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Final Thought: June 2014

Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) is a little known fuel that has enormous potential to economically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, a sector with high emissions.


June 3, 2014
By Stephanie Thorson

Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) is a little known fuel that has enormous potential to economically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, a sector with high emissions.

In the same way that ethanol is blended with gasoline and bio-diesel is blended with diesel fuel, RNG can be blended with natural gas for compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles or liquified natural gas (LNG) vehicles. The Biogas Association is working to develop RNG as a vehicle fuel to cost-effectively improve the environmental performance of the transportation sector.

In 2014, the prices of traditional vehicle fuels – gasoline and diesel – are at historic highs and the price of natural gas is at a historic low. As a result, fleet managers are increasingly exploring the option to switch to natural gas as a vehicle fuel. In fact, CNG vehicles can run on 100 per cent RNG, and there are millions of hours of driving experience in Europe with this fuel.

Europeans are increasingly using RNG as a transportation fuel. Regulations and taxes on waste disposal have been driving its success by increasing the need for renewable fuel sources. But other drivers include the European Commission’s Biofuels Directive’s measures to improve local air quality and the need for clean transportation fuels in urban areas.

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In Canada, the Canadian Gas Association has recently released its Smart Energy Future: RNG Roadmap, which includes a focus on developing RNG as a vehicle fuel. The association is working with stakeholders on determining a path forward to help bring this opportunity to the marketplace.

The benefits of RNG
The environmental benefits of displacing diesel or gasoline with RNG are significant. While combustion of RNG produces carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, the carbon comes from plant matter that fixed this carbon from atmospheric carbon dioxide.  It has the added benefit of converting decaying matter that would normally release methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into usable energy. Depending on the source, RNG can be carbon neutral. The air quality benefits are extensive as well, as particulate matter levels decrease substantially when moving from diesel to CNG and RNG.

A guide for farmers on how to develop RNG as a vehicle fuel was published in 2013 by the Biogas Association. The Farm to Fuel Developers’ Guide is available online for free download on the Biogas Association website, www.biogasassociation.ca, under Resources.

The Biogas Association is building on that work and is now delivering a project called the ‘RNG as Vehicle Fuel Project.’ The project is designed to assist RNG project developers in Ontario and help create a market for RNG as a vehicle fuel.

The project outlines the business case and sustainability case for switching to CNG with an RNG blend. This includes a summary of the cost differential. RNG is cheaper than gasoline and diesel, including the cost of the infrastructure to provide the fuel. And when CNG is blended with RNG, the economic case to convert vehicles to CNG is still strong. Given the environmental advantages, this is a major win for organizations that make the switch.

Leading the way
Surrey, B.C., is a recognized leader in reducing emissions from waste generated within the municipality and has created a closed-loop waste solution. In the coming months, Surrey will generate RNG at their anaerobic digestion facility and use it to fuel waste trucks picking up the organic waste. Hamilton, Ontario, uses some of the RNG produced from its wastewater facility to fuel trucks. Waste trucks are also being fueled by a landfill in Quebec.

An innovative project led by Stonecrest Engineering is in development in southwestern Ontario, in which a beef farm, dairy farm, a gravel pit operator, pork feedlot and hauler, have come together to generate and consume RNG for their vehicles and equipment. In the U.S., the massive Fair Oaks Dairy has an onsite fueling station that supplies renewable natural gas produced through farm operations to fuel a fleet of 42 milk trucks operated by Fair Oaks Farms and AMP Americas.  It is hoped that demand and supply of RNG as a vehicle fuel will continue to grow in the near future.


Stephanie  
   

Stephanie Thorson is with the Biogas Association at biogasassociation.ca .


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