Company to utilize green energy facility

Valley Proteins, a Winchester-based grease and animal by-product recycler, has signed an intent agreement with the Frederick-Winchester Service Authority to deliver eight to 10 million gallons of organic waste annually to the Opequon Water Reclamation Facility.

The authority signed a $45 million contract in March with Energy Systems Group to design and construct a green energy facility that will use municipal sludge and organic waste to produce methane gas to power the facility. The construction is anticipated to be completed by 2016.

Jesse Moffett, authority executive director, said the intent agreement is a precursor to a final contract.

“This agreement sets forth all the terms and conditions that Valley Proteins will eventually agree to once the plant is operational,” Moffett said. “Once it is up and running, then they will sign a final contract.”

The plant is expected to be the first in the state to use an enhanced nutrient removal process to treat wastewater. Moffett said organic waste will be put into a “digester” which will house microorganisms that will break down the waste and produce methane, which will then be put into an internal combustion engine to provide power for the plant.

“The microorganisms won’t be able to breath in the digester, so when they eat the by-product, that’s how they get their oxygen,” Moffett said. “So when they ‘exhale,’ they produce methane.”

The methane is expected to generate up to 825 kilowatts of electricity at start up, cutting the plant’s $600,000 a year electrical bill in half. Moffett said within five years, the digester should produce enough electricity to completely eliminate the plant’s need to be on the power grid. In addition, the plant will also use heat from the engines to keep the digesters at an optimal temperature for the microorganisms to break down waste.

Moffett said if the plant is successful, it could pave the way for future developments.

“Maybe we will be able to start building natural gas fill-up stations for our vehicles and equipment,” Moffett said. “That’s a long ways off, but if you start thinking about it now, that’s how things happen.”

Patrick Barker, executive director of the Frederick County Economic Development Authority, has lauded the deal as a first step in establishing the plant as a resource for local food manufacturers.

“It’s always difficult to get a company to agree to be the first one to agree to try a new process,” Barker said, adding that the plant would be a key selling point for food companies interested in coming to Frederick County.

“This plant has the potential to save money for companies, so that will give us an avenue to get us into the conversation for attracting a company to the county,” Barker said. “It will not only reduce wastewater costs, but it will also reduce companies’ environmental footprint.”

Barker said companies, depending on the scale of their operations, might have to spend $10-$20 million on pretreatment chemicals for organic waste by-products. By having microorganisms digest the untreated waste, that will save them money in the long haul, Barker said.

“In the past, most companies had to go through and clean up their waste before introducing it into the waste water system,” Barker said. “This plant will reduce both their short term and long term costs.”

Valley Proteins is a recycler of grease and animal by-products, turning inedible waste into feed fat and protein ingredients for animal feed producers, as well as bio-fuels for heat. The company provides disposal services for restaurants, supermarkets, abattoirs and poultry processing plants throughout the mid-Atlantic, Eastern and Southwestern United States.

In a news release, Gerald Smith, president of Valley Proteins, said he hopes to pass along the savings from the deal to his customers.

“A nearby and low cost disposal option is great for us since it helps reduce our service fees to local restaurants,” Smith said.

Contact staff writer Henry Culvyhouse at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or hculvyhouse@nvdaily.com