A $6.1 million investment by Minneapolis-based Cargill to upgrade an aging boiler system at its Plainview, Texas, beef-processing facility has increased efficiency, reduced energy consumption and added steam capacity.

The Plainview boiler system’s efficiency has reached 92 percent, a 19 percent improvement over the aging system it replaced. The investment was the latest of more than $50 million that Cargill has invested in processing plant efficiency projects at Plainview over the past five years.

“This new system has all of the new technological bells and whistles, including components that continuously regulate the fuel and oxygen mixture to optimize heating efficiency, a condensing economizer that helps minimize heat loss that otherwise reduces efficiency, as well as a new biogas blending system,” says Scott Hartter, vice president of environment, health and safety for Cargill’s meat businesses.”

The return on investment comes from reduced utility costs, better energy use and more efficient production.

The Plainview facility also lowers its energy use by generating 30 percent of its fuel needs through a biogas recovery system that collects methane gas from wastewater treatment ponds. The methane is generated using anaerobic digesters to break down organic material in the plant’s wastewater. The gas then is used as a fuel source, which prevents it from being released into the atmosphere. Capturing the methane from biogas significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions. The biogas recovery system reduces demand for natural gas equal to the amount consumed annually by more than 2,500 residential users, according to Cargill.