Duke Energy plans to tap farm animal waste as methane source for gas power plants

Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK) said March 21 that it has signed a long-term contract to buy swine and poultry waste output from a facility planned for eastern North Carolina – using the captured methane gas to generate renewable electricity at four power stations.

Carbon Cycle Energy will build and own the facility. The location has not been announced, but is expected to be in eastern North Carolina.

Under a 15-year term, Carbon Cycle Energy is expected to produce more than 1 million MMBtus of pipeline-quality captured methane a year. Duke Energy should yield about 125,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) of renewable energy a year – enough to power about 10,000 homes for a year. The renewable energy credits (RECs) generated annually by the effort will help satisfy state mandates.

A Duke Energy spokesperson said the methane capture plant is expected to be operating by the end of 2017.

Under North Carolina’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (REPS), Duke Energy companies must meet specific compliance targets for swine and poultry waste. Duke Energy is already buying electricity generated from other facilities in the state.

“It is encouraging to see the technological advances that allow waste-to-energy projects in North Carolina to be done in an environmentally responsible and cost-effective manner for our customers,” said David Fountain, Duke Energy president – North Carolina.

“We are pleased to partner with Carbon Cycle Energy to help meet our compliance objectives,” added Fountain. “The gas from this project will generate carbon neutral electricity compared to the emissions that would result if the waste was left to decay naturally.”

Expanding the utility’s renewable energy output, the captured methane will be treated, injected into the pipeline system and used at four Duke Energy plants:

•Buck Steam Station in Rowan County;

•Dan River Steam Station in Rockingham County;

•H.F. Lee Station Combined Cycle Plant in Wayne County; and

•Sutton Combined Cycle Plant in New Hanover County.

Even with the agreement, Duke will still be getting far less than 1% of its power generation from such waste in 2021, a Duke spokesperson told GenerationHub.

“North Carolina is a big hog producing state” and this agreement does make beneficial use of the waste, the Duke spokesperson said.

On March 18, Duke Energy filed with the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) registration statements and additional information related to the plants being designated as New Renewable Energy Facilities. Under the state’s REPS requirements, this must be done for plants that will consume and generate new renewable energy.

“We are pleased Duke Energy is supportive of our facility in North Carolina,” said James Powell, CEO of Carbon Cycle Energy. “We still have additional work to do with licensing, local regulations and completing our organic waste supply chain. But having a confirmed buyer like Duke Energy is a major step.”

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.