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FILE - Dominion Energy and Smithfield Foods announced a joint venture that will capture methane emissions from hog farms and convert them into clean renewable energy. The companies' first projects will be in North Carolina, Virginia and Utah.

SALT LAKE CITY — Dominion Energy and Smithfield Foods are joining for a venture to convert methane emissions from hog farms into clean renewable energy for residential home heating and power for local businesses.

Announced in a news release Tuesday, the gas company and pork producer formed Align Renewable Natural Gas, with projects slated for North Carolina, Virginia and Utah.

Renewable natural gas is produced from the methane generated from hog or dairy farms, landfills, wastewater treatment plants and food processing facilities, the news release stated. Capturing the methane from hog farms reduces the use of traditionally sourced natural gas and prevents greenhouse gas from entering the atmosphere.

“I’m excited about the technological advances for capturing methane that escapes into the atmosphere from farms,” Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said. “That methane — which we call renewable natural gas — can be used to heat our homes, generate low-carbon electricity and drive industry. This bodes well for Utah’s environmental health and economic development.”

The new joint venture will leverage Smithfield’s relationships with contract farmers and the time the company has spent studying the commercial viability of "manure-to-energy" projects. Using a technology known as anaerobic digestion, the projects will capture and process methane from large clusters of Smithfield’s company-owned and contract hog farms, the release stated. Once collected at the farms, the natural gas will then be transported to a central conditioning facility where it will be converted into renewable natural gas.

“Our companies recognize the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the future of our planet. (Renewable natural gas) is an innovative and proven way to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the agriculture industry by converting it into clean renewable energy,” said Thomas Farrell, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Dominion Energy.

The companies are jointly investing at least $250 million in the initiative over the next decade, with the initial application going to a Utah farm at Milford, Beaver County, two larger farm clusters in Duplin and Sampson Counties, North Carolina; and to a site in Waverly, Virginia. Construction of the facilities is expected to begin in late 2018 with the first projects scheduled to be in-service in late 2019.

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“With a longstanding commitment to sustainability, and through considerable research and exploration of ways to transform manure into energy for many years, we are well-positioned to make unprecedented and revolutionary progress that will positively impact the future of the agriculture and energy industries,” said Kenneth Sullivan, president and chief executive officer of Smithfield Foods.

Farmers who participate in the program will be paid for the energy their farms produce through long-term contracts, the release stated.