Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas), one of the largest gas distribution utilities in the U.S., says that for the first time, it is dispensing California-produced renewable natural gas (RNG) at many of the natural gas fueling stations it operates across the state.
The utility recently began purchasing RNG from Pixley-based Calgren Dairy Fuels, which captures the manure from dairy farms and turns it into RNG. SoCalGas has dispensed 100% RNG from out-of-state sources at its fueling stations for a year. Calgren’s facility is part of a rapidly growing biomethane industry in California and is currently the largest dairy biogas operation in the U.S.
“RNG is an important tool in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which cause climate change, and we’re looking forward to major growth in production of this renewable fuel in California,” says Jawaad Malik, vice president of gas acquisition at SoCalGas. “With the right incentives in place, RNG has a significant opportunity to help the state move toward carbon-neutrality in not only the transportation sector but in many areas where traditional natural gas is now used.”
RNG is produced when methane, a greenhouse gas that occurs naturally when organic waste breaks down, is captured and upgraded to pipeline standards rather than being released into the air. Organic waste sources such as dairy farms, landfills, sewage, food waste and dead forest trees create about 80% of all methane emissions in California. Capturing this methane and converting it to RNG rapidly reduces greenhouse gas emissions. In California, a 2016 law requires a 40% reduction of methane emissions from waste sources, with provisions to deliver that energy to customers.
Production of the fuel has accelerated quickly in California, supported by state incentive programs seeking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from trucking and dairy farms. In just the next three and a half years, at least 160 RNG production facilities will be online in California to serve the transportation fuel sector, producing more than 15.8 million therms of carbon-negative RNG every year and replacing about 119 million gallons of diesel fuel. RNG trucks currently displace about 150 million gallons of diesel fuel in California.
In addition, California recently enacted legislation that expands the definition of RNG to include organic waste such as dead trees, agricultural waste and vegetation removed for wildfire mitigation which is typically converted to RNG by non-combustion thermal conversion. The new legislation has a twin benefit of helping to manage wildfires with reduced debris and also lowering greenhouse gas emissions.
To help expand the growth and use of RNG, SoCalGas has proposed a service that would give its customers the option to purchase a portion of their natural gas from renewable sources, just as millions of people can opt to purchase renewable electricity today. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has issued a draft ruling authorizing such a service, which is expected to be voted on by the end of the year.