Cargill’s beef processing facility located in High River, Alberta, Canada already recovers methane to produce 25,000 lbs. of steam per hour, but the company will increase its capacity to generate energy to meet 80 percent of the plant’s needs in 2012 with a new waste-to-energy project. The C$36 million joint project is cosponsored by the government of Canada as part of its initiative to help meat processors reduce their environmental impact. The Canadian government will contribute approximately C$10 million to the effort.

This public-private collaboration for creating energy from waste that would otherwise be sent to a landfill is said to be the first of its type in North America and the largest single waste-to-energy project Cargill has undertaken on the continent. When in operation, the fluidized bed boiler project is expected to eliminate 21,000 metric tons of fossil fuel emissions annually, in addition to mitigating the facility’s electrical energy requirements by producing 1.4 megawatts of power.

Combined with the facility’s existing methane gas capture that prevents release of this greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, and its subsequent use as fuel for the plant, 75 to 80 percent of the facility’s energy needs will come from renewable sources. In addition, waste load to local landfill sites will be decreased, which is a benefit to the community.

“Using existing technology, we will install specialized equipment that will make our High River beef processing facility the most sustainable and environmentally friendly beef processing facility in the world,” says John Keating, Cargill Beef president. “Recognizing the environmental, agricultural and community value and benefits of this project is a tribute to the Canadian government and its visionary approach to working with business to find mutually beneficial solutions to long-term challenges.”

The High River beef processing facility employs approximately 2,000 people who harvest 4,000 beef cattle daily, representing C$1 billion in annual cattle purchases and totaling one-third of Canada’s processed beef volume. The facility is ISO 14001 certified, i.e., the plant has an environmental management system focused on a systematic and measurable approach to improving its environmental impact.