What is Renewable Natural Gas?

Traditionally, pipeline natural gas comes from deep underground wells and it’s often associated with petroleum production. Renewable natural gas (RNG), on the other hand, is natural gas derived from organic waste material found in daily life such as food waste, garden and lawn clippings, and animal and plant-based material. It can also be derived from degradable carbon sources like paper, cardboard and wood. The abundance of these materials allows for production of substantial quantities of biogas. A study conducted by UC Davis estimates that more than 20 percent of California’s current residential natural gas use can be provided by RNG derived from our state’s existing organic waste alone1. In the transportation sector, that’s enough to replace around 20 percent of the fuel used by heavy-duty trucks in the state. This can help reduce the need for other fossil-based fuels while boosting our supplies with a locally sourced renewable fuel. Looking outside California, the opportunity to produce RNG is vast. According to estimates, the United States could produce up to 10 trillion cubic feet of RNG annually by 2030 — that’s more than five times California’s projected natural gas consumption.2
 

Green Energy Around-the-Clock

RNG can be an important renewable energy tool because it is available when consumers need it. Wind and solar are intermittent energy sources – meaning the energy isn’t available when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing.  RNG is available 24 hours per day, seven days a week and can be deployed when and where it is needed through the pipeline network.
 

Where Does Renewable Natural Gas Come From?

Natural gas consists largely of methane. Since methane comes from the decomposition of organic matter, there are ways to generate natural gas other than extracting it from the ground. Biogas is produced from existing waste streams and a variety of renewable and sustainable biomass sources, including animal waste, crop residuals and food waste. Organic waste from dairies and farms can be repurposed into biogas. The most common source of biogas is the naturally-occurring biological breakdown of organic waste at facilities such as wastewater treatment plants and landfills.
 

How is Renewable Natural Gas Produced?

Biogas typically consists of methane and carbon dioxide, with traces of other elements. Biogas is cleaned and conditioned to remove or reduce non-methane elements in order to produce RNG. The RNG is processed so it’s interchangeable with traditional pipeline-quality natural gas to ensure the safe and reliable operation of the pipeline network and customer equipment. This RNG is extremely versatile, and can be delivered by the nation’s extensive pipeline infrastructure.
 
How Natural Gas is Renewable
Courtesy of the American Gas Association
 
 

Negative Carbon Impact for Greenhouse Gas Reductions

Reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas levels is important to help reduce global warming. RNG is considered a carbon-neutral fuel because it comes from organic sources that once absorbed carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during photosynthesis. RNG has even greater benefits when it’s produced from organic waste that would otherwise decay and create methane emissions. By capturing more greenhouses gases than it emits, this RNG is actually considered carbon-negative!
 

Up to 400 Percent Reduction in Greenhouse Gas Emissions

When RNG is used to fuel vehicles, it can provide major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions – in addition to clean air benefits.  According to the California Air Resources Board,3 RNG sourced from landfill-diverted food and green waste can provide a 125 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and RNG from dairy manure can result in a 400 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions when replacing traditional vehicle fuels.2
 
More than half of all natural gas dispensed in California for transportation utilize RNG, powering buses, refuse trucks and heavy-duty trucks.

SoCalGas® is a Supporter of Biogas Development and California’s Economy

As part of our commitment to helping the environment and supporting California in meeting its greenhouse gas reduction goals, SoCalGas® offers expertise and assistance to customers who want to convert organic waste material into biogas or RNG. Through our network of natural gas pipelines, SoCalGas offers the opportunity for RNG to be accepted into our transmission and distribution system and delivered to our customers. Converting waste products into RNG can help California meet its energy needs with local resources. Investing in RNG production in California can help create jobs in all regions of the state while improving air quality by better managing our waste streams.
 
For more information on RNG and interconnecting to SoCalGas’ pipeline network, please download our RNG Tool Kit , or please contact marketdevelopment@semprautilities.com
 
 
 
The information contained herein is made available solely for informational purposes. Although SoCalGas has used reasonable efforts to assure the accuracy of the information at the time of its inclusion, no express or implied representation is made that it is free from error or suitable for any particular use or purpose. SoCalGas assumes no responsibility for any use thereof by you, and you should discuss decisions related to this subject with your own advisors and experts.