Companies are seeking to green the grid with garbage gas

Missouri hardly produces any natural gas, unless you count the pigs.

The methane flowing from manure ponds at hog farms across the state increasingly flows into pipelines and is delivered to power plants and homes, where it is burned along with shale gas for heating, hot bathing and cooking.

Smithfield Foods Inc. , The nation’s largest pork producer, sold gas from all farm operations in Missouri by summer. Most of its farms are already introducing methane into the gas grid. Once the covers span across the rest of the 4-acre lakes and then connected to equipment that removes carbon dioxide and impurities from the fumes, Smithfield expects to save enough gas in Missouri to fuel about 10,000 homes.

“We’ve been researching how energy is produced from compost for two decades,” said Kraig Westerbeek, who leads the renewable energy business at Smithfield. “We’ve had some setbacks, but these projects show you can actually get them done.”

Craig Westerbeek inspects the Smithfield Ranch in North Missouri.

Companies rush to join Reducing greenhouse gases It does a big business by harnessing methane leaking from piles of organic waste. So-called renewable natural gas can be produced in commercial quantities in pig and dairy farms, landfills, sewage treatment facilities, spoiled food and slaughterhouse sludge.

Burning it to generate electricity or heat produces at least carbon dioxide from shale gas. But methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. The conversion of methane from the atmosphere to the power grid is treated as a reduction in emissions and is rewarded with value credits of low carbon and renewable fuels, which can be traded with or separately from the gas.

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Gas from landfills, farms, sewage plants, food waste, and other anaerobic digestive systems makes up less than 1% of the natural gas supply in the United States. The market is so crowded with shale gas that many oil drilling rigs simply Burning by-products that were valuableWhat they call “garbage gas” – at the well’s mouth rather than spending money getting it to the market. On Monday, natural gas futures slumped 8.5% to close at $ 2.305 per million British thermal units, a meager winter price dropping below breakeven for many producers.

The gas from the actual garbage usually costs several times over. It cannot compete with shale gas without subsidies like fuel credits and its beneficial effect on corporate emissions accounts.

Analysts and utilities believe that renewable natural gas could reach 10% to 30% of total natural gas supply by 2040. The lower end of this range will still need help from policymakers, deep pockets in the energy industry and companies eager to sharpen their credentials. Environmental funds channeling trillions of dollars with environmental and social responsibility in mind.

On the Smithfield Ranch in North Missouri, compost puddles are covered to capture biogas.

Pipeline and utility companies are key to the biogas boom. Connecting compost ponds to pipelines is too expensive for most farmers, but connecting distant gas sources to the market is a daily business for energy companies. Unlike electric grid operators, pipeline owners do not have wind and solar power to promote ESG investors or to deflect doubts about the value of pipelines in a green energy economy.

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“Renewable natural gas is a green thing for them to talk about,” said RBC Capital Markets analyst TJ Schultz. “The benefit for them is that it fits into their current infrastructure. They don’t have to make changes.”

RBC estimates that commercial quantities of gas could be produced at more than 2,500 landfills in the United States, which are the most productive sources, and about 8,000 farms, which produce the most valuable credits because they are the most effective pollutants.

The Advocacy Group CEO Patrick Servas said the US Biogas Council struggled to access the facilities three years ago. That was before many companies pledged carbon neutrality and ESG funds had such an effect.

“Now gas utilities come to us asking how they can get renewable natural gas and help set up more systems to green their gas source and prepare their pipelines,” said Mr. Servas.

Dominion Energy a company ,

It is a large facility striving to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, and it plans to invest $ 2 billion in biogas projects. It has a $ 200 million deal to install it on dairy farms and is seeking another $ 500 million with Smithfield separate from its Missouri pork production operations.

Pipelines carry the raw biogas to the processing center at the Smithfield Farm.

The first partnership venture collects gas in the Escalante Desert, Utah, from 26 pig farms. The gas flows into a pipeline between gas fields in Wyoming and Bakersfield, California, and the pigs are expected to heat about 3,000 homes.

Dominion and Smithfield, which aims to eliminate more emissions by 2030 than it is produced on their US holdings, have other projects planned or underway in Arizona, California, Virginia and North Carolina, where millions of pigs are fattened each year. “Southeast North Carolina has the potential to be one of the leading renewable natural gas production regions,” said Ryan Childress, Dominion’s gas business development manager.

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Simbra energy‘s

SoCalGas, the nation’s largest gas utility, is working with dairy farmers and says 20% of its gas will come from waste by 2030. California regulators recently said the Los Angeles facility could impose additional fees on customers who want biogas.

Duke Energy Corp.

It says it has a five-year plan to be a pioneer in renewable natural gas.

Chevron Corp.

More than 200 million dollars.


Tell CEO of Cos. Alan Armstrong has suggested that the company, which carries roughly a third of all US gas in its pipelines, is in a position to swap fossil fuels to reduce emissions.

King of Prussia, Pennsylvania

UGI Corp.

It sold its stake in a coal-fired power plant across the state. A company trading in the renewable gas credit markets in California has bought and invested in a dairy gas project in Idaho. UGI CEO David Lindenmouth said at an online biogas conference this month that the gas distribution company is following its European entrepreneurship.

“The utilities there figured out how to stay relevant,” he said. “Keep that invested infrastructure, but also talk about how you can be a partner in reducing greenhouse gases and not be picked up by environmentalists.”

Pig pens are located next to a tarp lake on Smithfield Farm. Pig waste flows into the lake, where it decomposes and produces biogas.

Write to Ryan Dzember at [email protected]

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