Here’s an overview of key biogas news.
The Farm Bill has long served as a vehicle for clean energy programs, and the 2018 iteration—the first update in four years—is no exception. While the bill doesn’t make significant changes to most of the existing energy programs at the Department of Agriculture (USDA), which is significant in itself, it does expand the purview and the available funding for some of them. It’s worth unpacking a few of these developments that could have an outsize influence on government energy finance. Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) The 2018 Farm Bill maintains funding for REAP at $50 million per year through 2023, in line with current funding levels. The program, which provides grants and loan guarantees to farmers to “purchase, install, and construct renewable energy systems, make energy efficiency improvements to non-residential buildings and facilities, use renewable technologies” is being expanded, however.
Legislators want to make Minnesota the fourth state in the country to set a 100 percent clean energy plan, with the aim of having electricity providers generate all energy from renewable sources by 2050. “Business as usual and relying on markets is not going to get the job done in time. The crisis is urgent,” said the measure’s sponsor, Rep. Jamie Long, D-Minneapolis. Electric utility companies would need to meet a series of deadlines to reduce their use of fossil fuels over the next few decades under the proposal. Dozens of people showed up at the State Capitol on Tuesday to champion or warn against the idea. Religious leaders, youth advocates and environmental organizations said it would benefit future generations and vulnerable populations who they say are disproportionately affected by climate change. They urged the state to push for change in the face of federal inaction.
Natural gas utilities in Nevada could draw supply from renewable energy sources such as biogas under a measure introduced Wednesday in the Nevada Senate. Under Senate Bill 154, the state Public Utilities Commission would draw up new rules and procedures for utilities to engage in renewable natural gas activities, such as investing in or operating a production facility, or buying and distributing biogas or energy generated from it. Biogas is produced when microorganisms digest and break down biodegradable material. Comprising mostly methane, it can be produced from landfill, manure, wastewater, and other organic waste.
Landfills are a cost-effective solution for dealing with municipal solid waste (MSW). However, the liquid and gas byproducts generated at these dump sites must be painstakingly monitored to ensure that harm to the environment is minimized. Landfill gas (LFG), which is a natural emission stemming from the decomposition of organic landfill waste, consists of approximately half methane and half carbon dioxide (CO2). Together, these landfill-generated gases are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions throughout the world. The Green Lane Landfill was purchased by the city of Toronto in 2007. Formerly a small local landfill owned by the private sector, Green Lane has expanded to a site area of 129.7 hectares (about 320 acres), of which 71.2 hectares (about 175 acres) is approved for landfilling.
Nottingham City Transport (NCT)’s fleet of 53 biogas double deck buses will more than double in size this year, as a further 67 join the City Operator of the Year’s fleet. NCT has been successful in securing a further £1.12m from OLEV (Office of Low Emission Vehicles), which will be used to expand its bio-methane refuelling station at its main bus depot. The announcement was made this week at the UK Bus Summit by Buses Minister Nusrat Ghani, who commented: “This government is doing more than ever before to reduce emissions across all modes of transport and I’m delighted to see the bus industry putting itself at the forefront of this.” Expanding the renewable natural gas (RNG) refuelling station is necessary for NCT to be able to fuel more gas buses and this funding announcement paves the way for NCT to confirm its order for 67 more biogas double decks, representing a total investment by NCT of £20m.
In the United States (US), three trade associations representing renewable electricity producers have announced the launch of the RFS Power Coalition. The coalition’s purpose is to get the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) to implement a law passed by Congress in 2007 which mandates the inclusion of qualifying renewable electricity in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The three associations – Biomass Power Association (BPA), American Biogas Council (ABC) and Energy Recovery Council (ERC) represent, respectively, domestic biomass power producers who use organic fuels like forest residues, biogas-to-electricity producers like dairy farmers and wastewater treatment facilities, and waste-to-energy producers.
In the United States (US), advanced renewable fuels and biochemicals company Aemetis Inc. has announced that it has initiated the permitting and construction phase of its multi-dairy renewable biomethane digester cluster. In July 2018, the California Department of Food & Agriculture (CDFA) awarded two matching grants for a total of US$3 million to build biomethane digesters at the first two dairies in the Aemetis Biogas project. The CDFA grant program provides California state funding support for dairy digester projects to reduce methane emissions, decrease air pollution, improve the environment and lower carbon emissions. In addition to the on-dairy covered lagoon digesters, Aemetis plans to construct a local pipeline designed to connect about a dozen dairies to the Aemetis biorefinery in Keyes, California, then clean the biomethane for use in ethanol production or for powering compressed renewable natural gas (RNG) vehicles.
A renewable biomethane power plant built in Utah is expected to produce enough power to fuel a city the size of Bountiful in the coming years. The facility, built by Wasatch Resource Recovery, will be able to successfully capture renewable energy from food waste in order to produce natural gas. Not only that, it is constructed to prevent methane, a very potent greenhouse gas, from being produced as a byproduct. According to a Wasatch Resource Recovery press release, that could mean the equivalent of taking more than 75,000 cars off the highway annually. Utilizing Anaerobic Digestion, Wasatch intends to divert food waste from landfills and convert it into usable natural gas fuel. Anaerobic digestion is a natural process in which microorganisms break down waste like animal manure, food scraps, and human sewage to create biogas and biosolids.
A new report published by BloombergNEF and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy shows renewable energy is continuing to grow in the U.S., with 103 megawatts of capacity from biomass and waste-to-energy sources added last year. The report, titled “2019 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook,” finds that the U.S. electricity sector continued to improve its carbon intensity last year due to increased renewable energy and natural gas power generation and investments in energy efficiency. This improvement in carbon intensity was realized even though a stronger economy and volatile weather boosted energy demand and contributed to a rise in economy-wide carbon dioxide emissions. According to the report, consumers experienced near record low energy costs on a household basis in 2018 and the number of energy jobs grew.
Small scale bioSNG technology based on allothermal gasification is able to compete with large scale bioSNG technology based on pressurised oxygen-blown gasification. This technology has proved competitive in terms of GHG emissions, primary energy needs and conversion efficiency without high production costs. The results are part of the LignoSys research project, which has investigated the performance of three small scale (~10 MWth) thermochemical conversion routes for lignocellulosic feedstock to biomethane. The three thermochemical options were: Indirect gasification through the Heatpipe Reformer (HPR), PyroCatalytic Hydrogenation (PCH), Indirect gasification through the WoodRoll® process. The final report with the results has been published as Renewtec Report 008:2018 (DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.32372.81280).