Dominion Energy Inc. and partner Smithfield Foods Inc. will double an investment in renewable natural gas projects from $250 million to $500 million across the U.S. through 2028.
The increased commitment could make the partnership the leading producer of agricultural renewable natural gas, or RNG, in the nation. In November 2018, the two companies formed the Align Renewable Natural Gas joint venture to capture methane released by hog farms and convert it into natural gas as a cost-effective energy option.
The new investment will expand the joint venture, allowing the companies to produce enough RNG to power more than 70,000 homes and businesses by 2029, according to an Oct. 23 press release from Smithfield. Dominion and Smithfield, a $15 billion global food company and the world's largest processor of pork, funded projects in Virginia, North Carolina and Utah, and they are now looking to branch out to other states such as Arizona and California.
The partnership said the program will prevent more than 2.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere, which Smithfield said was equivalent to taking more than 500,000 cars off the road.
Align RNG's first project in Milford, Utah, is expected to go operational this year, producing enough RNG to power more than 3,000 local homes and businesses at full capacity, Smithfield said. A typical RNG project under the program includes a collection of about 15 to 20 farms. The operator will capture methane from covered manure lagoons or digesters and then move it through a low-pressure transmission line to a central conditioning facility. Once the gas is processed to meet pipeline quality standards, the fuel will be delivered to end users through existing underground gas pipelines.
"We're not only reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we're also turning a waste product into a clean energy resource," Dominion Gas Infrastructure Group President and CEO Diane Leopold said in the statement. "We're capturing 25 times more greenhouse gas emissions from the farm than are ever released when the gas is used to heat homes or power businesses."