In 1994, Blue Mountain Biogas, LLC / Circle Four Farms started building what would belong to the largest pork producer in the world. The owners believed the high arid desert of western Utah made for an ideal location for a hog farm. This location was also chosen because it gave Circle Four fast access to the West Coast pork market (the farm’s market hogs are shipped to California for processing).
Indeed, the operation has created prosperity in this desolate area of the country. For example, only four years into their operation they had already added $120 million worth of assets to Beaver County plus an $8 million payroll.
As is commonly the case with large-scale livestock farms, odor control has proven to be Circle Four’s biggest challenge. Due to the desert climate, they must handle their manure differently than in other livestock-heavy locations with greater humidity, such as North Carolina. Originally, Circle Four Farms believed a 3-mile buffer from any residence would allow the odors to dissipate since usually odor travels better in humid climates than it does in arid, dry ones. Instead, they found odors could travel even further under the right conditions. As a result, two-stage lagoons are used – a primary lagoon that is anaerobic, and a second-stage basin for evaporation.
Since then, Circle Four has tried to minimize odors by experimenting with many different technologies, even including volunteering their hog operations for odor experiments.
The farm is owned by Smithfield Foods, a $13 billion global food company and the world’s largest producer of pork. The methane released from the swine waste is cleaned, conditioned and burned to generate electricity. The electricity is then sold on the grid under a long-term, fixed rate off-take agreement to a Utah municipality. The carbon credits and renewable energy certificates are also sold under long-term, fixed rate agreements, thereby maximizing revenues from the project. The capacity of the project is 3.2 megawatts of renewable energy, enough to power 3,000 homes.
IFES Number: 309
Type of Firm: Multiple Farm
Main Products: Swine
Ownership Type: Private (Smithfield Foods)
Operational Status: Operational
Year Installed: 2012
Energy Feedstock: Swine manure
Energy Produced: 3.2 MW/year
Energy Uses: Electricity
TCO2 Eq Avoided: 62,669 metric tons CO2E/yr