Southern California Gas (SoCalGas) has applied with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to support the development of a pilot project that would utilize organic waste such as chipped wood and nut shells and turn it into renewable natural gas (RNG).
If approved, the project would be the largest RNG project in California, producing up to 4.5 billion cubic feet of fuel each year from 400,000 to 500,000 tons of agricultural waste, some of which would otherwise be burned.
It would more than double already historic deliveries of RNG in 2022 from existing projects within SoCalGas's service territory and could deliver carbon-neutral or negative fuel equivalent to taking up to 52,000 gasoline vehicles off the road each year.
Converting Agricultural Waste to Usable Renewable Natural Gas
San Joaquin Renewables LLC plans to undertake the development of a project within the City of McFarland. In alignment with CPUC directives, SoCalGas has proposed financing its share of the project, amounting to approximately $13 million, using cap-and-trade funds.
Should this proposal receive approval, which could occur as early as May 2024, the project's target is to become operational by late 2026.
The functioning of the project involves employing a non-combustion method to transform agricultural waste into a blend of gases, including hydrogen. Subsequently, this mixture undergoes a purification and compression process, rendering it suitable for use as RNG.
Renewable Gas Procurement Standard Objectives
In February 2022, CPUC adopted the Renewable Gas Procurement Standard. This standard outlines objectives for procuring renewable gas generated by capturing methane emissions from sources like organic waste from wastewater treatment facilities, dairies, landfills, agricultural residue, and forestry byproducts.
Additionally, SoCalGas is mandated to substitute approximately 12.2% of conventional gas supplied to its core consumers with renewable natural gas by the year 2030. The CPUC also necessitated SoCalGas to submit an application presenting at least one pilot project involving gasification or pyrolysis, focusing on converting woody biomass into biomethane.
RNG is a key tool in decarbonizing the gas system as it can be carbon neutral or even negative, depending on its source. RNG, along with carbon management and clean fuels like hydrogen, is one in a suite of tools SoCalGas is utilizing to help achieve its aim to have net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045.