Consider alternative and renewable energy sources

Solar and wind power, biogas and biodiesel may solve your company’s energy problems as well as its green initiatives.

By Marty Weil, Contributing Editor

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Biofuels are a gas

The use of biodiesel, a renewable fuel resource that greatly reduces tailpipe pollution compared to regular diesel, as well as other types of biofuels are among the most popular alternative energy sources being used in the food processing industry. Kettle also is committed to the use of biodiesel. According to Green, all of the company’s waste cooking oil is processed into biodiesel by SeQuential Pacific Biofuels near Kettle’s headquarters in Salem. Kettle Foods operates three company cars plus a local delivery truck on biodiesel, resulting in an annual reduction of eight tons of CO2 emissions.

Tyson Foods also uses biodiesel. The food giant is using the alternative fuel to power its truck fleet in Scanton, Ark. “We have been running biodiesel for a long time in our fleet, so we have a lot of experience with it,” says Bob Ames, senior director of commercialization for Tyson Renewable Energy (

“Last year we surveyed our drivers, and they simply liked biodiesel better. They found it pulled well going up hills, and it has other positive performance characteristics.”
Tyson is exploring ways to use by-products of its meat and poultry production processes to produce alterative fuels. “We’ve got an enormous quantity of feedstock,” says Ames. “We slaughter roughly 25 percent of the nation’s beef cattle and poultry, slightly less on pork. Through these operations we have access to a lot of animal fat — roughly 300 million gallons of animal fat feed stock, which is pretty significant.” 

To tap this enormous well of animal fat, Tyson established a cross-functional team, led by Tyson Corporate Strategy and Development, to research opportunities in this area. In 2006, this work resulted in the creation of a new business unit called Tyson Renewable Energy, which is moving forward on initiatives to produce biofuels.

The charter of this new division is consistent with the company’s “value-up strategy,” which is focused on increasing margins on by-products, and it also supports Tyson’s core value of environmental stewardship. Since using these by-products as fuel replaces the use of hydrocarbons, net carbon emissions will decrease, which is good for the environment.

Ames believes the company’s efforts will contribute to the nation’s energy security and will provide an opportunity for U.S. animal agriculture — including the nation's ranchers and farmers — to participate in the renewable energy business.

A strategic alliance between ConocoPhillips and Tyson is a part of Tyson Renewable Energy. In 2007, the two companies announced plans to use beef, pork and poultry by-product fat to create renewable diesel fuel, which will help supplement the traditional petroleum-based diesel fuel supply. Each company has begun making capital improvements to its own facilities so Tyson can provide the right kind of feedstock and ConocoPhillips can process it into a new form of diesel fuel.

Tyson also entered a partnership  with Syntroleum Corp. Dynamic Fuels, the resulting joint venture, has chosen Geismar, La., as the site for a $126 million refinery for producing renewable diesel and jet fuels using Syntroleum’s proprietary technology. It should be on line in 2010.

Tyson also uses renewable energy within its own plants. For instance, Tyson is capturing the biogas produced at several company wastewater treatment facilities and converting it into a fuel used to operate hot water boilers in meat processing plants.
Frito-Lay uses a similar system to generate gas from a landfill at its plant in Rosenberg, Texas. “We have a pipeline that runs from the landfill to the plant,” says Haft, “and we use the gas generated from the landfill — from the digestion or decay of waste — to generate methane, which in turn we use to operate our boiler. The steam makes our potato chips.”

Minneapolis-based Cargill Inc. ( has similar landfill methane projects — using gas from landfills — in place at its plants in Bloomington, Ill., Fargo, N.D., and Fayetteville, N.C.

Cargill has other alternative energy projects in the works, including plans to build and operate an anaerobic digester on Bettencourt Dairy Farm’s new 10,000-cow farm. The digester, expected to be completed by the second quarter of 2008, will convert cow effluent into 2.4 megawatts of power per year to be sold back into the local power grid. Co-products from the process will be made into organic fertilizer and digested solids for animal bedding.

The technology, which is being funded by Cargill’s Environmental Finance group, will generate carbon credits from reduced methane emissions into the atmosphere. The credits can be sold on global climate exchanges.

“We are excited to be working with Cargill to develop this innovative means of manure management,” says Rick Onaindia, Bettencourt’s chief financial officer “The digester will substantially reduce odors while creating a renewable source of electricity and reducing our overall operating costs.”

So think of it all as two birds with one stone. Self-generated energy can reduce your dependence on your power suppliers and maybe our collective dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels. Making your company a “green” hero in the process is a great bonus.

Breaking eggs to make hydrogen fuel

The U.S. produced nearly 91 billion eggs in 2006, according to the USDA. That represents about 455,000 tons of eggshell per year that could potentially be used in hydrogen production. Energy experts believe hydrogen may become an important alternative energy source in the future, most notably in the form of fuel cells.

Engineers at Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, have found a way to use discarded chicken eggshells to help produce this alternative energy. The patented process uses eggshells to soak up carbon dioxide from a reaction that produces hydrogen fuel. It also includes a unique method for peeling the collagen-containing membrane from the inside of the shells so the collagen can be used commercially.

L.S. Fan, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Ohio State, and Mahesh Iyer, a former OSU doctoral student, made the discovery. “The key to making pure hydrogen is separating out the carbon dioxide,” says Fan. “In order to do it very economically, we needed a new way of thinking, a new process scheme.”

Eggshells are mostly calcium carbonate, which captures 78 percent of carbon dioxide by weight. That makes it the most effective carbon dioxide absorber ever tested.

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