Monarch Bioenergy, a joint venture between Smithfield Foods Inc. (Smithfield) and Roeslein Alternative Energy (RAE), has finished installing manure-to-energy technology on nearly all of Smithfield’s Northern Missouri hog finishing farms. The technology captures methane emissions and converts it into carbon-negative renewable natural gas (RNG) to power homes, vehicles, and businesses.
“We are delighted to reach this exciting milestone, which is a significant step toward fulfilling our commitment to implement this transformative, cutting-edge technology on the vast majority of our finishing farms in multiple states,” said Kraig Westerbeek, vice president of Smithfield Renewables for Smithfield Foods. “Our Monarch Bioenergy manure-to-energy projects are making a significant environmental impact and remove 25 times more emissions from the atmosphere than are emitted during the clean energy’s end use. Because of this, they are key projects in our Smithfield Renewables portfolio of innovative renewable energy and carbon reduction efforts across our operations.”
Construction of the approximately US$150 million project officially began in 2014, three years after RAE and Smithfield first had the idea to embark on the joint venture. The proprietary processes that emerged from the project create carbon-negative RNG at a rate of approximately 800,000 dekatherms annually. In addition to generating renewable energy, the partnership has planted hundreds of acres of prairie grass, providing ecological services and wildlife habitat for monarch butterflies across the state. The companies are also exploring harvesting prairie plants to create biomass for RNG production.
“With perseverance and dedication to our vision we navigated the pathways for swine manure with the California Air Resources Board [CARB] and the [Environmental Protection Agency] EPA to receive the lowest [carbon intensity] CI scores in the swine industry,” said RAE Chair and CEO Rudi Roeslein. “We are leading the way to improve the industry’s environmental footprint and diversify its income stream. This is a blueprint on how to turn challenges into opportunities.”
Collectively and independently, the companies have embarked on additional manure-to-energy projects across the country in Arizona, California, Colorado, Iowa, North Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Virginia.
The Monarch Bioenergy joint venture supports the companies’ respective sustainability goals, including RAE’s goal to restore 30 million acres of land to native prairie plants strategically located around waterways, streams, rivers, and highly erodible lands and Smithfield’s goals to become carbon negative in US company-owned operations and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% across its entire US value chain by 2030.