Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) is to begin using renewable natural gas at the 25 utility-owned natural gas vehicle fueling stations across its service territory, as well as at six fueling stations in the San Diego area. Last month, the utility received approval from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) for a pilot program to purchase the renewable fuel and capture the additional environmental credits generated.
On September 17 it published a Request for Offer (RFO) and expects to complete gas purchase agreements in the near future.
Renewable natural gas (RNG) is produced from the methane generated in landfills, wastewater treatment plants, food processing and dairies and depending on its source, can be low-carbon or in some cases, even carbon-negative. It can be used to fuel trucks and buses, to generate electricity, to heat homes and businesses, and to cook. Capturing the methane from these waste sources and using it for fuel has two benefits: It keeps methane, a greenhouse gas, from entering the atmosphere and contributing to climate change, and it reduces the use of traditionally-sourced natural gas.
Because renewable natural gas can be stored and delivered through the existing natural gas infrastructure, SoCalGas can help California reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet the state’s renewable energy and air quality goals in a cost-effective way. In addition, unlike solar and wind energy, renewable natural gas is available when needed—day or night.
Benefits of using RNG
“Using renewable natural gas at our natural gas fueling stations will help clean the air for Southern California communities and support the state’s clean energy future,” said Sharon Tomkins, SoCalGas’ vice president of customer solutions and strategy. “SoCalGas will continue to work to increase the use and production of renewable natural gas, meeting consumer preferences and helping to achieve state’s climate and air quality goals while efficiently using existing infrastructure.”
“Using renewable natural gas to fuel near-zero emission heavy-duty trucks in Southern California will help solve our air quality problems while lowering climate impacts,” said Dr. Joseph Lyou, President and CEO of the Coalition for Clean Air and a member of the South Coast Air Quality Management District Governing Board. “It’s good to see SoCal Gas taking the lead on this renewable natural gas project.”
“Natural gas trucks can reduce smog-forming emissions by more than 90 percent compared to diesel trucks which can help create cleaner and healthier communities,” said Anabella Bastida, executive director of the Council of Mexican Federations in North America (COFEM). “Renewable natural gas is an immediate solution. We hope that the increased availability of this renewable fuel will encourage more trucking fleets to switch to natural gas to create a cleaner air for our families in California.”
Renewable natural gas is an important tool for reducing emissions from California’s transportation sector, which is responsible for about 40 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions and more than 80 percent of its smog-forming (NOx) emissions. The latest generation of natural gas engines for heavy duty vehicles can reduce smog-forming emissions by more than 90 percent compared to the cleanest heavy-duty diesel trucks. When these ultra-low emissions natural gas trucks are fueled with renewable natural gas, greenhouse gas emissions are reduced by at least 80 percent.
Near zero emission natural gas trucks are helping achieve the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals and clean the air around California’s transportation corridors. Because of this, California provides incentive funding to help trucking fleets transition to renewable natural gas. Close to 70 percent of natural gas fleets in California are fueled with renewable natural gas.
Creating more renewable energy for California
As California policymakers have sought to expand the production and use of renewable energy, SoCalGas has been working to expand the production and use of renewable natural gas in California. The utility recently launched a video on renewable natural gas, and worked with waste management company CR&R Environmental to begin injecting renewable natural gas produced at CR&R’s anaerobic digestion facility in Perris, Calif., into SoCalGas pipelines. In June, SoCalGas joined two French utilities and a Canadian natural gas utility in a new collaboration to advance the research and development of renewable natural gas and technologies such as power-to-gas. SoCalGas also assists California fleets in obtaining state funds designated for the purchase of near-zero emissions heavy-duty natural gas trucks.
SoCalGas has supported the implementation of California Senate Bill (SB) 1383, considered the most aggressive law in the nation designed to tackle short-lived climate pollutants. Last year, SoCalGas worked with other natural gas utilities in the state to solicit the dairy biomethane pilot projects required by the legislation.
In addition, SoCalGas has created a downloadable toolkit to assist renewable gas producers and developers who are interested in interconnecting their projects with the SoCalGas pipeline network. The utility also created new provisions in 2017 to enable SoCalGas and renewable gas producers to accelerate the process of interconnecting to SoCalGas pipelines.
Consumer preference polls support the increased production and use of renewable natural gas
Research shows nine out of 10 California families use natural gas in their homes and prefer it by a margin of 4 to 1 over electricity. In addition, strong majorities of consumers—nearly 80 percent—prefer to use natural gas for cooking in their homes, and nearly two-thirds of consumers believe gas is their most affordable energy choice.
According to a recent study by Navigant Consulting, Inc. replacing 16 percent of the traditional natural gas supply with renewable gas can achieve greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions equivalent to converting 100 percent of buildings to electric-only energy by 2030. By using a mix of both in- and out-of-state resources, the renewable natural gas strategy is three times more cost effective in reducing GHGs than an electrification pathway.