November 29, 2013

The New Face of Fueling: Renewable Natural Gas

This is the fourth installment in our guest blog series: A Wider Lens.
This series features first-hand accounts from people driving natural gas vehicles, industry leaders and decision-makers in the natural gas transportation industry.

By Guest Contributor, Harrison Clay, President of Clean Energy Fuels Corp. 
Subsidiary of Clean Energy Renewable Fuels. 

We all know what separates natural gas from the other “traditional” fuels—it's cleaner, cheaper and domestic—but in an era of innovation, I think too many folks are quick to dismiss natural gas as traditional.

Not anymore. Now we can produce pipeline quality natural gas from biogas and biomass feedstock sources, and it’s interchangeable with fossil natural gas. It’s called renewable natural gas and it’s not just semi-renewable—it’s 100 per cent renewable. It’s good for our businesses and our communities. And there's nothing “traditional” about it.

In October, Clean Energy launched the first commercially available renewable natural gas, called Redeem and it is currently available at stations in California.

Here’s how it’s made:

Is it worth it? According to California Air Resource Board estimates, Redeem sourced from landfill gas can enable up to a 90 per cent reduction in carbon emissions when displacing diesel or gasoline with compressed natural gas. A fleet that consumes 1,000,000 gallons of gasoline per year can reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 9,700 metric tons by switching to Redeem, which is the equivalent of taking 1,940 passenger cars off the road per year.

In addition to landfills, other sources of renewable natural gas include wastewater treatment facilities and biogas recovery systems – such as dairy and swine farms.

Renewable natural gas could displace 45% (17.9 billion gallons) of the 38 billion gallons of diesel fuel used in transportation annually based on estimates by the American Gas Foundation.

I’m loathe to use expressions like “landscape altering” but in this case I truly believe commercial use of renewable natural gas is exactly that. Consider this: 40 years ago OPEC enacted an embargo that triggered an economic downturn and forced the United States to look at its energy resources and policies. It fueled talk about “peak oil” and the decline of America’s energy future. How times have changed: who could have predicted that four decades later the U.S. would be producing more fuel than it brings in?

Natural gas has been a catalyst for our renewed fortunes and will continue to be so well into the future—renewable natural gas will play an important role in that fact. So if you run into “fossil fuel” skeptics, I hope you’ll tell them about renewable natural gas and the way in which American innovation and ingenuity is driving a brighter future.

Related Reading:

Waste company EBI Environnement says it will open two more service stations in early 2014 where vehicles can fill up on natural gas produced at its dump near Berthierville:

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