Smithfield Foods says it's now producing natural gas from hog waste at a plant in Bladen County, in eastern North Carolina. The $14 million project is a partnership between Smithfield, Duke Energy and Raleigh-based OptimaBio.
The plant, in the town of Tar Heel, captures natural gas from wastewater and sends it over Piedmont Natural Gas lines to Duke Energy plants. There, it's burned to generate electricity - enough to power about 2,000 homes and businesses.
The project helps Duke meet state requirements to use hog waste. It's the first of its kind in North Carolina for Smithfield, the world's largest hog producer. (It has others in Missouri, Kentucky and South Dakota.) The company has committed to covering most of its open hog waste lagoons in North Carolina over the next 10 years as part of a company-wide campaign to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 25% by 2025.
Optima also operates another plant in Duplin County in partnership with local farmers and Duke Energy. That one sends biogas to a nearby Duke plant that creates enough energy to power the equivalent of 1,000 homes for a year.