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RNG in California: More Than You Think

April 20, 2016 in Biofuels, Biomethane, CNG, LNG, NGVs by Patrick Couch  |  No Comments

Biomethane Now Has More Than Half the Market, Says CARB

New figures from the California Air Resources Board indicate that, as of the end of 2015, approximately half of the natural gas being used as a vehicle fuel in the state is bio-based RNG/renewable natural gas, aka biomethane. Only 10% of the state’s NGV fuel consumption was bio-based in 2013, rising to 22% in 2014.

All of the Santa Monica Big Blue Bus line transit buses are powered by Redeem brand renewable natural gas from Clean Energy Fuels.

All of the Santa Monica Big Blue Bus line transit buses are powered by Redeem brand renewable natural gas from Clean Energy Fuels.


The numbers vindicate the state’s LCFS/low carbon fuel standard program, which provides credits for renewable fuels that effectively offset the extra cost of producing biomethane, making RNG competitive with fossil natural gas despite today’s low fossil fuel prices.

“Nationally it’s close to 35% RNG” as a percentage of the fuel consumed by NGVs, says David Cox, operations director at the Sacramento-based Renewable Natural Gas Coalition. “We’ve been firing on all cylinders as an industry,” he told F&F. The 50% mark in California, he says, was actually reached in the third quarter of 2015.

The growing volume of RNG as a transportation fuel, in ethanol gallon equivalents. Graphic shows U.S. national production, courtesy David Cox of the Renewable Natural Gas Coalition, Sacramento.

The growing volume of RNG as a transportation fuel, in ethanol gallon equivalents. Graphic shows U.S. national production, courtesy David Cox of the Renewable Natural Gas Coalition, Sacramento.

According to CARB, some 10.2 million diesel gallon equivalents of natural gas was used as a vehicle fuel in California in 2013. The tally grew to 27 million DGEs in 2014 and 68.1 million last year, a growth rate of about 250% per year. The total for the fourth quarter of 2015 was 19.6 million DGEs.

More CNG than LNG

Renewable CNG volumes outpaced renewable LNG by approximately 40%, but both fuels showed growth throughout the year.

The City of Long Beach says it was the first to use LNG-fueled street sweepers, starting in 2003. Now they run on bio-based LNG.

The City of Long Beach says it was the first to use LNG-fueled street sweepers, starting in 2003. Now they run on bio-based LNG.

According to the CARB data for the fourth quarter of 2015, 57% of the natural gas being delivered for NGVs in California is RNG. Not all of the state’s NGV fuel is reported – observers feel that about 90% is – but even with the caveat, RNG accounts for more than half of the fuel for NGVs in the state.

‘A Really Good Thing’

“Bottom line,” says one Fleets & Fuels source: “There is a huge amount of RNG being used in the market. The LCFS is working really well. Super low carbon fuel is being used more and more,” he says. That’s a really good thing.”

The leading supplier of RNG in California is Clean Energy Fuels, which offers the product under the brandname “Redeem” as both liquefied natural gas/LNG and compressed natural gas/CNG. A major customer is UPS (F&F, May 2, 2015 and February 10, 2016).

Clean Energy also supplies Santa Monica’s highly visible Big Blue Bus with Redeem brand biomethane (F&F, July 17, 2015).

OCTA and the City of Long Beach

More recently, Southern California’s Orange County Transportation Authority has tapped Texas-based Element Markets to supply RNG for its buses. OCTA is buying approximately 200 CNG buses to add to an existing fleet of nearly 340 (F&F, March 21).

Also in Southern California, the City of Long Beach trumpeted its use of renewable LNG for street sweepers. The bio-based fuel is supplied by Applied LNG (F&F, April 14, 2016).

Is your company onboard? Renewable Natural Gas Coalition members as presented at the recent SWANA/Solid Waste Association of North America Landfill Gas and Biogas meeting in Charleston, S.C. Graphic courtesy David Cox in Sacramento.

Is your company onboard? Renewable Natural Gas Coalition members as presented at the recent SWANA/Solid Waste Association of North America Landfill Gas and Biogas meeting in Charleston, S.C. Graphic courtesy David Cox in Sacramento.

Other producers include Aria Energy, Montauk Energy, BioCNG and Morrow Renewables, says David Cox of the RNG Coalition. BP and Shell are Coalition members too, he says, and are active in bringing RNG to market. The challenge going forward, he says, is to make it easier for RNG to be produced in California, where demand is greatest.


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Source: California Air Resources Board with Fleets & Fuels follow-up

 

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