TAR HEEL – Wastewater from the world’s largest pork prodcessing plant in Tar Heel run by Smithfield Foods is being turned into electricty after first being used to create natural gas in a partnership with Duke Energy and Raleigh-based OptimaBio.

This is the second such project by Duke Energy, the first being the Optima KV project involving several farms in Duplin County

At the cost of $14 million, Smithfield Foods and partners provided a graphic (below) that explains the conversion process:

Smithfield Foods graphic

The wastewater – 3 million gallaons per day – is filtered, goes through a “digestion” process that creates methane. The gast is “captured” and transportated to another facilitiy where it is converted into what the partners describe as “pipeline-quality RNG” (reusable natural gas). After refining, the RNG is delivered to Duke Energy for use in electricity generation.

Enough electricty will be generated for “more than” 2,000 homes and businesses, Smithfield Foods said.

“This project brings to life all three of our company’s guiding principles – Responsibility, Operational Excellence, and Innovation,” said Kenneth M. Sullivan, chief executive officer of Smithfield Foods. “For the first time, we are creating renewable energy from the biogas generated in our wastewater treatment system and using it to power local communities. With the help of our partners, we are producing additional value for our company and our neighbors—a concept that is ingrained in our culture.”

Smithfield Foods photo

Smithfood Foods processing plant.

Smithfield Foods operates other renewable energy projects in Missouri, Kentucky and South Dakota.

OptimaBio, which is working with Duke Energy and another firm on a similar project, provides the gas upgraading and injection system for the conversion process.

“We are proud to partner with Smithfield on this project, which has far-reaching and positive impacts for the environment, the local community, and industries that are key to the state’s economy,” said Mark Maloney, CEO and founder at OptimaBio, in a statement. “We’re helping diversify and strengthen North Carolina’s renewable energy portfolio through this endeavor.”

Duke Energy noted that the project is designed to help meet North Carolina state law requiring 0.2 percent of retail sales from swine waste by 2024.

“At Duke Energy, we are seeking innovative and cleaner energy solutions. Buying the output from Smithfield’s renewable natural gas project will allow us to expand our diverse generation mix in North Carolina,” said Stephen De May, Duke Energy’s North Carolina president, in the announcement. “This project is creating safe and affordable energy that customers can rely on.”

For more about Smithfields sustainability efforts, visit smithfieldfoods.com/sustainability.