Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and Stanford School of Engineering’s Spormann Laboratory have been awarded funding to study new technology with potential to significantly reduce the cost of producing renewable natural gas (RNG) and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The two entities will receive $800,000 from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and SoCalGas will provide co-funding of $400,000 in addition to $125,000 of seed funding it provided in 2017.
The initiative will research the use of microbes to convert carbon dioxide directly to methane using renewable electricity, a process known as microbial electromethanogenesis (ME). If developed as envisioned, ME could become a highly efficient, large-scale storage technology for excess wind and solar energy. This would, in turn, make both renewable electricity and renewable natural gas less expensive and more plentiful.
Already, 60 percent of the fuel used in natural gas vehicles in California is renewable, and SoCalGas expects that to increase to 90 percent by 2019.
The research will continue past research by Spormann Laboratory on microbes that create methane, as well as advances in 3D-printed carbon aerogel electrode materials made by LLNL, which will be assessed for their viability in reactors. Biogas will be supplied by Delta Diablo, a Livermore, Calif., wastewater treatment plant. Raw biogas is mostly methane, but also contains about 30 to 40 percent carbon dioxide, which is typically vented to the atmosphere in a biogas production facility.
“This technology has the potential to cut the cost of processing biogas, while nearly doubling the amount of this easily-stored renewable energy and reducing carbon dioxide emissions,” said Yuri Freedman, SoCalGas senior director of business development. “It could make a big difference for smallscale biogas producers like dairy farms and feedlots, which collectively make up the majority of California’s renewable natural gas potential.”
The research will be conducted at both LLNL and Stanford School of Engineering beginning in August, and is expected to be complete by mid-2020.
SoCalGas® is the largest natural gas distribution utility in the United States.
Source: Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) – an associate member of NGV Global via NGVAmerica