BioCycle March/April 2019
Outlook, Washington: Dairy Digester RNG Project
Brightmark Energy, in partnership with Seattle-based Promus Energy, recently launched the Augean RNG project to convert dairy waste from up to 7,000 cows into renewable natural gas (RNG), concentrated biofertilizer, and other value-added products. The Augean project will receive raw biogas from the George DeRuyter & Sons Dairy’s newly refurbished anaerobic digester in central Washington’s Yakima Valley. The digester also receives manure from DeRuyter’s D&A Dairy that is 2 miles away. Biogas will be cleaned to pipeline-quality RNG, and transported through a new pipeline and interconnect, which is cost-shared through a grant from Yakima County. The RNG will be injected into the nearby Williams NW regional gas transmission line for sale as vehicle fuel in western states.
The project at the DeRuyter dairies is designed to produce the equivalent of approximately 1.2 million gallons of diesel fuel per year, notes Dan Evans of Promus Energy. Dairy-derived RNG is the lowest carbon intensity transportation fuel available and qualifies for valuable state Low Carbon Fuels (LCFS) and federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) credits. In addition to RNG, the Augean project will produce digested dairy fiber for cow bedding and sale as a renewable peat moss substitute, and a biofertilizer that concentrates nutrients into an easily stored and transported form.
Washington, D.C.: No New Asset Financing For Biogas Projects
The last two years have shown no new asset financing for biogas projects in the U.S., according to the 2019 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook from the Business Council for Sustainable Energy and Bloomberg NEF. Low investment in the past five years for biomass and biogas technologies suggests that new builds will continue to be subdued. Plants take two to four years to build and commission, so investment functions as a leading indicator for builds.
In 2018, the U.S. saw the addition of 51 megawatts (MW) of biomass projects and 32 MW of biogas projects. Bioenergy build has tapered since 2013, when the federal Production and Investment Tax Credits, as well as the 1603 Treasury program, that incentivized nearly 800 MW of new installations expired. According to the report, new construction of farm-based anaerobic digesters remained steady, with five projects coming online in 2018 compared to four in 2017. The total count of operational farm AD projects (accounting for retirements) has held fairly flat since 2014 at about 250 facilities.
Manchester, Vermont: Vermont Standard Offer RFP
In January 2019, the Vermont Public Utility Commission approved release of the Standard Offer Program 2019 Request for Proposals (RFP) for approximately 10 megawatts (MW) of new renewable energy. The RFP is issued through the Vermont Standard Offer Program (SOP) Facilitator, VEPP Inc., based in Manchester. Under the SOP, eligible projects can be no larger than 2.2 MW in size and include the following technologies: solar, small and medium-sized wind, landfill methane, farm methane, food waste anaerobic digestion, biomass, and hydroelectric. In the design of this year’s RFP, the Commission retained the technology allocations, i.e., special carve-outs for wind, food waste, biomass, and hydroelectric.
The SOP was established in 2009 and is intended to promote rapid deployment of small renewable generation through long-term, fixed-price contracts. The total program capacity of 127.5 MW is distributed annually, with approximately 10 MW available in 2019. VEPP program costs are allocated among Vermont distribution utilities based on their share of electric sales. The annual RFP specifies total program capacity, capacity allocated to each technology, and price caps for each technology, with lowest priced bids accepted first. The price cap for Food Waste Anaerobic Digestion is $0.208/kWh (fixed for 20 years); the cap for landfill gas is $0.090 per kWh (levelized over 15 years). The deadline for submission of proposals is May 1, 2019, 4:30 PM EST.
College Park, Maryland: Survey On AD Adoption In The U.S.
The University of Maryland’s (UMD) Dept. of Environmental Science & Technology is conducting a survey focused on various obstacles that adoption of anaerobic digestion (AD) faces in the U.S. “It’s a quick 15 minute survey,” explains Dr. Stephanie Lansing, UMD Associate Professor, Waste to Energy, and Principal Investigator of this research study. “The information from this survey will be used to determine and understand systematic, financial and legislative barriers in AD implementation. We encourage anyone directly or indirectly related to AD to complete this survey, as well as all interested in this field. We appreciate your time and consideration for completing this survey, and thank you for participating.”
Anson County, North Carolina: Utility Commission Approves Poultry Litter Digester For RNG Pilot
In May 2018, the Anson Economic Development Partnership (EDP) announced that Catawba Biogas planned to build a $15 million poultry waste-to-biogas digester facility near Lilesville in Anson County. Catawba Biogas is owned by Ductor North America, Inc. Anson County is home to more than 940 poultry houses and produces 5.5 million birds annually. Catawba Biogas will contract with poultry growers to manage their waste. In December 2018, Catawba Biogas, LLC filed an application to the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC), requesting to participate in the utility’s “Alternative Gas” pilot program created in June 2018 to evaluate the impacts of injection of renewable natural gas (RNG) from anaerobic digesters into the natural gas pipeline. In its application, Catawba Biogas stated that it plans to sell a portion of the RNG and its environmental attributes to Duke Energy Carolinas, LLC (DEC).
Catawba Biogas noted in the application that the RNG it produces will flow into Piedmont’s pipeline adjacent to an existing natural gas electric generation facility owned by the North Carolina Electric Membership Corporation, and operated and dispatched by DEC. In February 2019, the NCUC approved Catawba Biogas’ application. It concluded that the facility will assist Piedmont and the Commission in gathering information and data that will be helpful in assessing the impacts of “Alternative Gas” on Piedmont’s service to its customers, noting that “the Commission finds persuasive the fact that Catawba’s facility will use 100% poultry litter as its feedstock, a feedstock that is different from that used or to be used by C2e, Optima KV, and Optima TH” — approved facilities in the Commission’s 3-year RNG pilot program that are or will anaerobically digest hog manure and inject RNG into the pipeline. See “Moving The Biogas Needle In North Carolina” for details about the NCUC pilot program.
Los Angeles, California: RNG From Dairy Digester Cluster Flowing Into Pipelines
Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) and biogas producer Calgren Dairy Fuels (Calgren) announced in mid-February that renewable natural gas (RNG) produced at Calgren’s dairy digester facility in Pixley, California is being injected into SoCalGas pipelines. The project marks the first time that carbon-negative RNG produced from cow manure has been injected directly into SoCalGas’ natural gas system. In August 2018, SoCalGas began receiving RNG into its system from CR&R, Inc.’s municipal organics anaerobic digestion facility in Perris, California, which is used by CR&R to fuel about 400 of its waste hauling trucks.
Calgren’s facility, known as a dairy digester pipeline cluster, will collect biogas from anaerobic digesters at 12 Tulare County dairies then clean it to produce pipeline-quality RNG. Calgren is scheduled to add 9 additional dairies to the pipeline cluster later in 2019. SoCalGas says it will be capable of adding up to 2.26 billion cubic feet of RNG annually to its pipeline system from the facility, enough to fuel more than 1,200 Class 8 heavy duty trucks.
The Calgren project and others like it are partly funded under California’s Dairy Digester Research and Development Program, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from manure generated at dairy farms in the state.
Olympia, Washington: Promoting RNG In Washington State
In March 2018, the Washington Legislature passed HB 2580, supporting production of renewable natural gas (RNG) and requesting that the Washington State University Energy Program and the Washington Department of Commerce prepare a study focused on promoting RNG in Washington State. In their request, legislators described a specific public policy objective —“to stimulate investment in biogas capture and conditioning, compression, nutrient recovery, and use of renewable natural gas for heating, electricity generation, and transportation fuel.” The study includes RNG produced at landfills, wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs), livestock farms and other locations.
The report, “Promoting Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) In Washington State,” was released to the State Legislature in December 2018. It describes potential uses of RNG by state agencies and offers recommendations for limiting the carbon intensity of RNG. It also explores issues surrounding policy options, specifically a renewable portfolio standard supporting RNG. Three large biogas projects already produce enough RNG to offset 1.3 percent of current fossil natural gas consumption in Washington, notes the report. At present, this RNG is being sold into the California market due to the significant value available under that state’s low-carbon fuel standard. Detailed analysis has identified hundreds of additional locations where RNG could be produced in Washington State in proximity to the natural gas pipeline grid. However, significant investments are needed to condition the biogas to pipeline quality standards as well as construct new pipelines and inject the RNG into the pipeline grid.
Notes the Executive Summary, “this study finds that even though the direct cost to produce, clean and deliver RNG into a natural gas pipeline often falls in the range of $10 to $20 per MMBtu, the total project value required to attract private investment can be $20 to $30 per MMBtu. Significant economies of scale exist throughout the RNG supply chain, making it valuable to arrange RNG projects in chains or clusters that can share gas conditioning and pipeline infrastructure. Various policies that subsidize RNG development or provide credits for the environmental and economic benefits of RNG can further mitigate high development costs. Public sector preferential purchasing policies and programs can also increase demand for RNG.”
The analysis performed demonstrates that adequate opportunities exist for RNG production equivalent to 3 to 5 percent of current natural gas consumption in Washington. “The timeline for achieving a 3 to 5 percent RNG production goal can be accelerated with support from natural gas utilities through a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS),” states the report. “Designing an RPS that takes carbon emissions into consideration would accelerate projects that produce RNG from dairy manure and food waste. Lifecycle greenhouse gas emission reductions can be further enhanced by adopting a complementary clean fuel standard (CFS) that prioritizes natural gas for transportation over other uses.”
Ulster, Northern Ireland: No Deal “Brexit” Threatens Digestion Feedstocks
Every year, approximately 82,700 tons of animal waste, mostly poultry litter and hog manure, are sent from Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom to the Republic of Ireland for processing into energy at anaerobic digestion facilities. The separation of the U.K. from the European Union (known as “Brexit”) is scheduled to occur at the end of March 2019, and negotiations about how the separation will occur are stalled in the U.K. Parliament —hence the term “no deal Brexit.” If no deal is reached, the now open border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland will be closed, and goods and persons wishing to cross the border will be subject to customs inspections.
It is believed that resurrection of a formal customs border on the island of Ireland will make it difficult, if not impossible, for animal agriculture waste sources in Northern Ireland to export those wastes to the Republic of Ireland. The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) told The Irish Times that solutions could involve spreading more on the land, incineration and the use of other waste-to-energy facilities. Historically, animal wastes were burned in a Scottish incinerator.