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SoCalGas Aims to Simplify Adding RNG to Its Pipeline

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September 12, 2017

Southern California Gas Company has launched three initiatives to make it easier for RNG production facilities to connect to its natural gas pipeline system, including an informational website, a downloadable tool kit, and a revised utility regulation that enables developers to begin construction on their RNG projects sooner.

“We’ve been very supportive of RNG for the past decade, meeting with operators and developers to provide them with information about biogas and how to clean it to meet pipeline quality standards,” said Jim Lucas, market development manager at SoCalGas.

“As RNG becomes an increasingly critical source of renewable energy for meeting California’s air quality goals, we’ve stepped up our efforts to create tools and improve processes to help developers get their RNG into the pipeline.”

RNG use expected to surge in California
Right now, 60 percent of natural gas transportation fuel used in California is renewable, according to SoCalGas, and the utility expects that portion to reach 90 percent by 2018. However, very little RNG is produced in the state—and SoCalGas hopes its new initiatives will help to change that. According to the recent Economic Impacts of Deploying Low-NOx Trucks Fueled by Renewable Natural Gas study, increasing in-state production of RNG and switching heavy-duty trucks to the clean fuel could create as many as 130,000 new jobs and add $14 billion to California’s economy by 2030.

The first of SoCalGas’s initiatives to help accelerate production of RNG in California is the website providing information on biogas-derived RNG, including details about incentive programs that fuel suppliers can tap to help fund their utility interconnection projects. The site also explains how RNG is sold on the open market, how suppliers can set up an interconnection receipt point to sell natural gas, and how RNG is derived from organic waste materials.

Tool kit guides producers through the interconnection process
The RNG tool kit from SoCalGas is a comprehensive overview of RNG as a replacement for traditional natural gas in the utility pipeline. It was developed to educate biogas producers and developers that want to inject RNG into the SoCalGas pipeline network.

“We hear a lot of misunderstandings about pipeline gas and how we monitor and measure it. This tool kit will help to ensure that the information flowing to developers is accurate,” said Lucas.

The tool kit explains the gas quality standards that RNG producers must meet for SoCalGas to accept RNG into its pipeline network. It also describes the interconnection process, which starts with removing non-methane elements from biogas so that it can be safely injected into the pipeline. Finally, it offers tips for producers on connecting their RNG projects.

Updated regulation enables quicker starts
In its third initiative, SoCalGas identifies ways to ease the path to interconnection for RNG developers. The California Public Utilities Commission recently approved a change in the regulations that guide engineering and construction of pipeline projects. Now, SoCalGas and RNG providers are allowed to procure construction materials in advance, enabling them to begin construction as soon as the interconnection studies are finished. The lead time on some materials required for interconnection projects is six to eight months; previously, RNG developers couldn’t order these materials until after approval of their projects, so they often had to wait several months to begin construction.

“Connecting to gas pipelines can be complex and confusing for developers whose core business isn’t pipelines,” said Lucas. “We want to make it easier to understand the requirements and simplify the process of getting their RNG into the pipeline.”

Photo ©Westport Innovations, used by permission

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