Environmental Power Corporation held a groundbreaking ceremony on Dec. 11 for its biogas plant at the JBS Swift beef processing facility in Grand Island, Neb. The plant will generate biogas to offset a portion of the facility’s natural gas consumption and will improve its waste management practices. 

Environmental Power’s subsidiary Microgy, Inc. will construct, own and operate the renewable energy production facility and sell its gas to JBS Swift pursuant to a 15-year purchase agreement. The facility will use proven anaerobic digester technology to convert animal waste and other byproducts of the JBS Swift plant into a methane-rich biogas to be used as fuel in the plant’s existing boilers. At capacity, the facility is expected to generate 235,000 MMBtu per year – the energy equivalent of 1.7 million gallons of oil – and will offset approximately 25% of JBS Swift’s annual purchase of natural gas. In addition to reducing the plant’s dependence on fossil fuels, JBS Swift will be able to reduce the land application of organic waste materials from its operations.

The Lieutenant Governor of Nebraska, Rick Sheehy, and the Mayor of Grand Island, Margaret Hornady are expected to join representatives of Environmental Power and JBS Swift for the event. Other representatives of federal, state and local authorities are expected to attend the event with members of the Grand Island business community.    

“The meat processing industry represents an important market for our co-digestion systems to produce renewable biogas,” said Rich Kessel, President and Chief Executive Officer of Environmental Power. “The facility at Grand Island is our first inside-the-fence industrial project and demonstrates JBS Swift’s willingness to embrace emerging renewable energy technologies.  We look forward to continuing our partnership with JBS Swift, including exploring the company’s network of processing plants to identify and develop additional facilities.”

The JBS beef processing plant in Grand Island currently processes approximately 6,000 beef cattle per day and employs 2700 people. The plant is one of three similar facilities owned by JBS Swift in North America. The new biogas system will employ three skilled operators along with a facility manager. The gas production facility will consist of two 1.2 million-gallon digesters, as well as a purification system that cleans the gas prior to its use. The Benham Companies, LLC, of St. Louis, will provide design and construction services for the project.

“With the commencement of construction on this exciting new project, the Grand Island plant is demonstrating its commitment to exploring ways to benefit both the communities we work in and our bottom line,” said Dennis Sydow, Vice President and General Manager of the JBS Swift Grand Island Facility. “Our plant will benefit from a new cost-effective source of fuel derived from waste materials generated by our activities, allowing us to improve the environmental sustainability of our operations. ”

The biogas plant is expected to be operational in the fourth quarter of 2008.    

Source: Environmental Power Corp.