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Duke Energy uses renewable natural gas from North Carolina hog farms

Published 02 April 2018

Duke Energy has commissioned a power plant which uses renewable natural gas from North Carolina-based hog farms to produce electricity.

"This is a major breakthrough for renewable energy in North Carolina," said David Fountain, Duke Energy's North Carolina president. "This project allows for the capture of emissions from hog operations and converts the renewable natural gas to electricity for customers.  We look forward to continuing our work on future projects."

Sometimes called directed biogas, the Optima KV project in Duplin County captures methane gas from the hog waste of five local farms. Using more than 42,000 feet of in-ground piping, the methane is moved to a central location where the gas is cleaned and converted to pipeline-quality natural gas.

The project injects the renewable natural gas into the Piedmont Natural Gas system which transports it to Duke Energy's Smith Energy Complex in Richmond County where it is used to produce electricity. Optima KV completed its interconnection to Piedmont Natural Gas last week.

"Biogas is such a rich resource for the state, especially for North Carolina's agriculture industry," said Gus Simmons of Cavanaugh & Associates, a partner of OptimaBio. "Harvesting unused organics such as swine manure from farms can create a new business opportunity for farmers, provide an in-state source of energy fuel and improve the sustainability of the agriculture and energy sectors. It's a win-win."

Announced in 2016, the project is expected to yield about 11,000 megawatt-hours of electricity – enough to power about 1,000 homes.

Historically, renewable natural gas has been used by smaller, on-site generators that are connected to the overall energy grid. Using Duke Energy's larger, more efficient plants allows more renewable energy to be created with the same amount of renewable natural gas.

"Optima KV is just the first of more projects where directed biogas will be used at Duke Energy power plants to create efficient renewable energy. Getting projects to a meaningful scale is important as we advance this innovative technology," added Fountain.

The project will help Duke Energy satisfy state swine waste-to-energy mandates under the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard law in North Carolina. Under this law, Duke Energy must generate 0.20 percent of its retail sales from swine waste by 2023.

Source: Company Press Release