Perdue Farms and AgEnergyUSA, a New Hampshire-based company, are teaming up together to propose a $200 million plant on the Eastern Shore to extract energy from chicken manure,  according to The Baltimore Sun.

AgEnergyUSA officials met in Annapolis last week with lawmakers, state officials, environmentalists, and farmers, seeking support. “We think we have a very manageable solution, with our partner Perdue,” said James Potter,  president of AgEnergyUSA.

AgEnergyUSA is proposing to build an anaerobic digestion plant near Salisbury that could handle up to 200,000 tons of chicken litter a year.  The plant would use bacteria to extract methane-rich bio-gas for industrial use.  Nitrogen would be separated and could be sold back to farmers as liquid fertilizer.  Phosphorus would also be separated and could be shipped elsewhere away from the Chesapeake Bay and sold as peat moss, Potter said .

Perdue Farms said it has signed a letter of intent to work with AgEnergyUSA and will furnish chicken litter as well as organic wastes from its processing plants for use in the digestion process.  Perdue retains the option to market the fertilizer byproducts.

“Environmentally, this project will provide an alternative to land application for a significant amount of poultry litter, eliminated the risk of any portion of the nitrogen or phosphorous in this litter from finding its way into the Chesapeake Bay watershed,” said Steve Schwalb, Perdue’s vice president for environmental sustainability.

“The timing is perfect,” said Potter of his proposal.  “This allows the Eastern Shore to put together a plan for meeting manure-limiting regulations without disputing the economy.” The push for the new manure-to-energy project came as the administration of  Maryland Governor Hogan and leading Democrats worked to  settle their differences over regulations to deal with manure used as fertilizer.

Maryland lawmakers have indicated they are supported of the project but want more details.  “There is real urgency there now,” said Thomas M. Middleton, a Charles County Democrat and chairman of the Finance Committee.  Middleton’s support is key to the project and the General Assembly already is mulling legislation to create “thermal energy credits,” which generators of steam or heat could sell to power companies to help meet Maryland’ renewable energy mandates.  AgEnergyUSA, and its partner EDF Renewable Energy, are seeking to enlarge the pool of credits to ensure there are plenty for their project, enough to yield perhaps $30 million.  Middleton is seeking more financial information about the project at this time.