June 10, 2021 • Paul Rodden • Season: 2021 • Episode: 19
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In episode 019, I discuss renewable natural gas and the importance it will play in the Hydrogen community. I list a couple of interesting scenarios and talk about some companies that have utilized the technology to help further the research into this exciting feedstock.
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On today’s show, I’ll dive into one of the best hydrogen feedstocks that no one is talking about renewable natural gas. I’ll dive into it today on the hydrogen podcast.
So the big questions in the energy industry today are, how is hydrogen the primary driving force behind the evolution of energy? Where is capital being deployed for hydrogen projects globally? And where are the best investment opportunities for early adopters recognize the importance of hydrogen? I will address the critical issues and give you the information you need to deploy capital. Those are the questions that will unlock the potential of hydrogen. And this podcast will give you the answers. My name is Paul Rodden, and welcome to The Hydrogen Podcast.
So what is this renewable natural gas anyway? Well, if we look over to the US Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy alternative fuels data center, we find some interesting information about it. Renewable natural gas is a pipeline quality gas that is fully interchangeable with conventional natural gas and thus can be used in natural gas vehicles. RNG is essentially a bio gas, which is the gaseous product of the decomposition of organic matter that has been processed to purity standards. Like conventional natural gas, RNG can be used as a transportation fuel in the form of compressed natural gas or liquefied natural gas. RNG qualifies as an advanced biofuel under the renewable fuel standards. And if we dive further into the source, we talk about bio methane, which is another term for the purified pipeline quality fuel.
This refers to bio gas that has also been cleaned and conditioned to remove or reduce non methane elements. This processed bio gas is instead used as a replacement for traditional gas to generate combined electricity and heating for things like power plants, but not in vehicle applications. So where can we source this bio gas this RNG? Well, that’s where this becomes really interesting. We can get bio gas from landfills. Now landfills are the third largest source of human related methane emissions in the United States. This is according to the EPA, bio gas from landfills. It’s also called landfill gas, as the digestion process takes place in the ground, rather than an anaerobic digester. And as of 2020, there were about 564 operational LFG projects and the United States again, according to the EPA.
However, most of these projects use bio gas to produce electricity, rather than power natural gas vehicles. Another source of bio gas is from livestock operations. Bio gas recovery systems at livestock operations can be used to produce renewable natural gas. Animal manure is collected and delivered to an anaerobic digester to stabilize and optimize methane production. The resulting bio gas can be processed into RNG and then used as any other hydrocarbon would. Note that in 2017, there are about 250 anaerobic digester systems operating commercial livestock farms the United States, most of these facilities use bio gas for electricity generation, a few farms are using bio gas to reduce transportation fuel.
Another great source for this bio gas… wastewater treatment. Bio gas can be produced during the digestion of solids removed in the wastewater treatment process. According to the EPA estimates, this bio gas potential is about one cubic foot of digester gas per 100 gallons of wastewater. Energy generated at US wastewater treatment plants could potentially meet 12% of the national electricity demand. This according to a study released by the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, and the Water Environment Federation. This gets PERS some production of RNG for vehicle use as well. There are more than 16,000 wastewater treatment plants in the United States and about 1300 employ anaerobic digestion to produce bio gas that’s used on the site.
Now those are the top three producers of RNG in the US, but there are still other sources of bio gas. These sources include organic waste from industrial, institutional and commercial entities, such as food manufacturing, and wholesalers, supermarkets, restaurants, hospitals, and educational facilities. Also, biomass can be produced from lignocellulosic material, such as crop residues, woody biomass and dedicated energy crops, via thermal chemical conversions, co digestion and dry fermentation. These technologies are underway in Europe, but they don’t have that much application so far in the US. So why am I bringing up renewable natural gas? Well, keeping in mind that this podcast doesn’t necessarily support one technology or one color over another. It’s important to consider all of the feedstocks used in hydrogen generation.
And those have traditionally been natural gas and water. But if we stopped to think for just a minute, how incredible would it be to use an already forgotten about waste and make clean hydrogen from it. And there are already several companies utilizing this feedstock. Two of them I’ve already mentioned in previous podcasts, including Monolith and Raven SSR. And So Cal gas has invested heavily into advancing RNG research. And there are some interesting production facility numbers to take into consideration.
In an article published by Natural Gas Intel, as of September 6 2019, there were approximately 102 operational and online RNG production facilities in the US and Canada. 91 of those in the US and 11, in Canada, 41 under construction, 40 of those being in the US, and 49, substantial developments 42 of those in the US and seven in Canada. And even though these numbers are almost two years old, I would be willing to bet that they haven’t moved that much considering what we all had to go through in 2020. It’s also important to note where these facilities are located. Now, traditional natural gas facilities are almost completely in the Gulf Coast.
So what that means is that the natural gas has to be piped to the Gulf Coast, processed and then piped out, however, the RNG facilities have a very good distribution all across United States, making for a much easier redistribution of clean hydrogen. And it is also important to note that hydrogen production facilities that are equipped to process RNG can still process regular natural gas. And also keep in mind, this does not mean that with RNG, there’s no worry about co2. RNG still needs to have carbon capture associated with it, for it to be considered clean.
Okay, that’s it for me, everyone. I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief introduction into renewable natural gas, what it is, where it comes from, and how it fits into the spectrum of hydrogen generation. Now, if you have any questions or comments about RNG, come and visit me at my website, www.thehydrogenpodcast.com and leave a question or comment. I would really love to hear from you. And as always, take care. Stay safe. I’ll talk to you later.
Hey, this is Paul. I hope you liked this podcast. If you did want to hear more. I’d appreciate it if you would either subscribe to this channel on YouTube, or connect with your favorite platform through my website at www.thehydrogenpodcast.com. Thanks for listening. I very much appreciate it. Have a great day.