Renewable Natural Gas
What is Renewable Natural Gas?
Renewable natural gas or biomethane is produced by upgrading biogas from waste biomass sources to pipeline quality. The biogas may come from an anaerobic digester, a wastewater treatment plant or a landfill. Once upgraded, renewable natural gas can be used interchangeably with natural gas.
Natural gas vehicles are capable of operating on 100% renewable natural gas or in blends with no vehicle modifications required. Using renewable natural gas as a vehicle fuel enhances the carbon reduction benefits of natural gas vehicles while using energy produced from waste sources. Canada’s natural gas distribution industry is currently assessing the technical issues associated with delivering renewable natural gas via the local gas distribution grid.
Enhanced Emissions Benefits
Renewable natural gas has the potential to be a carbon-neutral fuel and the technologies to upgrade biogas to pipeline quality are fully commercial. The lifecycle carbon benefit of renewable natural gas depends on the source of the biogas (e.g. municipal green bin waste, manure, landfill, etc.) as well as on the energy inputs required to collect the gas and upgrade it. Natural Resources Canada’s GHGenius model estimates an 85-90% carbon reduction from the use of 100% renewable natural gas in a heavy vehicle. For example, a single transit bus operating on renewable natural gas and travelling 72,000 kilometers/year would have a carbon footprint that is 91 tonnes less than a 2010-compliant diesel transit bus.
In the United States, Orange Country Transit operates its transit bus fleet on renewable natural gas produced from landfill gas. Waste Management has the world’s largest landfill-gas-to-transportation fuel project at the Altamont landfill in California with renewable natural gas powering an estimated 300 refuse collect trucks. The Hilarides dairy in Lindsay, California delivers its milk in heavy trucks powered by renewable natural gas produced from digester gas.
In Canada, there is growing interest in the potential for renewable natural gas as a way to effectively use waste resources while reducing carbon emissions from operations. Québec municipality Rivière-du-Loup is moving forward with a $14.7 million municipal biogas-to-transportation fuel project. The project received $8.7 million in funding with funding from both the provincial and federal governments. The municipality plans to use the upgraded gas for its fleet vehicles.
The City of Toronto also plans to upgrade biogas from anaerobic digesters in order to produce renewable natural gas from organics collected through the City’s green bin program. At its May meeting, Toronto City Council adopted staff’s recommendations to award a contract to Enbridge Gas Distribution to own and operate a biogas upgrading facility. The renewable natural gas that is produced will be used to heat buildings as well as in the municipality’s 300-vehicle refuse truck fleet.
Leading Canadian Technologies
Canada’s Xebec Adsorption is a global player in the development and supply of technologies to transform raw gases into marketable sources of clean energy. Xebec has particular expertise in the use of adsorption technologies that purify gases by separating out different constituents. Biogas upgrading equipment manufactured by Xebec at its Blainville, QC facility is currently in use at twelve sites around the world with additional projects announced over the past six months in Korea, China, and the United States .
The company recently announced that it has signed an agreement to build the first biogas upgrading plant in Western Canada for Terasen Gas. This innovative project upgrade landfill gas to renewable natural gas for delivery to customers via Terasen Gas’ local natural gas distribution system. The project does not include a transportation component, but it is an important first step in Canada that could establish the framework for future transportation-related projects.
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