Carbon Finance Brought to Industrial Food Production

Methane Capture & Destruction at Wastewater Treatment Facilities

Wastewater is a common byproduct in agricultural activities and is produced as a result of many food production processes. Tyson Foods, Inc. began managing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from wastewater treatment facilities by installing covers over anaerobic lagoons at five of its wastewater treatment facilities in the Midwest.

At the time, very few industrial wastewater treatment facilities in the meatpacking industry had covered lagoons, and existing system designs were inadequate. Tyson developed new design standards for lagoon covers that dramatically improved system performance, but similar enhancements to emission reduction quantification methodologies were also needed.

The Bluesource team was brought in to apply its knowledge of carbon accounting and methane collection and destruction systems in the U.S. to a methodology that had been written for the developing world. Over 18 months, our team worked with Tyson to quantify and calculate the emission reductions generated by the cutting-edge methane capture projects.

The result was successful validation and verification of project offsets to the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS). The credits were the first ever U.S.-based VCU’s to be issued.  

For several years, the captured biogas was flared at all five sites, converting the methane to less harmful CO2. Tyson then implemented biogas-to-boiler projects at four of the facilities, transporting the collected biogas to the adjacent Tyson processing facilities and using it in the boilers, thereby displacing natural gas that would otherwise have been purchased from the distribution pipeline.

Since implementation, Tyson’s biogas management projects at its wastewater treatment facilities have reduced GHG by roughly 300,000 metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent every year. The projects also provide many co-benefits:

  • A noticeable positive difference in local air quality, benefiting the surrounding communities.
  • The displacement of several fossil fuels used in the generation of heat – natural gas, fuel oil and propane. (In similar projects, biogas can be used to generate clean electricity in lieu of thermal energy.)
  • New, permanent jobs created specifically for ongoing management of the process. Additionally, local contractors can be used to install equipment, build new structures, lay pipe and in some cases construct new lagoons.
  • Significant capital investment in American-made equipment such as covers, flares, blowers, piping, burners, scrubbing systems and controls.

Additionally, this methodology has since been used to quantify emission reductions at other Bluesource wastewater offset projects, expanding the opportunity for carbon to play a role in other wastewater sectors.

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