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Ecology Meets Circular Economy at Maryland's Bioenergy Center

By recycling organics, producing renewable natural gas, and yielding nutrient-rich soil amendments, it exemplifies a harmonious relationship between environmental responsibility and economic growth.

In an era marked by growing environmental concerns and climate change, sustainable solutions for energy and waste management have become paramount. Nestled in Jessup, the Maryland Bioenergy Center — operated by Bioenergy Devco — is groundbreaking as the state's first anaerobic digester of such scale, and showcases the intersection of ecology and a circular economy — offering a sustainable, scalable and efficient approach to organics recycling.

A transformative approach to organics recycling

The Jessup facility is designed to recycle an impressive 110,000 tons of organic waste each year. The heart of this operation lies in the process of anaerobic digestion — a naturally occurring process in which organic materials are decomposed by microorganisms in the absence of oxygen — which not only redirects organic waste from landfills and incinerators but also yields two valuable outputs: renewable natural gas and nutrient-rich soil digestate.

The renewable natural gas produced at the Maryland Bioenergy Center, estimated to reach a staggering 340,000 MMBtu annually, will represent a significant contribution to the region's energy landscape. This renewable natural gas can be utilized for various applications — from direct injection to utilities to green hydrogen production — offering a more sustainable alternative to conventional natural gas sources.

In addition, the facility generates over 16,000 tons of rich, fertile soil amendment — which is an invaluable resource for agriculture and land use. The nutrient-rich soil amendment contributes to healthier soil quality, fostering improved crop growth and soil fertility.

Who benefits from this initiative

From Bioenergy Devco’s own, in-house calculations, the Maryland facility’s prevention of the release of greenhouse gases from decomposition of the region’s organic waste provides the climate-stabilizing equivalent of preserving 69,061 acres (approximately 82 times the size of New York's Central Park) of US forests in just one year.

In addition, the Maryland Bioenergy Center serves a diverse range of stakeholders:

  1. Food industry: For food processors, institutions and companies faced with the challenge of disposing of organic waste sustainably, anaerobic digestion provides an innovative and cost-effective solution to help these entities enhance waste management, reduce operating costs, and meet corporate sustainability goals.

  2. Municipalities: Collaboration with local and state governments and regional partners facilitates the diversion of organic waste from landfills and incinerators. This approach not only supports broader zero-waste initiatives but also generates high-quality jobs and boosts local economies.

  3. Waste haulers: Designed with efficiency in mind, the Jessup facility provides waste haulers with a layout that optimizes traffic flow and multiple scales for streamlined operations. Open for deliveries 24/7 and strategically located near I-95, it helps haulers reduce transportation costs and attract sustainability-focused customers.

A next-generation energy partnership

The Maryland Bioenergy Center project represents a groundbreaking partnership that is pivotal in addressing Maryland's greenhouse gas emissions and energy needs. It pioneers a large-scale renewable-energy project by converting food waste from the state's wholesale food distributors and distribution centers into renewable natural gas — a circular approach that has far-reaching benefits for both the state and the environment.

The facility prevents nearly 125,000 tons of landfill waste each year through a sustainable and cost-effective process. The environmental benefits are immense, with the equivalent of nearly 125,000 cars taken off the road for a year. Moreover, the facility is expected to provide enough energy to power approximately 4,800 homes throughout the area — significantly contributing to local energy needs.

A critical aspect of this partnership is Bioenergy Devco's collaboration with Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE), which assists in distributing the renewable natural gas. This partnership supports BGE's commitment to providing its customers cleaner, more sustainable energy options — marking another step forward in Maryland's clean-energy transition.

By harnessing the power of anaerobic digestion, the Maryland Bioenergy Center exemplifies the promise of ecology meeting the economy. With its ability to recycle organics, produce renewable natural gas, and yield nutrient-rich soil amendments, it illustrates how a harmonious relationship between environmental responsibility and economic growth is possible.

The partnership between Bioenergy Devco and BGE underscores the potential for such collaborations to accelerate the transition towards cleaner, more sustainable energy solutions. It serves as a model for other states and regions looking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote responsible waste management. Maryland's initiative not only reduces its environmental footprint but also offers economic opportunities and greater energy self-sufficiency — marking a significant step toward a brighter, cleaner future for Maryland and beyond.