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Align RNG breaks ground on North Carolina's largest biogas project

In the United States (US), gas and power utility major Dominion Energy Inc., and Smithfield Foods, Inc., the world's largest pork processor have announced the groundbreaking on North Carolina’s largest renewable natural gas (RNG) project through their multi-state joint venture, Align Renewable Natural Gas (Align RNG).

Hog facility with anaerobic digestion (AD) at the Circle K II farms, part of the Smithfield Foods Optima KV pilot project in Kenansville, North Carolina (photo courtesy Smithfield Foods).

Located in Duplin and Sampson counties, this project will generate enough energy to power more than 3 500 homes annually upon completion. Align RNG is a multi-state joint venture between Dominion Energy and Smithfield that will capture methane emissions from hog farms and convert them into renewable natural gas (RNG) to power homes and businesses.

Breaking ground on this project with Dominion Energy is an exciting first step in bringing Align RNG to life. 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, said Kraig Westerbeek, Senior Director of Smithfield Renewables and hog production environmental affairs for Smithfield Foods.

As part of this initiative, technology will be installed across as many as 19 area farms to transform manure into RNG that will be processed and injected into existing natural gas distribution systems to serve local homes and businesses.

Optima KV project model

This project is modeled after the Optima KV project, which captures biogas on five Smithfield contract farms in North Carolina (NC), and similar projects on Smithfield farms in Northern Missouri and Utah.

What we are starting today is truly transformational. 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, said Gary Courts, Dominion Energy’s General Manager of new gas business development.

The 300 000 MMBTU of renewable energy this project is estimated to produce will play a key role in the state of North Carolina’s historic initiative to reduce GHG emissions over the next decade and will help expand the state’s energy portfolio with a reliable source of renewable energy. The sale of RNG generated by these projects will also provide family farmers with an additional source of revenue.

This project is providing an incredible opportunity to turn one of our largest cost drivers – manure management – into a new revenue stream. Working with Dominion Energy and Smithfield on this project was an easy choice. I’m proud to be part of an initiative that is improving both the viability and durability of our farms while benefiting the local community with a renewable energy source, said Terry Tate, Manager of DM Farms of Rose Hill and a Smithfield contract grower.

Align RNG rollout

This is the first “manure-to-energy” project to begin construction under Align RNG since the joint venture was announced in late 2018. Additional projects are planned in North Carolina (NC), Utah (UT), and Virginia (VA), and are projected to produce enough energy to power 14 000 homes and businesses in total.

Dominion Energy and Smithfield are supporting the growth of agriculture in North Carolina, the state’s leading industry. This project forecasts an exciting shift in the role that farmers play by providing opportunities within the energy sector that expand their capabilities and improve their bottom line, said North Carolina Rep. Jimmy Dixon.

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