By Matthew Small Development Project Manager, StormFisher
The Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) business has seen significant growth in recent years throughout North America. RNG is a renewable drop-in substitute for pipeline natural gas. RNG has a much lower carbon intensity profile than geological natural gas. Buyers seeking low carbon solutions often find value in RNG based on its ease of use as a substitute for natural gas.
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An increasing RNG demand
The demand for RNG comes from a wide array of organizations such as large corporations, institutions (colleges/universities) and various government levels. For example, there is need for RNG from transportation companies, as part of Low Carbon Fuel Standards in California and Oregon, to produce credits for sale obligated parties.
Natural gas utilities, such as FortisBC and NW Natural, and institutions such as the Port of Seattle and Brown University, have an interest in RNG to reduce their carbon intensities and provide low carbon fuels for process and thermal loads. The Paris Agreement drives demand for low carbon solutions by setting out carbon emissions reduction goals.
These widely accepted goals influence the groups mentioned in a variety of ways. Some organizations have set their own voluntary goals, while others are subject to standards or regulations requiring emissions reduction.
Ultimately, these groups are taking action to reduce their carbon footprint and will continue to do so. In many cases, RNG is the most efficient, least disruptive path to a lower carbon footprint.
The growth in demand for RNG in North America is expected to outpace supply. As climate goals loom, more entities will require low carbon fuels. RNG supply from traditional sources, such as biogas from landfills and organic waste, has feedstock limitations. There is not enough landfill gas or organic waste to keep up with the need for RNG. So, the market faces a question: How can the growing demand for RNG be met?
Power-to-Gas technologies: the answer
The answer is with Power-to-Gas facilities. Power-to-Gas offers a pathway to large-scale RNG production and the avoidance of feedstock limitations. It can meet the growing demand for low carbon RNG.
Power-to-Gas refers to the conversion of electricity to a gaseous fuel using an electrolysis process. Electrolysis technology makes use of electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. A second process step is used to produce RNG, known as methanation, which converts the hydrogen to methane. Producers can market this methane as RNG for use within the traditional natural gas infrastructure.
RNG from Power-to-Gas uses abundant renewable electricity and does not suffer from traditional production methods’ feedstock limitations. The technology is ready to be deployed.
Some examples of existing facilities are Audi’s 6 MW e-gas power to methane plant in Wertle, and Germany Air Liquide’s 20 MW power to hydrogen operation in Becancour, Quebec. A 100 MW Power-to-Gas project is the logical next step. Projects of this scale each represent a $200 million investment and RNG production of up to 1.4 trillion BTU per annum.
Texas is an excellent location for Power-to-Gas due to the availability of low-cost renewable electricity, a capable workforce to support energy projects, and business-friendly conditions. It is possible to deliver RNG from Texas to many customers across the country. StormFisher is actively developing Power-to-Gas projects in the Houston and Corpus Christi areas.