EFFINGHAM, S.C. (WBTW) — A new facility at the McCall Farms plant in Effingham is turning waste into usable natural gas.
It filters natural gas gathered from nearby wastewater lagoons, which hold the parts of fruits and vegetables that don’t make their way into cans. As the leftover produce rots, methane is released, which is then captured and pumped into trucks for sale.
“Really from any source of organic waste, you can generate methane,” Marc Fetten, the co-owner of GreenGasUSA said. “Methane is exactly the same thing as fossil gasses, only this time it comes from renewable sources.”
Fetten said he became interested in renewable energy after buying a natural gas trucking company. On a business visit to McCall Farms, he saw an opportunity.
“We went to look at their wastewater system and quickly began to realize you could literally see the gas bubble off the wastewater in the lagoons,” he said.
Over the following years, more than seven acres of the lagoons were covered in massive black bladders called anaerobic digesters. The digesters pump the methane from the rotting produce into a filtering facility.
“The gas is run through different molecular gates, different equipment skids that basically purify the methane gas to natural gas pipelines standards,” Dylan Anderson, the plant project manager at McCall Farms said.
Andersons said annually, the process will prevent the equivalent of more than 40,000 cars’ worth of emissions from entering the atmosphere.
“It was a no-brainer for us to jump right on it to have a better impact on our environment and ecosystem,” he said.
Fetten said the gas will help power the Mercedes-Benz factory near Charleston, Duke University and other companies. He said in recent years, consumers have been pushing companies to go green, and he is now working on similar projects in six states.
Hugh Weathers, the South Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture lauded the project. He said he is proud to see South Carolinians make moves toward green energy.
“This is a clear-cut example of where private enterprise really took the lead,” Weathers said. “There are lots of things farmers are doing — and more that we can do — to help mitigate the carbon issue we are experiencing.”
The facility produces around one-and-a-half truckloads of methane per day. Anderson said he expects to see that number increase as plans develop to build a second filtering facility at the plant.