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RNG Use Rises as Policy Makers, Businesses See Benefits

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June 5, 2017

Investment in RNG as an ultralow-carbon transportation fuel is growing—spurred in large part by federal and state programs such as the Renewable Fuel Standard and California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard—and its fans are coming from all sectors: CARB, local air districts, public and private fleets, and the University of California.

“The focus on reducing short-lived climate pollutants is driving increased interest in developing RNG technologies,” said Coalition President Thomas Lawson. “In both the private and public sector, there is a more concentrated effort to reduce methane—and capturing it for use as a clean transportation fuel that displaces diesel is a win-win.”

According to the Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas (RNG Coalition), its members are on track to produce more than 622 million gallon equivalents of RNG in 2018, including more than 541 million for transportation. That’s 16 times the 2014 volume (as measured for the Renewable Fuel Standard), and enough RNG to displace more than 15 percent of diesel consumption in California. Right now, RNG projects are currently operating or under construction in 27 states, including California, Oregon, Washington, and Arizona.

“Between 2011 and 2016, the RNG industry has developed nearly as many projects as it developed in the 30 years prior. RNG production quintupled between 2013 and 2015, and is expected to triple again by the end of 2018,” said Johannes D. Escudero, CEO and executive director of the RNG Coalition.

UC Riverside Opens New Center for RNG

Just last month, the University of California, Riverside, opened its Center for Renewable Natural Gas within the College of Engineering­–Center for Environmental Research and Technology. The Center for RNG is an R&D facility designed to accelerate the commercialization of new RNG production and utilization technologies. It was funded in part by Southern California Gas Company and matching donations from the South Coast Air Quality Management District and the National Center for Sustainable Transportation.

UCR calls it “the first academic establishment in the U.S. dedicated to the study and applied research of renewable gas technologies.” Engineers plan to conduct experimental work that will identify the best RNG production pathways and scenarios. The center is equipped to study all major aspects of RNG technology, and the engineers can partner with utilities, government agencies, and private industry organizations to further their work.

Fleets Begin Transition to RNG

Increasingly, public and private fleets are transitioning from diesel and CNG to RNG for its environmental benefits. Also last month, LA Metro signed a multiyear, multimillion-dollar contract to use Clean Energy’s Redeem RNG fuel. In a one-year pilot program, Clean Energy will deliver Redeem to one of LA Metro’s 11 CNG stations, each of which fuels up 200 natural gas buses. The contract includes a four-year option to provide RNG for LA Metro’s fleet of 2,200 natural gas buses, which would equal 38 million gges annually.

If LA Metro exercises the entire five-year contract to transition its fleet to RNG, the transit authority will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 520,000 metric tons over the use of traditional natural gas and 900,000 metric tons over the use of diesel, according to Clean Energy.

At the same time, Republic Services is expanding its use of RNG. The refuse and recycling company just announced that its fleet will triple its consumption of RNG fuel this year. The company plans to use Redeem RNG to power its CNG fleet in 20 states, which will reduce total fleet emissions by 110,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent over the next three years.

Air Quality Agencies Warm Up to RNG

As the Cummins Westport near-zero-NOx natural gas engine has gained traction, public agencies such as CARB have shown more willingness to support NGVs—particularly when they run on RNG. CARB is engaging with various constituents to show how RNG can improve air quality in the state’s most polluted areas. Most recently, CARB suggested in its environmental justice committee meeting that RNG is an immediately viable alternative to diesel for heavy-duty trucks operating in neighborhoods surrounding traffic corridors.

This increasing interest in the use of RNG to cut emissions comes on the heels of the RNG jobs report, released jointly by the CNGVC and the RNG Coalition, which shows that developing the RNG sector can create 130,000 jobs and $14 billion in economic benefits for California.

“This study affirms what we have been advocating–increased production, deployment, and utilization of RNG realizes significant benefits not only for our environment, but for our economy as well,” said Escudero.

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