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Renewable Natural Gas 101

Renewable Natural Gas 101

Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) : biogas production from farm waste

California is looking to renewable energy sources to meet future energy demands. Yet, while renewables such as solar and wind energy typically spring to mind, renewable natural gas (RNG) is rapidly being recognized as another important source of renewable energy that can help reduce atmospheric emissions responsible for climate warming.

A SolCalGas report has revealed that by replacing less than 20% of conventional gas supplies with renewable natural gas produced as a byproduct from industries such as landfills, wastewater treatment plants and diaries, can reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly.

Traditionally, natural gas supplied by pipelines is sourced from wells that extend deep underground, which are also typically associated with oil production. Renewable natural gas, by comparison, is a natural gas that is produced as organic waste (for example food waste, animal waste, grass clippings, garden refuse, other plant-based and carbon-based matter such as wood, paper and cardboard) breaks down naturally. Since these materials are abundantly available, they can produce a substantial amount of biogas as they decompose.

A recent study conducted by University California Davis estimated that more than 20% of natural gas currently used by California homes can be supplied by renewable natural gas produced by organic waste currently existing within the state alone. That’s enough fuel to replace roughly 20% of fuel currently used to power heavy-duty vehicles within the state. Switching to RNG can help to reduce the dependency on fossil-based fuels while also boosting local fuel supplies with a local source of renewable energy. Renewable natural gas production is not limited to the state of California. It is estimated that by 2030, the US could potentially be able to produce as much as 10 trillion cubic feet of renewable natural gas each year.

Sustainable Energy Production 24/7

Renewable natural gas offers the added benefit in that it is available 24/7, unlike wind and solar energy, which require the wind to be blowing or the sun to be shining respectively in order to produce energy.

Renewable Natural Gas Sources

Natural gas primarily consists of methane, together with small amounts of carbon dioxide and trace amounts of other substances. Because methane is produced as organic matter decomposes, it is possible to produce natural gas without having to extract it from deep underground. Since biogas can be produced from a wide range of biomass sources, many existing waste sources (such as food waste, crop residuals and animal waste) can be tapped into to generate RNG. While landfills and wastewater treatment plants  "where organic waste naturally breaks down using biological processes" are common sources of biogas production, farms and diaries also produce enormous volumes of organic waste that could be recycled into biogas.

How is RNG Produced?

Once biogas is produced, it undergoes a cleaning and conditioning process to separate the flammable methane from the other components. The methane component is then processed further to render it suitable as a replacement for pipeline-quality gas, ensuring it can be used safely and reliably. The end product is an extremely versatile natural gas that can be delivered to consumers via the extensive gas pipeline network.

Environment Benefits

Switching to RNG offers several major environmental benefits:

  1. It reduces the need for fossil fuels that release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as they are burned, which is important if we wish to reduce greenhouse gases responsible for climate warming.
  2. RNG is produced from organic matter that at some point absorbed atmospheric CO2 during photosynthesis (or in the case of animals from consuming photosynthetic plant material).
  3. When produced from organic matter such as food waste or animal waste that release methane during the decomposition process, this methane is captured rather than being released into the atmosphere where it is effectively acts a potent greenhouse gas.

Diamond Scientific Supports Biogas Development

Converting organic waste into RNG can provide a local source of renewable energy to help meet future energy demands, while also helping to improve both waste management and air quality, and providing work opportunities. Diamond Scientific is committed to improving the environment and helping businesses, states and the country at large meet their GHG reduction targets. We can help you convert your organic waste matter into valuable biogas.

Featured Image By Volker Thies (Asdrubal) - Own work, [CC BY-SA 3.0]
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