be exciting to see the positive environmental impact of Smithfield’s Optima RV initiative.