Sussex approves Bioenergy Devco litter digester plant
SEAFORD — Bioenergy Devco has secured conditional approval from the Sussex County Council on Tuesday morning to move forward in constructing one of Delaware’s first anaerobic digesters, and now awaits final approval from the state.
Maryland-based Bioenergy Devco bought the former Perdue Farms AgriRecycle facility just south of Seaford and continues to compost 30,000 tons of poultry waste from Perdue Farms on the Delmarva Peninsula. But the upstart company plans to revolutionize the relationship between farms and the environment by extracting natural gas from poultry waste.
Two digester tanks will ferment poultry waste to create digestate, a soil conditioner that can eventually be composted, and natural gas, which rises to the top of the tank for removal. The digestate will be used to create compost and Chesapeake Utilities proposed to truck the natural gas away to process it and feed it into its pipeline.
“We are very pleased with the decision made by the Sussex County Council regarding our application for conditional use. The [digester] will provide a much-needed alternative to organic material management in the area,” Bioenergy Devco Chief Development Officer Peter Ettinger said in a prepared statement. “Not only will the facility reduce land application, and poultry organics from going into landfills, but it will also turn these organics into renewable natural gas and digestate an organic, virtually odorless soil amendment.”
Bioenergy Devco is now awaiting approval from the Delaware Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) to allow it to process up to 220,000 tons of waste leftover from the chicken-slaughtering process called DAF after the “dissolved air flotation” system that produces it. DAF and other waste are traditionally stored in tanks and later used to improve the soil on farmers’ crops.
When Bioenergy bought the Perdue facility for $7.2 million, it also struck a deal to take over its composting operation for 20 years. The company has a 20-year track record of building 230 facilities and digesters in seven countries, aided by acquiring longtime Italian digestor developer BTS Biogas.
If DNREC approves the digester, it will allow Bioenergy to cut down its composting time from five months to three months. Compost is later sold as fertilizer to clients Scotts, Coast of Maine, Blue Hen Organics, Grizzle’s Landscaping and Eastern Shore Forest Products.
The $45 million digester tank should be in full operation by early 2022 at the latest, if it receives final approval. Bioenergy currently employs 11 full-time staff, and construction will add between 40 and 45 jobs. Once construction is complete, the company projects there will be 30 employees for the digester and 11 employees for the compost facility.