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Is Renewable Natural Gas Really Renewable?

US Gain - August 16, 2019
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As companies evaluate a cleaner, more sustainable tomorrow, some still question whether or not renewable natural gas is a fossil fuel. In this post, we’ll set the record straight. But, before getting to it… below are a few key industry terms you need to know.

  1. Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) is a term, according to the EPA, used to describe biogas that has been upgraded for use in place of fossil natural gas. RNG can be used as a form of energy to power factories and homes or as an alternative fuel for the transportation industry.
  2. Biogas used to produce RNG comes from a variety of sources, including municipal solid waste landfills, wastewater treatment plants, agricultural facilities and food waste.
  3. Methane is a greenhouse gas that traps heat into the atmosphere and is emitted by the biogas sources above, along with several other sources. Methane is upwards of 25% more potent than carbon dioxide, in terms of trapping radiation.

Getting back to what we set out to do – explain just why renewable natural gas, is in fact, renewable. To do this, let’s look at the production differences between renewable and compressed natural gas, which is precisely which makes one a renewable fuel and the other, a fossil fuel.

  • Renewable natural gas is made from waste, generated by wastewater treatment plants, landfills, food and animals. Because it comes from naturally occurring sources such as these, it is ruled out as a fossil fuel. The RNG production process starts as methane is released from the decomposition of organic materials. The methane is immediately captured, cleaned, injected back into the natural gas pipeline or used directly and then can be dispensed through natural gas fueling stations for transportation or as energy to help power buildings and homes.

  • Compressed Natural Gas is made by first extracting from wells or through crude oil production, but also can be mined. But this just results in traditional natural gas. To obtain usable fuel for transportation it must be compressed, using equipment at natural gas fueling stations. Once the pipeline natural gas is compressed to less than 1 percent of the volume it occupies at standard atmospheric pressure – you have compressed natural gas. Compressed natural gas fueling stations use a series of equipment to convert pipeline natural gas to compressed natural gas, then dispense at fueling pumps.

You may ask, why does this all matter? Simply put – renewable natural gas is the only carbon-negative fuel available, namely because of the sources from which it’s made. Thanks to these incredible emission savings – during both the production process and use in transportation, companies are able to use renewable natural gas as a means to achieve their sustainability targets. Government, both regional and federal, too realize the benefit to air quality renewable natural gas as a fuel provides and therefore incentivizes use through financial credits.

To learn more about how your company can get involved in either development or use of renewable natural gas as a fuel or energy solution, let us know. We’d be honored to have the conversation.


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