BioCycle October 2018
Montpelier, Vermont: Phosphorus Innovation Challenge Awards
The six projects selected to advance to stage two of the Vermont Phosphorus Innovation Challenge (VPIC) were announced in early October by Vermont Gov. Phil Scott. The initial funding of $250,000 allocated through stage two has been split among the 6 projects to enable effective prototyping and business case development, which varies for each proposal. Upon stage two completion, stage three will involve full-scale implementation of one or more of the stage two projects. Stage three selections will focus primarily on estimated cost per pound of phosphorus mitigated, and then consider ways to repurpose phosphorus as a part of a value-added product, creating economic development opportunities.
The VPIC was launched in April 2018, with a call for proposals. A total of 27 groups submitted proposals, 12 were interviewed and the six finalists to enter stage 2 were selected. “While we continue with traditional approaches to restoring and protecting our waterways, this challenge seeks a proactive solution to our phosphorus imbalance and water quality challenges,” said Gov. Scott. “It brings together the public and private sector, combines science, technology and innovation, and creates a new model around phosphorus by promoting economic growth, environmental sustainability, and societal benefits.”
Winning projects and funding level:
DVO, Inc. and University of Vermont (UVM), $45,000: 13 anaerobic digesters in Vermont will be utilized with enhancements for solids control using Dissolved Air Floatation (DAF) processes and will develop a “p-cake” product that is high in phosphorus (P) for potential nationwide resale.
Agrilab Technologies Inc., $50,000: Combination of existing P recovery technologies, composting and drying equipment, and associated best management practices, to demonstrate the technical feasibility of stabilizing and adding value to recovered “p-cake” and similar materials.
Digested Organics, $45,000: Ultrafiltration system on Vermont dairy farm to remove most of the present P, suspended solids and pathogens in liquid manure, producing a transparent liquid for field application and a readily transportable concentrated fertilizer.
Village of Essex Junction, Chittenden County Solid Waste District and UVM, $45,000: Proprietary pipe descaling technology (PDT) to effectively remove P in smaller-scale wastewater applications. Technology uses an induced electric field of variable amplitude and frequency to promote precipitation of crystalline minerals (struvite) without dangerous and damaging adhesion to pipes, pumps or in tanks. The PDT coupled with electric-filtration cell will be employed to enhance P capture.
Rock Dust Local, LLC, $25,000: Manufacture, apply, and study mineral and mineralized biocarbon soil amendments (biochar) deployed in the field to manage solution reactive P and nitrogen loss through broadcast field applications, animal bedding admixtures and in-situ filtration media.
Green State Biocharb, $30,000: Process local renewable organic waste materials in a prototype pyrolysis machine that produces biochar, which acts as a filter that efficiently captures majority of P.
More information on the VPIC, including details and a list of submitted proposals
Boston, Massachusetts: Permitted Food Waste Digestion Capacity
The North East Biosolids and Residuals Association (NEBRA) hosts a quarterly anaerobic digester roundtable webinar. One of the presenters on the October webinar, John Fischer, Branch Chief, Commercial Waste Reduction & Waste Planning at the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), provided an update on permitted anaerobic digestion capacity in Massachusetts to process food waste. The state has a ban on disposal of food waste from commercial and institutional establishments generating >1 ton/week of food waste.
Fischer noted that there is currently 407,000 tons/year of permitted capacity at operating anaerobic digesters in Massachusetts. That includes 5 farm-based digesters and one at a landfill, as well as a dedicated digester at a grocery distribution center. “These digesters are not operating at their permitted capacities, but are permitted to take that amount,” he said, adding that the dedicated digester, which has depackaging in place, has permit approval to take in off-site liquid food waste. Three farms are permitted to receive a total of 118,000 tons/year of food waste, but those digesters are not operating yet. The Greater Lawrence Sanitary District’s codigestion operation is permitted to process up to 140,000 tons/year of food waste Two farm-AD facilities are in permitting, for a total of 91,000 tons/year of capacity.
“What MassDEP is focusing on now is making sure we are doing what we need to do to drive food waste to facilities,” explained Fischer. “That includes outreach to businesses that we believe are generating enough food waste to be subject to the ban, but we don’t know if they are complying.”
Salem, Oregon: Biogas And Renewable Natural Gas Inventory
In 2017, the Oregon Legislature passed Senate Bill 334, which directed the Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE) to conduct an inventory of all resources within the state that can be used to produce biogas and renewable natural gas (RNG), also known as biomethane. ODOE also was directed to evaluate the potential for RNG to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) and improve air quality. Finally, SB 334 directed ODOE to form an advisory committee to identify barriers to the production and use of RNG, and to propose potential solutions and policies to address those barriers.
The resulting report to the legislature, submitted in September 2018 — Biogas and Renewable Natural Gas Inventory SB 334 (2017) — indicates that there is potential for a substantial amount of RNG to be produced in Oregon from a variety of biogas production pathways. The gross potential for RNG production when using anaerobic digestion technology is around 10 billion cubic feet of methane per year, or about 4.5 percent of Oregon’s total yearly natural gas use. Once technical obstacles are overcome, thermal gasification technology could produce up to another 40 billion cubic feet/year, or about 17.5 percent of annual natural gas use. If this RNG is traded as a transportation fuel in the Oregon and California clean fuel markets, it has a high value because of its associated environmental attribute credits and the federal Renewable Fuels Standards credits.
Obstacles to reaching these markets include the high cost of infrastructure necessary to clean and inject the resulting RNG into a common carrier pipeline so it can be incorporated into the clean transportation fuels markets, a lack of fueling infrastructure to encourage fleet conversions to RNG, the lack of a pathway that allows gas utilities to purchase RNG, and the difficulty in quantifying and realizing the benefits of RNG for stationary fuels customers.
Los Angeles, California: RNG Role In Clean Air Goals
In addition to California’s new law requiring all renewable and zero-carbon resources for electric generation by 2045, another law, Senate Bill (SB) 1440, requires the state’s Public Utilities Commission and Air Resources Board to consider adopting renewable natural gas (RNG) procurement targets for gas companies in the state. A recent Power of Waste conference, hosted jointly by Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas), Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), and the national nonprofit organization Energy Vision, provided a look into successful biomethane development and its growth potential in California.
According to a recent study by Navigant Consulting, Inc., replacing approximately 16 percent of the traditional natural gas supply with RNG can achieve greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions equivalent to converting 100 percent of buildings to electric-only energy by 2030. By using a mix of both in- and out-of-state resources, an RNG strategy is about three times more cost-effective in reducing GHGs than an electrification pathway. Joanna Underwood, founder and board member of Energy Vision, told Market Business Insider, “The California Air Resources Board and Argonne National Labs have both verified RNG can be net-carbon negative over its lifecycle, with more GHGs being captured to make the fuel than are emitted by burning it. So, making and using RNG doesn’t just slow the accumulation of atmospheric GHG; it can actually help roll it back. As a transportation fuel, it can cut health-damaging particulate, NOx and SOx [nitrogen and sulfur oxides] and emissions to close to zero. California is the major market for RNG in the U.S., but it has yet to make much of it in the state. RNG represents a tremendous opportunity for California to turn its waste into energy, meet its climate goals and improve its air quality.”
SoCalGas recently announced it will soon begin using RNG for the first time at the 25 utility-owned natural gas vehicle fueling stations across its service territory. It also receives RNG injected into its pipeline by CR&R’s anaerobic digestion facility in Perris, California.