Industrial waste can be seriously inconvenient. Considerations like wastewater odour control, disposal of organic matter, and health and safety concerns make managing this surplus material difficult. This is why biogas production can be so useful – actively turning waste into much-needed energy.
Read on to learn more about five of the largest, and most important, biogas production facilities in the USA, and discover how these plants are making a real difference across the country.
Defining the “Largest” Biogas Production Facilities
Before we take a detailed look at some of the biggest biogas production plants in the USA, we first need to define our terms. While “largest” seems like a pretty straightforward metric, it can be interpreted in different ways. Some of the facilities on this list are the largest or have been the largest plants in the country in terms of the area of the site – literally, how much acreage of space they take up.
Others may be the largest in terms of the volume of their equipment. For instance, a facility with a vast acreage may only have a few digesters and a lot of additional space. Meanwhile, a smaller but better-optimized facility may draw upon a higher processing volume.
Then there is output – exactly how many tons of biogas, or biomethane, can the facility produce each year? How does this translate into electricity? A highly efficient plant may be able to produce more renewable energy than a facility with more acreage and a greater volume.
There are also different categories to consider. Biogas is produced from the digestion and chemical processing of organic matter, but this organic matter can be sourced in different ways. Some facilities may draw upon waste directly from landfill sites, while others may use industrial wastewater treatment or dairy and meat processing effluent to generate these organic raw materials.
For this list, we are looking at some of the milestone facilities in the USA. These are facilities that are among the largest, across all the above definitions, in the country, and are spearheading the biogas production industry in the USA.
Air Liquide – Rockford, Illinois
Air Liquide is one of the world’s most important biomethane energy firms, with over 20 facilities around the globe. In Q2 of 2022, the company brought its latest facility online – a major development working with biomass from a landfill site in Delavan, Wisconsin. The Wisconsin site will be a significant one in the USA’s biogas landscape, but even this will be some 40 miles away in Rockford, Illinois.
The Rockford plant will be the largest facility in the world in terms of acreage, and it will bring Air Liquide’s global biogas power production up to 1.8 TWh per annum. The group says that this plant – which is due to begin operation in 2023 – will be critical to Air Liquide’s mission of supplying industrial and transportation clients with sustainable, low-carbon energy.
C2e Renewables – Warsaw, North Carolina
Carbon Cycle Energy, also known as C2e, is a homegrown biogas organization based in Boulder, Colorado. However, their biggest facility was opened in 2017 halfway across the country in North Carolina. The plant, located near Warsaw in the state’s Duplin County, cost $100 million to design and develop, and is aimed at providing power to residential properties in the United States.
The site is estimated to provide enough power for 32,000 homes each year – something that helps C2e Renewables meet their own target of being one of the leaders in the eco-friendly, sustainable energy field. Handling more than 750,000 tons of organic waste each year, the plant turns this into valuable biogas, which is then used to generate 290 GWh of electricity per annum. One of the main purchasers of this electricity is Duke Energy.
Environmental Power Corporation – Huckabay Ridge, Texas
Near the town of Stephenville, Texas, is the Huckabay Ridge anaerobic organic matter digestion facility. This facility has been in operation for more than 15 years, and was first brought online way back in 2007. Its eight digesters combine to handle around 7.5 million gallons of material at any one time, which made this one of the largest facilities of its type in the USA for many years.
Originally operated by EM Biogas, the facility has since been sold on, and is now the property of the Environmental Power Corporation. This site cost $26 million dollars to build and sits on 72.5 acres of land.
Maas Energy Works – Hanford, California
Sometimes, even relatively small biogas facilities can be milestone facilities in the United States’ renewable energy landscape. This is because the renewable market needs to be diverse if it is to be successful – biogas production is not just about producing energy but also about dealing with unwanted waste matter. If biogas firms can use different forms of waste to produce power, this provides a significant benefit to society as a whole.
The Maas Energy Works facility in Hanford, California, uses dairy byproducts to produce energy. While this may be niche compared to the landfill facilities or wastewater processing plants found elsewhere, changing dairy waste into valuable energy is a useful ecological process, especially in areas that produce high volumes of this waste type. The Hanford site was the largest of its type on the West Coast when it opened back in October 2017, with a projected output of 2 MW.
ZeroWaste Energy Development Company (ZWEDC) – Campbell, California
The biogas plant development project in Campbell, California, caused a significant stir when it was first made public in 2009. This project would go on to become the largest facility of its kind in the world upon its launch five years later in 2014. Today, the site is owned and operated by ZWEDC.
When it was launched, the site included 16 industrial-scale digestion chambers, holding 5,600 tons of water in total. These chambers process waste from nearby food services and restaurant businesses, completing the transformation process within 21 days of material input.
An Important Part of the USA’s Renewable Energy Initiative
Biogas may not be as high-profile as other forms of green energy, such as hydroelectricity or wind and wave power. This is partly because it is not as renewable as these alternatives – biomass still needs to be produced on a vast scale to meet the power needs of homes and businesses across the US.
However, it does solve a different need – it can be used to eliminate much of this waste that is being produced anyway. For this reason, biogas production provides significant social and ecological value.