SALT LAKE CITY — Manure from more than two dozen hog farms in southwestern Utah is now producing renewable natural gas and at full capacity in a first-of-its-kind project that will heat more than 3,000 homes and businesses.
Dominion Energy and Smithfield Farms made the announcement Wednesday that their venture, Align Renewable Natural Gas, is now producing the clean energy from 26 family hog farms in the Milford area of Beaver County.
The project, according to Dominion Energy, is the first large-scale effort in Utah to capture methane from hog farming operations and convert it into clean energy for homes, businesses and transportation. Significantly more greenhouse gas emissions are captured from the farms than are released when consumers use the gas, which makes renewable natural gas a "carbon-beneficial" energy source, the utility company said.
Once it is fully operational, the project will produce enough energy to heat more than 3,000 homes and businesses. Additionally, it reduces emissions from the hog farms by 100,000 metric tons per year — the equivalent of taking 23,000 cars off the road or planting 1.8 million trees per year.
The project also helps farmers with manure management.
"This is an exciting breakthrough for the future of clean energy and sustainable farming," said Ryan Childress, Dominion Energy's director of gas business development. "With this single technology, we can produce clean energy for consumers, reduce farm emissions and benefit family farmers. It's a powerful example of the environmental progress we can make through innovation. We're thrilled Utah is leading the way, and we're excited to keep the momentum going in other states across the country."
Kraig Westerbeek, senior director of Smithfield Renewables and hog production environmental affairs, said the partnership is a significant player in Smithfield Foods' efforts to reduce its carbon footprint.
"Our Align RNG partnership with Dominion Energy is a key component of Smithfield's carbon reduction strategy, which promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across our domestic supply chain 25% by 2025 and become carbon negative in all U.S. company-owned operations by 2030," he said.
With this single technology, we can produce clean energy for consumers, reduce farm emissions and benefit family farmers.
–Ryan Childress, Dominion Energy's director of gas business development
The hog farm project is just one of many shared efforts of the two partners.
In the largest venture of its kind in the United States, Dominion and Smithfield are jointly investing $500 million over the next 10 years to develop renewable natural gas projects in the United States.
Once complete, the projects are anticipated to reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. hog farms by 2.5 million metric tons. Reducing pollution by that much amounts to taking 500,000 cars off the road or planting 40 million new trees each year.
Additional projects are under development in North Carolina and Virginia. The partnership plans to produce enough renewable natural gas over the next 10 years to heat more than 70,000 homes and businesses.