Eastern: Passing gas
A long-standing goal of turning pig and poultry poop into energy is being met by a Colorado-based startup that is making a $100 million bet on its technology. Construction of Carbon Cycle Energy’s plant near Warsaw in Duplin County kicked off in December, pleasing promoters of alternative power sources and Duke Energy, which has great incentive to support development of renewables.
State lawmakers in 2007 passed the nation’s strongest provisions for alternatives to coal, natural-gas and nuclear production: 12.5% of the state’s electric supply sold to Duke customers must come from renewable sources or efficiency improvements by 2018. The rules include a requirement that Duke and other investor-owned utilities must buy at least 0.2% of North Carolina’s energy supply from swine waste by 2018. That doesn’t sound like much, but the state is nowhere close to the goal. Carbon Cycle’s plant, expected to be completed later this year, will narrow the gap significantly.
Duke and an unnamed Fortune 500 company have signed contracts to buy gas from the plant for 15 years, making the project viable. About 25 pork and poultry producers operating within a 75-mile radius will provide waste, mainly through 70 to 80 daily truck deliveries. Sealing the trucks should prevent odor problems, officials say. A nearby pork-processing plant plans to send its effluent through pipes. Carbon Cycle won’t reveal its name, though privately held Villari Foods has a facility across the road.
Carbon Cycle will handle 750,000 tons of waste annually and produce enough power for more than 20,000 homes, while employing 50 to 70 people. Methane gas created at the site will
be injected into Piedmont Natural Gas’ pipelines — which Duke owns after buying the distributor in 2016.
Carbon Cycle spokeswoman Jess Kutrumbos won’t identify its investors, noting Duke isn’t providing financing for the plant. The company’s founders include biotech executive James Powell, engineering company owner Jerry Kovacich and energy trader Thomas Mulholland.
The North Carolina facility is the first of several biogas plants, though other locations have not been disclosed, Kutrumbos says. While the state has significant biotech and pork industries, Carbon Cycle isn’t moving its headquarters here, she says. N.C. State University, which has studied swine-waste uses for years, is not involved in the project.
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