US meat processor recycles waste into biogas

By Dominique Patton

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Anaerobic digestion, Recycling, Natural gas

A US-based meat processor is the latest player in the food industry
to start recycling waste into biogas, in order to reduce fossil
fuels use and improve waste management.

JBS Swift & Co, owned by Brazil's JBS, said last month that its meat packing plant in Nebraska will turn beef waste into biogas to be burned at the facility. he biogas production will be managed by Microgy, a subsidiary of renewable energy firm Environmental Power, which will build and operate the necessary equipment. Microgy holds an exclusive license in North America for use of a proprietary anaerobic digestion technology that can extract methane gas from animal and other wastes to generate energy. Its new facility at the JBS Swift plant is expected to be operational by the fourth quarter of this year. At capacity, the facility is expected to generate 235,000 MMBtu per year, the energy equivalent of 1.7 million gallons of oil, replacing about 25 per cent of the plant's natural gas consumption. Microgy will sell the gas to JBS Swift, the world's largest beef processor, under a 15-year contract. Dennis Sydow, vice president and general manager of the JBS Swift Grand Island facility, said: "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."​ Rich Kessel, president and CEO of Environmental Power, said the meat processing industry is an important market for the firm's technology to produce renewable biogas. Like other food and drink processors, meat companies are facing rising energy​ costs, forcing them to look at alternative energy sources that could also help them meet targets to cut carbon emissions. Biogas can also be produced from yeast left over from brewing and whey from cheese processing. But so far, only a handful of food and drink companies have invested in the technology, including the brewers Scottish & Newcastle and Fosters. Gunther Pesta, manager of Artres, a company which supplies tailored biogas systems to business, recently told an industry seminar that a lack of knowledge about how to adopt manufacturing cycles to use waste products as a form of fuel is holding back use of the technology. The new biogas system at the JBS plant will employ 3 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. Kessel added that the firm will be looking at the rest of the meat company's processing plants to identify and develop further facilities. In addition to reducing the plant's dependence on fossil fuels, JBS Swift will be able to reduce the amount of waste materials from its operations sent to landfills.

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