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Pig Poop Power

Like many swine operations, traditional hog farms in North Carolina store the manure in lagoons where methane gas and other emissions escape into the environment. Duke Energy Corporation is working with five industrial-scale hog farms to capture the methane and inject it into the natural gas pipeline to be used by local utility companies.

Randy Wheeless is the spokesman for Duke Energy. He says each farm pumps manure from the hog houses into a covered digester system. Anaerobic bacteria consume the organic waste, and respire biogas which is 65% methane.

"So instead of the methane escaping into the environment it’s captured, and they use at this particular facility about 42,000 feet of pipe to pipe it to a central location where it’s scrubbed and converted into natural gas," he says. "Methane gas is basically what natural gas is, but it does take some conversion to get it to pipeline quality."

Wheeless says the biogas is then piped to their natural gas-fired power plant and converted into electricity that can power eleven-hundred homes a year.

"So, it’s still pretty small in the grand scheme of things and it’s probably less than 1% of the natural gas burned at our power plant. But, what’s important about the project is that we think this has some potential in the future," says Wheeless. "It’s expensive right now but if we can scale it up and learn from that technology scaling up, we think we can get it cheaper in the future, and maybe it’ll be a viable form of renewable natural gas that can be used elsewhere."

 Learn more about Duke Energy’s swine biogas program

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