Monarch Bioenergy, a joint venture between Smithfield Foods and Roeslein Alternative Energy (RAE), has finished installing manure-to-energy technology on nearly all of Smithfield’s Northern Missouri hog finishing farms. The new technology captures methane emissions and converts them into carbon-negative renewable natural gas (RNG) to power homes, vehicles, and businesses.
Construction of the approximately $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.
“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,” says 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.”
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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 industry-leading goals to become carbon negative in U.S. company-owned operations and reduce GHG emissions 30% across its entire U.S. value chain by 2030.
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 EPA to receive the lowest CI (carbon intensity) scores in the swine industry,” says RAE Chairman 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.”