In early August, Dominion Energy, in partnership with Smithfield Foods, through their joint venture firm Align Renewable Natural Gas, broke ground on a new project to reduce methane emissions in North Carolina. This $250 million “manure-to-energy” project will supply electricity to local households and industries by capturing methane emissions from hog and dairy farms and converting it into renewable natural gas. The project will create covered lagoons on the hog farms, which will work as anaerobic digesters to capture the waste methane, clean it, and reuse it. The technology will be installed across 19 farms in the region, with the goal of making renewable natural gas 4% of their system by 2040.
This project comes six months after Dominion pledged to reduce their own methane emissions in February 2019. Dominion Energy announced that the new initiative will stop over 430,000 tons of methane from entering the atmosphere, building on their successful 2009 reduction initiative. Dominion’s goal with this new voluntary endeavor would double the removal seen over the past decade, with the tonnage of reduced emissions equal to planting nearly 180 million new trees or removing 2.3 million daily car emissions for a year. This industry-leading initiate takes a momentous stand to reduce methane emissions by 50% by 2030 from its natural gas infrastructure, based on 2010 levels. Dominion will primarily focus on reducing or eliminating gas venting from maintenance operations to keep methane in the system and out of the atmosphere. The initiative also builds on the 50 percent reduction in carbon emissions Dominion Energy has achieved across its electric fleet since 2000, and the significant advances it is making with renewable energy.
Methods of Methane Reduction
As the primary component of natural gas, methane is used to generate one-third of the nation’s electricity and is used to heat 118 million American homes, as well as power various industries. Through a 2.5 million-mile national underground pipeline system, natural gas is transported to homes, power plants, and businesses across the United States.
Dominion Energy will achieve its historic emissions reduction goals in three primary ways:
- Reducing or eliminating gas venting during planned maintenance and inspections, and instead, capturing the gas to reuse/recycle it.
- Replacing older equipment across its system with new, low-emission equipment (e.g., replacing natural gas pumps at gas wells and old cast iron/steel pipes with high-pressure plastic to reduce leaks, thereby reducing these emissions by 90%).
- Expanding leak detection and repair programs across its entire system using infrared cameras. Dominion will continue to improve their methods as the technology becomes available.
Wind and Solar Initiatives
Dominion is also pursuing a few other green initiatives, already having installed some solar and wind farms in Virginia, with a plan to bring 3,000 megawatts of new solar and wind production online by 2022. At peak output, that amount is enough energy to power 750,000 homes.
“We recognize we need to do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to further combat climate change,” said Diane Leopold, President and CEO of Dominion Energy’s Gas Infrastructure Group. “We’ve made significant progress, but we’re determined to go much further. With this initiative, we are transforming the way we do business to build a more sustainable future for the planet, our customers, and our industry.”
To learn more about Dominion’s commitment to the environment, read more here.