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New partnership will convert chicken waste into biogas

Katie Tabeling

When CleanBay Renewables opens its $200 million bio-refinery in southern Maryland, depicted here, it will process more than 150,000 tons of chicken litter into energy that could be enough to power 10,000 homes. | PHOTO COURTESY CLEANBAY RENEWABLES

DOVER – In another move that will diversify renewable energy options, Chesapeake Utilities Corp. will be partnering with CleanBay Renewables to distribute natural gas recycled from thousands of chickens on the Delmarva Peninsula.

CleanBay Renewables will soon turn chicken litter – manure and bedding materials – into biogas, or a type of natural gas that contains mostly methane. Chesapeake Utilities, the regional natural gas distributor, will transport it by road to its 455-mile interstate pipeline, where it will be distributed to customers in Delaware, Pennsylvania and Maryland. Chesapeake Utilities is also in the permitting process for its new pipelines, expanding its reach to Somerset County, Maryland’s southernmost point.

“Pursuing the idea of turning industry organics into a non-fossil based renewable energy source, supports a long-standing commitment we have to our community to invest in environmentally-friendly and viable alternatives,” Chesapeake Utilities Corp. President and CEO Jeff Householder said.

CleanBay is on track to open a $200 million biorefinery on 100 acres in Westover, Md., in 2022, with assistance from a $1.4 million Maryland Department of Agriculture grant. In all, it would bring about 15 jobs to the facility.

This first site would repurpose more than 150,000 tons of chicken litter annually, equating to 765,00 million British thermal units (Btus) of natural gas. That would be enough energy to power 10,000 homes. CleanBay also shows no sign of slowing down, with conditional approval in hand for a second facility in Georgetown after the Hanover site is built out. 

The company has agreements in place with regional litter suppliers for the plants, with each recycling more than 150,000 tons of chicken litter each year. For perspective, there were 690 million chickens on Delmarva in 2019 with potential to produce nearly 1 million tons of chicken litter annually.

CleanBay already has purchase agreements in hand with major corporations for low-carbon, renewable vehicle fuel customers as well as powering an on-site generator. Production of renewable gas reduces the equivalent of greenhouse gas emissions of more than 100,000 cars at each plant, according to Thomas Spangler, CleanBay Renewables’ executive chairman.

“We plan on building multiple plants on the Delmarva and in other states across the nation,” Spangler said. “We’re very excited about this collaboration with Chesapeake Utilities, since this is giving us the opportunity to work with a regional utility with an incredible reach that shares our dream of building more options for renewable energy sources.”

This partnership marks Chesapeake Utilities’ second arrangement for biogas in three months. In June, the utility company announced it would build a $7 million processing plant in Seaford to convert raw biogas from Bioenergy DevCo into biomethane.

“We are interested in collaborating with CleanBay and companies pursuing renewable natural gas opportunities, and our transmission systems in southern Delaware present CleanBay with an ideal location to offtake the gas,”  Householder said.

As for CleanBay, Spangler said the future is wide open for the company to expand possibly to California or the Southeast and expanding its portfolio of resources into organic fertilizer options and solar power fields for local farms.

“We believe the need for this renewable natural resource is only going to grow as states work to meet aggressive climate goals,” he said.

By Katie Tabeling


This story has been updated with updated comments from Chesapeake Utilities Corp. CEO Jeff Householder.

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