Virginia-based companies, Dominion Energy and Smithfield Foods, are doubling their investment in renewable natural gas (RNG) projects across the US to $500 million through 2028. This additional investment will expand their Align Renewable Natural GasSMjoint venture beyond its initial projects in North Carolina, Virginia and Utah, to pursue new projects across the country, including in Arizona and California.
The two companies formed Align RNG in November 2018, committing $250 million over 10 years to capture methane from Smithfield's company-owned and contract hog farms and convert it into clean RNG. With the additional $250 million investment, the companies will produce enough RNG to power more than 70,000 homes and businesses by 2029. Align RNG's first project in Milford, Utah, will be operational this year and is expected to produce enough RNG to power more than 3,000 local homes and businesses at full capacity.
"After researching ways to transform manure into renewable energy for nearly two decades, Smithfield, together with our partners, has developed a proven business model that can be expanded at scale across the country. These efforts culminated in 2016 when Smithfield led the industry as the first major protein company to adopt a far-reaching GHG reduction goal throughout its entire supply chain," said Kenneth M. Sullivan, President and Chief Executive Officer of Smithfield Foods.
He continued, "Last year, we joined forces with Dominion Energy in a historic initiative to transform the future of sustainable energy and agriculture. This substantial extension of our 'manure-to-energy' efforts will help us achieve our ambitious goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2025 across our entire supply chain, while creating additional value for local family farmers and providing communities with clean energy."
Methane is produced from a variety of natural sources, including hog manure, food waste and wastewater. When released into the atmosphere, methane emits approximately 25 times more greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide. By capturing methane from farms, the development of RNG significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural operations. When fully implemented, the expanded partnership announced today is expected to prevent more than 2.5 million metric tons of greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere.
"Our partnership is revolutionizing the future of sustainable energy and agriculture in this country, and we are thrilled to partner with Smithfield to grow this exciting new industry," said Diane Leopold, President and CEO of Dominion Energy's Gas Infrastructure Group.
A typical RNG project consists of a cluster of 15 to 20 farms, where methane is captured from covered manure lagoons or digesters and then transported by a low-pressure biogas transmission line to a central conditioning facility. Once the gas is processed to meet pipeline-quality standards, it is then delivered to end users through existing underground pipelines.
"It's incredible how much environmental progress we can make through the power of innovation and partnerships," said Sullivan. "There are many synergies between our two companies that allow us to advance this technology on a wide scale," he added. "We share a strong commitment to innovation and sustainability, and together we have the technology and market expertise to make this work."