US-based meat processing company Smithfield Foods is now producing renewable natural gas (RNG) from the wastewater treatment system at one of its processing facilities. Working in partnership with Duke Energy and bioenergy project developer OptimaBio, the company is producing biogas via its pork processing plant to help power more than 2,000 local homes and businesses in North Carolina.

The $14 million (€12.6 million) project is one of Smithfield’s largest renewable energy projects involving wastewater, and its first in North Carolina. It utilizes a gas upgrading and injection system operated by OptimaBio, which leverages the facility’s 3 million gallon-per-day wastewater treatment system to collect and clean biogas through an on-site digester and convert it into RNG. The RNG is then injected into the Piedmont Natural Gas system and transported to Duke Energy to produce electricity. Working with Duke Energy, around 140,000 dekatherms of RNG will be transported annually to natural gas facilities and used to generate electricity.

“This project brings to life all three of our company’s guiding principles – responsibility, operational excellence and innovation,” said Smithfield Foods’ president and CEO, Kenneth M. Sullivan. “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.”

This project will help Duke Energy with swine waste-to-energy mandates under the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard law in North Carolina, which dictates that Duke Energy must generate 0.20% of its retail sales from swine waste by 2024. Stephen De May, Duke Energy’s North Carolina president, said: “We are seeking innovative and cleaner energy solutions.