BioCycle May/June 2019
Vancouver, British Columbia: Translink Introduces RNG To Its Bus Fleet
TransLink, the agency that supplies public transit to Vancouver, British Columbia (B.C.) and its surrounding municipalities, has become the first in Canada to contract for renewable natural gas (RNG) to fuel part of its bus fleet. Under a contract announced on April 24, TransLink will buy up to 500,000 gigajoules of RNG within five years from the province’s main gas supplier, FortisBC. That news came a day after the B.C. provincial government confirmed RNG is to be included in its Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). This move will allow RNG used for transport to generate compliance credits that fleet operators can sell, making the cost of RNG competitive with traditional compressed natural gas (CNG) while reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 80 percent compared with CNG. The addition of RNG to the LCFS was crucial to completing the agreement with TransLink, says Arvind Ramakrishnan, a senior manager of business growth with FortisBC.
B.C. is the only Canadian jurisdiction with an LCFS. Introduced in 2007, it requires oil and gas producers to reduce the carbon intensity of their fuels by, for example, including a minimum amount of renewable fuel in the gasoline and diesel they sell in the province or, if they fail to meet the targets, to buy GHG emissions credits earned by those who consume lower-carbon fuels, such as CNG, ethanol and hydrogen. Credits are bought and sold on a province-wide market, with a current price of about $180 (CDN)/metric ton of carbon dioxide reduced. Since most gasoline and diesel fuel does not meet carbon intensity requirement, demand for renewable fuel is rising and the market for credits is strong, explains Ramakrishnan.
At present, RNG is four times as expensive as CNG. But under the LCFS, companies and public sector agencies, like TransLink, that use it instead of CNG will get four times as many credits, per unit of fuel, to sell — enough to make up the price difference. FortisBC has five sources of RNG: two at landfill sites, two digesters using agricultural residues, and the purpose-built organics processing facility in the Vancouver suburb of Surrey. Combined, they account for less than one percent of the provincial supply of natural gas. RNG from these sources is injected into FortisBC’s pipeline grid. TransLink will, like other customers, take gas from the grid, as usual, and be deemed to have purchased some of the RNG content. Homeowners have for several years had the option of buying RNG in this way: to date, about 10,500 have chosen to do so.
The volume of RNG being committed to TransLink is a significant portion of FortisBC’s contracted supply, but that is expected to change as additional supply is developed by 2024. At that point, FortisBC expects to be supplying enough RNG to meet all the fuel needs of the 252 TransLink buses that now run on CNG — about one-fifth of its total fleet.
Washington, DC: Digester Data In 2017 Ag Census
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Services (NASS) released its 2017 Ag Census in April that includes data on methane digesters installed at agricultural operations. NASS reports a 28 percent increase — from 537 to 686 methane digesters — between 2012 and 2017. Overall, a total of 133,176 farms and ranches use renewable energy producing systems, more than double the 57,299 in 2012. The data indicate that 136 digesters are located on beef cattle ranches and feedlots, and 167 are on dairies. By comparison, U.S. EPA’s AgSTAR database, updated in May/June 2019, reports a total of 248 operating digester projects: 198 on dairies, 43 on hog farms, 8 on poultry operations and 8 at beef cattle ranches. AgSTAR notes the total exceeds 248 because some projects accept manure from more than one animal type. AgSTAR works primarily with USDA’s Rural Development, which manages the digester grant programs, to obtain its data — a different branch of USDA than NASS.
Spokane, Washington: WSU Energy Program To Offer AD Workshops
The Washington State University’s (WSU) Energy Program is receiving $27,500 from U.S. EPA to conduct four to five workshops in Washington State that promote anaerobic digestion projects at wastewater treatment and solid waste facilities, food processing companies, and agricultural operations. The workshops will include detailed market knowledge and innovative approaches to sharing costs in developing anaerobic digestion infrastructure. “WSU is hoping to host one workshop in each of the four gas utility service territories later this year or early next year,” notes Jim Jensen with WSU Energy Program.
St. Louis, Missouri: Hog Farm RNG And Butterflies
Smithfield Foods, Inc. and Roeslein Alternative Energy (RAE) announced formation of Monarch Bioenergy, a joint venture to produce renewable natural gas (RNG) across Smithfield’s hog farms in Missouri. This partnership converts manure collected from Smithfield farms into RNG, while simultaneously delivering ecological services and developing wildlife habitat for monarch butterflies. Once complete, all Smithfield company-owned finishing farms in Missouri will have the infrastructure to produce approximately 1.3 million dekatherms of RNG annually. Monarch Bioenergy builds upon the successful first phase of Smithfield and RAE’s “manure-to-energy” project across nine Smithfield farms in northern Missouri. The biogas produced is transported through a gas gathering network and purified in a centrally located gas cleaning system designed and installed by RAE. Monarch Bioenergy will also harvest native prairie plants and cover crops planted to restore highly erodible lands. The biomass will be digested to produce additional RNG in Missouri.
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.
Vashon Island, Washington: Community Digester
A ribbon cutting was held in April at the Vashon Bioenergy Farm, a community-scale bioenergy system located at the Island Spring Organics tofu factory on Vashon Island. The project, which uses Impact Bioenergy’s NAUTILUS anaerobic digester with capacity to process up to 4 tons/day, was funded under the Clean Energy Fund II for RD&D, Sustainable Energy Trust, King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks. The tofu factory’s waste stream consists mostly of okara and whey, two byproducts of the ingredients used to produce tofu. The biogas is being upgraded to renewable natural gas. And according to an article in the Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber, the Vashon-Maury Island Land Trust, which grows produce at nearby Matsuda Farm, received a $10,000 grant from the Sustainable Path Foundation to use the liquid digestate on cover crops as part of a trial program.