US meat processor Smithfield Foods has announced that it will invest US$20m to build a facility that converts swine waste into biodiesel vehicle fuel.

Smithfield will be the major partner in BEST BioFuel, a partnership that will construct the project at Smithfield-owned swine production facilities near Milford, Utah.

“Livestock waste can be a source of clean, renewable vehicle fuel,” said Robert F Urell, Smithfield senior vice president, engineering and environmental affairs.

The facility will be constructed at Circle Four Farms, an operation located in southwest Utah. Construction is scheduled to start in April, pending final approval of the conditional use permit and a permit from the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, and the facility could start producing fuels as early as October.

The project will involve the construction of a collection system to pump waste to a central processing facility where it will be concentrated. The concentrated liquid is then introduced into a second facility that produces biogas, which is then piped to an enclosed plant where thermo-catalytic processes convert it into biomethanol.

The biomethanol will be transported to a plant outside of Utah for processing into biodiesel utilising oils, such as soybean oil, animal fat or used cooking oil. The result is a clean burning, renewable fuel that also has been shown to extend the life of diesel engines due to improved lubricating action.