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ReFuel helps partners turn methane into RNG

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July 5, 2016

ReFuel, a new Coalition member based in Sacramento, is on a mission. It wants to partner with any business that has a source of methane, from municipal garbage services to private dairy farms, to turn that methane into sellable transportation fuel.

“We want to help our partners harvest and consolidate organic waste and convert it into RNG,” said Sean Moen, general manager at ReFuel. Transportation fuel is the most economically advantageous use for biogas, he added, “so it’s the best thing to do with the methane being emitted from organic waste.”

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ReFuel’s Sacramento natural gas station includes one of the largest anaerobic biodigesters of its kind in North America. In just 21 days, it can turn a load of food waste into usable transportation-grade RNG. The Sacramento biodigester can accept 100 tons of food waste energy every day and replace more than 600,000 gallons of diesel with RNG every year, according to Moen.

ReFuel was established in 2012 as a subsidiary of local garbage company Atlas Disposal Industries, which has been running trucks on natural gas since 2008. The company partners with CleanWorld to use its anaerobic digester and buys all of the RNG it produces for resale at the refueling station, which is just a few miles off Highway 50 at Watt Avenue.

Now, Moen wants to use that expertise to help other producers build similar facilities for collecting and processing methane and expand the RNG refueling network across the state. His approach is to reward early adopters of RNG by building the fueling infrastructure around them and along the corridors where they operate their fleets. At the same time, he envisions working with RNG producers, such as dairy farms, to put refueling stations as close to their digester facilities as possible.

“We’re working to help bridge that gap between RNG producers and consumers. How do we get the gas to somewhere useful while creating efficiencies for the fleets?” said Moen.

He believes that every gallon of RNG sold takes California one step closer to meeting its goals for reducing pollution. Accordingly, Refuel’s station is “semi-public access,” allowing anyone with an NGV to sign up for a fueling card and refuel there. Drivers can make an appointment to fuel up or get real-time updates on pump availability through multiple channels, including texts and emails.

ReFuel wants to make RNG available to everyone, a goal that brought the company to the Coalition. Moen is excited about providing tours of the digester facility for state legislators. He hopes, too, to begin injecting “California-grown RNG” into the state’s gas pipeline.

“Dairies are a great production source—and it’s always going to be there,” he said. “They do a great job capturing emissions, but if we could process it and put it in the pipeline, I could buy it for transportation fuel. Farmers could fuel their own tractors,” he said, pointing to the similar closed-loop system of RNG-powered refuse trucks and other back-to-base fleets.

“Trucks roll in, drop off food waste, then fill up with gas that was produced by older food waste. That cycle goes on forever! We may never have to put organic waste in landfills again,” said Moen.

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Photo ©Westport Innovations, used by permission

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