Social Governance

Transition to Renewable Natural Gas Project in California Boosts Economic Opportunities, Cuts Down Dairy Emissions

Published on: 18 January 2022 06:12 PM
by KnowESG

A Brief Summary

A new program initiated in California targets to turn cow manure into renewable natural gas, helps dairy farmers cut down on methane emissions subsequently creating new economic opportunities. The project is funded through the California Public Utilities Commission's Dairy Biomethane Pilot Program.

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The project would capture methane from 15 dairy farms in Merced County and use anaerobic digestion to create renewable natural gas (RNG). Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), Maas Energy Works, and the California Energy Exchange are also participating in the initiative (CEE).

According to PG&E, similar attempts with dairies have been hampered in the past due to a lack of access and cost-effective alternatives for transporting RNG to PG&E's pipeline infrastructure. The CEE pipeline is privately owned and maintained, and it may provide distant dairies with the infrastructure needed to connect to a cost-effective renewable energy source via the PG&E pipeline system.

According to the California Climate Expenditures, such initiatives have resulted in 29 per cent reductions in emissions, but just 2 per cent of the investments granted have been used to enhance the state's overall climate. Anaerobic digesters are also becoming more popular as a result of their low cost and the possibility of receiving carbon credits for reducing emissions. According to Palo Alto Online, they may also utilise or sell the energy they generate from them.

According to the California Air Resources Board's 2018 Greenhouse Gases Emissions Inventory, dairies and livestock account for around 55 per cent of the state's methane emissions.

The project is part of a rapidly expanding biogas sector, which is estimated to reach $61 billion by 2031. Methane can make up to 65 per cent of dairy biogas. Efforts similar to the Merced County effort are gaining traction around the country.

Other California operations have converted dairy cow dung into fuel cells for energy generation, while one Arizona project is planned to create enough RNG from dairy waste to produce 1.6 million gasoline gallon equivalents. When finished in 2024, a similar project in South Dakota is planned to produce 650 million cubic feet of RNG per year.