CLINTON, N.C. – Smithfield Foods Inc. and Dominion Energy expanded its partnership on capturing methane emissions from hog farms to convert it into renewable energy. The joint venture, Align Renewable Natural Gas, announced the largest renewable natural gas (RNG) project in North Carolina. The two companies broke ground on Aug. 15 in Duplin and Sampson counties.

The initiative will produce enough energy to power 3,500 homes annually following completion.

“Breaking ground on this project with Dominion Energy is an exciting first step in bringing Align RNG to life,” said Kraig Westerbeek, senior director of Smithfield Renewables and hog production environmental affairs for Smithfield Foods. “This project implements proven ‘manure-to-energy’ technology across a number of farms to produce reliable renewable energy for our community and contributes to our company’s ambitious goal to reduce our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 25 percent by 2025.”

Nineteen area farms will help transform manure into RNG where it will be processed and injected into the already existing natural gas distribution line. The project is modeled after the Optima KV project which captures biogas on five Smithfield contract farms in North Carolina.

“What we are starting today is truly transformational,” said Gary Courts, Dominion Energy’s general manager of new gas business development. “We’re using the power of innovation to make our energy cleaner and our farms more sustainable than ever before. With renewable natural gas, everyone wins. It’s good for the environment and our planet. It’s a huge win for the farmers. And it’s around-the-clock renewable energy for consumers.”

This is the first “manure-to-energy” project to begin construction since the joint venture announcement in Nov. 2018. On Aug. 5, Smithfield announced the completion of a low-pressure natural gas transmission line from a company hog farm to the Milan, Missouri, natural gas pipeline.

Additional projects are planned in North Carolina, Utah and Virginia, and are projected to produce enough energy to power 14,000 homes and businesses in total. The emissions reduction associated with these projects equate to planting 7.8 million new trees or taking 100,000 passenger vehicles off the road.