What You Should Know About Renewable Natural Gas

What You Should Know About Renewable Natural Gas

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The vitality we use and the rubbish we throw away are normally a part of a linear system that results in outsized environmental footprints. But connecting the 2 through the use of waste to create vitality creates a way more sustainable round system. A whole lot of growing applied sciences try to convert waste into vitality. But one of the crucial simple and sensible is renewable pure fuel.

Natural Gas

Natural gas is made up largely of methane. It is the biggest supply of electrical energy within the United States, accounting for 35% of our electric power. Natural fuel varieties, like coal, from the decomposition of organic matter underneath stress and warmth in a course of that takes centuries. Among fossil fuels, pure fuel burns the cleanest. The solely pollutant it releases is carbon dioxide, and it releases much less carbon dioxide than both coal or oil.

But pure fuel is neither renewable nor sustainable. Carbon dioxide is essentially the most vital greenhouse gas contributing to local weather change. And the environmental impacts of pure fuel aren’t restricted to emissions from burning. Extracting the fuel is itself a fossil-fuel intensive course of that generates vital emissions. Extraction strategies like fracking can impression native hydrology and produce poisonous and typically radioactive wastewater. It may even generate earthquakes and has been linked to health impacts in neighboring communities.

Landfill Gas

Compared to “the dump” of the 20th century, a contemporary sanitary landfill is a fancy system that cleanly and safely incorporates rubbish. But sanitary landfills nonetheless have an environmental impression. The most significant factor of their carbon footprint is the era of landfill fuel (LFG). Landfill fuel is fashioned when natural supplies break down contained in the landfill. Equal components methane and carbon dioxide, LFG is a strong greenhouse fuel. By regulation, all landfills extract the odorous and extremely flammable fuel. Most of them burn the collected fuel at flare stations, making landfills the third-largest supply of human-related methane emissions within the United States.

Landfill gas processing at landfill
Landfill fuel may be purified to pipeline-quality fuel that’s totally interchangeable with typical pure fuel. Renewable pure fuel can be generated at wastewater remedy crops, livestock farms, meals manufacturing services, and industrial composting operations.

Renewable Natural Gas

Because it takes centuries to type, true pure fuel shouldn’t be renewable. So the time period “renewable natural gas” would appear to be an oxymoron. Landfill fuel is chemically just like pure fuel. And it’s renewable within the sense that it’s created by the continued human exercise of burying natural waste. With solely slightly processing, LFG may be purified to pipeline-quality fuel that’s totally interchangeable with typical pure fuel. It can be utilized in natural gas vehicles or distributed by means of the identical pipeline system that powers houses. Today, about 69% of at the moment operational LFG vitality initiatives within the United States are used to generate electricity.

Landfill fuel is a significant supply of RNG, however it’s not the one supply. A biogas is any fuel that varieties from the anaerobic decomposition of natural matter. Biogas incorporates 45%-65% methane and may be processed into renewable pure fuel to be used instead of typical pure fuel. In addition to landfills, RNG is generated at wastewater remedy crops, livestock farms, meals manufacturing services, and commercial composting operations. To date, agriculture-based RNG initiatives outnumber landfill-based initiatives.

Collecting and processing landfill gas visualization
The picture illustrates the a number of functions of processed landfill fuel, together with pipeline fuel we use in our houses. Image supply: epa.gov

Benefits of RNG

Replacing typical pure fuel with renewable pure fuel reduces greenhouse fuel emissions from landfill operations, in addition to from pure fuel extraction. But it has different benefits, too. Hazardous air pollution and VOCs which can be current at low concentrations in LFG are destroyed, reasonably than launched into the environment. LFG vitality initiatives generate income for the utility whereas typically offering electrical energy to the shopper at decrease value. Renewable pure fuel is normally consumed domestically, reasonably than transported throughout lengthy distances in pipelines or vehicles. The bills from a undertaking producing RNG additionally largely profit native economies within the type of jobs related to the undertaking.

Better than RNG

Although renewable pure fuel is preferable to standard pure fuel, the Zero Waste hierarchy dictates that we don’t purposely toss compostable supplies within the rubbish. Where doable, natural matter must be composted and used to enhance soil well being. Where doable, electrical vitality ought to come from renewable sources which can be cleaner than fuel. But so long as there are landfills, LFG shall be generated. Commercial composting and industrial agriculture additionally produce some gases that may be refined to be used as RNG. So there’s nonetheless a spot for RNG within the vitality combine. Some utilities, like Puget Sound Energy, provide RNG as a part of a inexperienced energy portfolio program. Check to see if your local utility is considered one of them.