New Dairy Biogas Facility in California to be Largest of its Kind in the US

(SoCalGas & Calgren announce the completion of dairy renewable natural gas facility. Image courtesy of SoCalGas.)

Southern California Gas Co. recently joined Calgren Dairy Fuels to announce the completion of Calgren’s dairy renewable natural gas facility. The project, located in the Central Valley community of Pixley, is the first of its kind in California and is expected to be the largest dairy biogas operation in the US later this year.

At the new facility, Calgren collects cow manure — a potent source of greenhouse gas emissions — from four local dairy farms and processes it in an anerobic digestor that accelerates the natural decomposition process. Methane emissions (biogas) from that process are captured and converted to make renewable vehicle fuels. Producing pipeline quality renewable natural gas (RNG) that is then injected into the SoCalGas pipeline system, which allows Calgren to supply RNG to existing compressed natural gas (CNG) refueling facilities. Ultimately, this also has the potential to be delivered to customers to fuel ultra-low emissions trucks and buses, generate clean electricity, and heat homes and businesses.

Calgren plans to partner with eight additional dairy farms by the end of 2019, which will make the facility the largest dairy biogas project in the nation. At a ceremony marking the completion of the project, SoCalGas presented Calgren with a $5 million incentive check authorized by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to support the development of renewable energy projects.

RNG is a renewable fuel produced from food waste, farms, landfills, and even sewer systems. It can rapidly cut greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) because it takes more climate pollution out of the air than it emits as an energy source. RNG is already helping eliminate emissions from trucks and buses. Over the last five years, RNG use as a transportation fuel has increased 577%, helping displace over seven million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.

SoCalGas is working to build on RNG’s success in the transportation sector by making it available to fuel the homes of the company’s 21 million customers across Southern California. Earlier this year, SoCalGas’ committed to replace 20% of its traditional natural gas supply with renewable natural gas (RNG) by 2030 – as part of a broad, inclusive and integrated plan to help to help achieve California’s ambitious climate goals.

To kickstart the plan, SoCalGas will pursue regulatory authority to implement a broad renewable natural gas procurement program with a goal of replacing five percent of its natural gas supply with RNG by 2022. SoCalGas also recently filed a request with the CPUC to allow customers to purchase renewable natural gas for their homes. SoCalGas seeks to have CPUC approval of its voluntary program by the end of the year.

Research shows that replacing about 20% of California’s traditional natural gas supply with RNG would lower emissions equal to retrofitting every building in the state to run on electric only energy and at a fraction of the cost. Using RNG in buildings can be two to three times less expensive than any all-electric strategy and does not require families or businesses to purchase new appliances or take on costly construction projects.

Today, organic waste from farms, landfills, and wastewater treatment plants account for 80% of methane emissions in California. A 2016 law requires 40% of methane from the state’s landfills and dairies to be captured, with provisions to deliver that energy to customers. This will bolster the supply of RNG that is already growing rapidly as cities and towns across the country look to divert organic waste from landfills. In California, scientists at the University of California, Davis estimate that the state’s existing organic waste could produce enough RNG to meet the needs of 2.3 million homes.

 

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