Renewable Natural Gas
Renewable natural gas is a zero-carbon resource produced from local, organic materials like food, agricultural and forestry waste, wastewater, or landfills. As these materials decompose, they produce methane. That methane can be captured, conditioned to pipeline quality and delivered in the existing pipeline system to homes and businesses where it can be used in existing appliances and equipment. It can also be used in natural gas vehicles. This process closes the loop on waste and provides a renewable energy option for the natural gas system, in the same way that wind and solar are used to generate renewable electricity.
Data for waste sources provided by: The Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas.
Renewable Natural Gas Is On Its Way Home
How much renewable natural gas is possible?
In 2018, the Oregon Department of Energy released its first inventory of technical potential and estimated there are enough sources statewide to produce nearly 50 billion cubic feet (BCF) of renewable natural gas. That's equivalent to the total amount of natural gas used by all Oregon residential customers today.
On a national level, the technical potential for renewable natural gas is correspondingly greater. A recent study, conducted by ICF Consulting through the American Gas Foundation, estimates the technical potential of renewable natural gas supply is substantial when compared to current natural gas throughput. In fact, when looking at development costs and existing technologies, the report estimates there is enough potential renewable natural gas to achieve a 95% reduction in emissions in the residential sector.
The supply estimates from the ICF report do not include the potential for renewable hydrogen for the pipeline network or the impacts of deep energy efficiency to reduce future energy use. With these collective innovations pursued together, the company believes a carbon neutral vision for the gas pipeline network is possible.
Check out NW Natural's plans for RNG: https://www.nwnatural.com/about-us/environment/renewable-natural-gas.
Oregon legislation creates a pathway for RNG
NW Natural worked collaboratively with legislators and renewable natural gas stakeholders to create Senate Bill 98, a groundbreaking bill that enables natural gas utilities to procure renewable natural gas on behalf of customers. The 2019 bill was passed with bipartisan support and signed into law by Oregon Governor Kate Brown. Over the next year, the Public Utility Commission of Oregon (OPUC), consumer groups and natural gas utilities worked to finalize rulemaking, which wrapped up in July 2020.
SB 98 goes further than any other law by setting voluntary goals for adding as much as 30% renewable natural gas into the state's pipeline system by 2050. The law allows up to 5% of a utility's revenue requirement to be used to cover the incremental cost of investments in renewable natural gas infrastructure.
Similar to a renewable portfolio standard, volumetric goals have been set, as well as other parameters for the procurement:
- Voluntary targets of 5% by 2020, 10% by 2025, 15% by 2030, 20% by 2035 and 30% by 2050 are now in place.
- Utilities can invest in and own the cleaning and conditioning equipment required to bring raw biogas and landfill gas up to pipeline quality, as well as the facilities to connect to the local gas distribution system.
Further, the new law supports all forms of renewable natural gas including renewable hydrogen, which can made from excess wind, solar and hydro power. Renewable hydrogen can be used as transportation fuel, industrial processes, or blended into the natural gas pipeline system.
City of Portland Wastewater Treatment Plant
NW Natural partnered with the city of Portland to put renewable natural gas — converted from the city’s largest wastewater treatment plant — into our pipeline and then into vehicles. In March 2018, Commissioner Nick Fish and the Bureau of Environmental Services announced the opening of a natural gas fueling station at the City’s wastewater treatment plant. The station will offer a clean-air alternative to diesel for City vehicles operating at the plant in industrial North Portland.
RNG can be used in combination with or in place of conventional natural gas. It can fuel heavy-duty vehicles or be blended into our pipeline system to serve homes and businesses.
The Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas (RNG Coalition) serves as the public policy advocate and education platform for the Renewable Natural Gas industry in North America. The RNG Coalition advocates for increased development, deployment and utilization of renewable natural gas so that present and future generations will have access to this domestic, renewable, clean fuel and energy supply.