Project Profile: Ruckman Farm
- Nation’s first project that converts biogas derived from hog manure into pipeline-quality renewable natural gas (RNG)
- Largest manure-to-energy project of its kind
- Restores native prairie grasses that are harvested to double biogas production
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Injecting Biogas from Hog Manure into a Natural Gas Pipeline
The technology we’ve developed is ready to be deployed commercially in a project that makes both economic sense and environmental sense. This is not just about converting the manure from almost two million pigs into renewable energy. It’s about taking environmental sustainability to a new level.
Smithfields Foods, Inc., one of the nation’s largest hog producers, has partnered with Roeslein Alternative Energy (RAE) to undertake the nation’s largest manure-to-energy project to convert biogas produced from hog manure into pipeline-quality renewable natural gas (RNG).
Ruckman Farm is the first of nine Smithfield Foods hog production facilities in Missouri where manure lagoons have been updated to capture biogas that is cleaned, compressed, and upgraded to RNG.
Phase one of the project, completed in 2016 at Ruckman Farm, culminated in injection of pipeline-quality RNG into a national natural gas network. The overall project, which is expected to cost $120 million, includes updating the remaining farms with the same technology. In total, 88 lagoons are expected to be covered with systems to collect biogas. This project provides a model that could be replicated at other facilities with manure lagoons.
Restoring Native Prairie Grasses to Increase Biogas Production
This project will show how farmers can do more than produce food. We can make energy, we can reduce waste, and we can be good stewards for our most important resources – land and water.
During the next phase of the project, a prairie grass mixture will be planted on nearby idle lands that are considered unsuitable for crops. Periodic harvesting of the prairie grasses will produce biomass that will be added to the hog manure feedstock, which is expected to double the production of biogas. Restoration of the native prairie lands provides additional environmental benefits — for example, creating wildlife habitat for local species, improving water infiltration, and enhancing the quality of the soil.
Ruckman Farm advances sustainability in the following ways:
- Provides $120 million of investment into the local economy, resulting in numerous employment opportunities for the community
- Reduces odor from hog manure previously contained in open lagoons
- Protects human health by reducing pathogens in manure through the anaerobic digestion process
- Using pipeline-quality renewable natural gas offsets the use of fossil fuel derived natural gas
- Returning the nutrients from the digested swine manure to the soil reduces the use of petrochemical fertilizers
- Planting native grasses improves soil quality and creates wildlife habitat
- Expected to reduce the equivalent of greenhouse gas emissions from more than 25,900 passenger vehicles
- Diversifies farm revenue by entering into multiple industries (crops, energy)
- Reduces operating costs by producing renewable energy and using it on site
- Generates 11.727 D3 RINs (cellulosic biofuel) per one million British Thermal Units (MMBtu), trading at $2.50 per RIN
- Produces natural fertilizer that is used on the farm, saving costs
- Water captured on covered lagoons provides drinking source for hogs
About the Digesters
The Smithfield Hog Production project is made up of impermeable covers and flare systems on 88 manure lagoons at nine hog finishing farms. Currently, impermeable covers and flare systems have been installed at half of the 88 manure lagoons.
At Ruckman Farm, one of the nine hog finishing farms, manure is collected by scraper systems from buildings that house the hogs and is sent to the farm’s nine covered lagoons for anaerobic digestion. The farm’s lagoons are covered with 80-mil high-density polyethylene and low-density polyethylene impermeable synthetic covers. Rain that falls on the lagoons is captured and processed as storm water. Each lagoon is equipped with a flare system for emergency backup.
Annually, the Ruckman Farm project produces a volume of biogas that is equivalent to approximately 1.9 million gallons of diesel. Biogas captured within the anaerobic digester system is piped underground to an integrated 1,350 standard cubic feet per minute pressure swing adsorption facility that refines the biogas to pipeline-quality RNG. The RNG is then injected into the American Natural Resources natural gas transmission system through an interconnection that crosses the farm.
RNG produced from the project is sold to Element Markets, a marketer of biogas and introduced into the California vehicle fuel market.
When the project is completed, the Smithfield Hog Production project is expected to produce more than 2.2 billion cubic feet of pipeline-quality RNG per year or the equivalent of 17 million gallons of diesel fuel annually.
System Design Properties
|Feedstock Processed||Swine Manure; Prairie Grasses|
|Throughput||115,000 tons per year of swine manure|
|Digester Type||Covered Lagoons|
|Population Feeding Digester||Design is 28,000 swine; each weighing more than 55 pounds|
|Baseline System||Pond or Pit|
|System Designer and Developer||Roeslein Alternative Energy|
|Biogas Generation||1.9 million diesel gallon equivalents|
|Receiving Utility||Element Markets|
|Biogas Uses||Pipeline Quality Renewable Natural Gas|
The total cost for the Smithfield Hog Production project is $120 million. The Ruckman Farm portion of the project was financed via private equity from Mr. Rudi Roeslein, CEO of Roeslein & Associates and founder of Roeslein Alternative Energy, LLC, which provided funding for the lagoon covers and equipment in exchange for the rights to sell the biogas.
The Ruckman Farm project has received awards and recognition:
- “Friend of ABC Award” Exit from the American Biogas Council in 2016 to Roeslein Alternative Energy for its contributions to the growth of the biogas industry.
- “2016 Groundbreaker of the Year” Exit award from BBI International. RAE was recognized for advancing the bioenergy industry by “breaking ground and making meaningful headway on a commercial scale biomass-to-energy project.”
Want to learn more?
Roeslein Alternative Energy Overview
SciTech Now Episode 221 Roeslein Alternative Energy