Chesapeake Utilities, Bioenergy DevCo reach renewable energy deal
SEAFORD – Chesapeake Utilities Corp. and Bioenergy DevCo will partner to convert byproducts from poultry farms into natural gas, deepening its commitment to renewable energy sources.
That builds on the approximate $20 million investment Bioenergy DevCo has at the former Perdue Farms AgriRecycle composting facility. Last fall, the company signed a 20-year deal to operate the site and introduce technology in anaerobic digestion system, which uses natural microorganisms to break down waste into gaseous fuel.
It marks the first time Chesapeake Utilities’ vast energy network incorporates anaerobic digestion. But this might be the first of many projects to come, Bioenergy DevCo CEO Shawn Kreloff said.
“There’s two or three other projects in Delaware that we’re actively looking at with Chesapeake Utilities,” Kreloff told Delaware Business Times. “This is not going to be the only plant you see on the Eastern Shore.”
Based out of Columbia, Maryland, Bioenergy DevCo has grown from a research company to upstart that bought out an Italian developer of more than 200 anaerobic digestion systems in seven countries. In addition to Seaford, the company has its eyes set on Principio Business Park in Cecil County, Md., and a third in the Delmarva region currently under negotiations.
Chesapeake Utilities Corp. President and CEO Jeff Householder said the company was long inspired to tap into biogas after watching the poultry industry evolve. But the company was leery about working with a firm that would build the digester and walk away from the operations.
A connection was made through Delaware chicken – specifically a former Perdue employee that works for Chesapeake Utilities. The deal was made more intriguing when Bioenergy DevCo tapped the Seaford site, which is permitted to compost 30,000 tons of chicken litter and other byproducts.
Bioenergy DevCo’s anaerobic digester breaks down organic material like “cow’s stomach on an industrial scale,” Kreloff said. Only this produces natural gas and a soil condition, instead of methane and nutrient-rich manure.
“It’s commendable seeing how the poultry industry has evolved, and it was something we’ve been looking into. Not only for the business of renewable gas, because it also has great environmental benefits,” Householder said. “We’re very comfortable with this company, with the obvious amount of global experience they bring to the table.”
Chesapeake Utilities will also look at investing millions in gas tanker trucks for subsidiary Marlin Gas Services so that the renewable energy can be transported to Eastern Shore Natural Gas’s 500-mile-long pipeline and later sold to distributors. There are opportunities for more jobs within the company, be it tanker drivers or staff to maintain the infrastructure.
Since November, Bioenergy DevCo has done some demolition work and is cleaning up the pelletizing plant for reuse. Kreloff said the permitting process has started and he hopes construction will start in the third quarter of 2020 and finish by the first quarter of 2021. When operational, it could bring up to 30 jobs.
By Katie Tabeling