World's largest pork producer to harness methane gas to fight climate change

World's largest pork producer to harness methane gas to fight climate change
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The world's largest pork producer Smithfield Foods will work with Virginia-based Dominion Energy to harness methane gas from the thousands of pigs Smithfield rears each year.

“The environmental footprint of agriculture has to do with the crops fed to livestock but also the waste part of animal agriculture,” Ken Sullivan, Smithfield chief executive, told The Washington Post in an interview.

“This effort is focused on the waste aspect in our endeavor to divert an inevitable part of the waste stream into something usable, that has economic benefit and, in the process, reduces our carbon footprint," he said.

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The two companies will spend $125 million over 10 years to try to harness gases from hog lagoons in North Carolina, Virginia and Utah to fight climate change, The Washington Post reported.

The effort will be one of the largest attempts to convert animal waste into energy and could help contain American agricultural emissions, which make up about 9 percent of the U.S.'s footprint, according to the Post.

Methane gas is 25 times as potent as carbon dioxide when it comes to altering the climate, though it breaks down faster, the Post reports.

The effort would cover 90 percent of Smithfield's hog finishing spaces in North Carolina and Utah, where pigs grow from 50 pounds to market weight.

These are the largest farms the company has.

Initially, the project will involve four clusters of 20 to 25 farms each.

Smithfield has tried to capture methane before, but those attempts about 13 years ago were "pretty spectacular failures" according to Sullivan.

Smithfield lost $25 million to $30 million trying to use digesters to convert the gas from manure to biodiesel.

This time, Smithfield will try to capture the gas by covering the lagoons with high-density plastic and digesters.