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SoCalGas soon to offer renewable natural gas at its fuelling stations

In the United States (US), Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas), a subsidiary of San Diego headed holding company Sempra Energy, the largest natural gas distribution utility in the US has announced that "soon" it will begin using renewable natural gas (RNG) for the first time at the 25 utility-owned natural gas vehicle fueling stations across its service territory, as well as at six fueling stations in the San Diego area.

Last month, the utility received approval from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) for a pilot program to purchase the renewable fuel and capture the additional environmental credits generated. On September 17, it published a Request for Offer (RFO) and expects to complete gas purchase agreements in the near future.

Near zero emission natural gas vehicles (NGVs) help to achieve California’s GHG reduction goals and improve air quality. Soon SoCalGas will use RNG at its filling stations (photo courtesy SoCalGas).

Renewable natural gas (RNG) is produced from the methane generated in landfills (landfill gas – LFG), wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs), food processing and dairies and depending on its source, can be low-carbon or in some cases, even carbon-negative. It can be used to fuel trucks and buses, to generate electricity, to heat homes and businesses, and to cook.

Capturing the methane from these waste sources and using it for fuel has two benefits: It keeps methane, a greenhouse gas (GHG), from entering the atmosphere and contributing to climate change, and it reduces the use of traditionally-sourced natural gas.

Using renewable natural gas at our natural gas fueling stations will help clean the air for Southern California communities and support the state’s clean energy future. SoCalGas will continue to work to increase the use and production of renewable natural gas, meeting consumer preferences and helping to achieve state’s climate and air quality goals while efficiently using existing infrastructure, said Sharon Tomkins, SoCalGas’ Vice President of Customer Solutions and Strategy.

Improving air quality by reducing emissions

Because RNG can be stored and delivered through the existing natural gas infrastructure, SoCalGas can help California reduce GHG emissions and meet the state’s renewable energy and air quality goals in a cost-effective way. In addition, unlike solar and wind energy, RNG is available when needed—day or night.

Using renewable natural gas to fuel near-zero emission heavy-duty trucks in Southern California will help solve our air quality problems while lowering climate impacts. It’s good to see SoCal Gas taking the lead on this renewable natural gas project, said Dr Joseph Lyou, President and CEO of the Coalition for Clean Air and a member of the South Coast Air Quality Management District Governing Board.

RNG is an important tool for reducing emissions from California’s transportation sector, which is responsible for about 40 percent of the state’s GHG emissions and more than 80 percent of its smog-forming (NOx) emissions.

The Antelope Valley Air Quality Management District has long partnered with SoCalGas to promote natural gas in transportation, and their fueling station in Lancaster. Adding renewable natural gas to the mix makes natural gas-fueled transportation even more friendly to our air quality and environment, said Marvin Crist, Chairman of the Governing Board for the Antelope Valley Air Quality Management District.

The latest generation of natural gas engines for heavy-duty vehicles can reduce smog-forming emissions by more than 90 percent compared to the cleanest heavy-duty diesel trucks. When these ultra-low emissions natural gas trucks are fueled with RNG, GHG emissions are reduced by at least 80 percent.

Natural gas trucks can reduce smog-forming emissions by more than 90 percent compared to diesel trucks which can help create cleaner and healthier communities. We need technology that is available and reliable that will help us clean the air now. Renewable natural gas is an immediate solution. We hope that the increased availability of this renewable fuel will encourage more trucking fleets to switch to natural gas to create a cleaner air for our families in California, said Anabella Bastida, Executive Director of the Council of Mexican Federations in North America (COFEM).

Near zero emission natural gas trucks are helping achieve the state’s GHG goals and improve air quality around California’s transportation corridors. Because of this, California provides incentive funding to help trucking fleets transition to renewable natural gas. According to SoCalGas, close to 70 percent of natural gas fleets in the state are fueled with RNG.

Athens Services is committed to our environment and the communities that we serve, and our CNG vehicles that collect municipal waste are just one of those examples,” said Gary Clifford, Executive Eice President for Athens Services, a Southern California waste collection and recycling company.

Creating more renewable energy for California

As California policymakers have sought to expand the production and use of renewable energy, SoCalGas has been working to expand the production and use of RNG in California.  The utility has worked with waste management company CR&R Environmental to begin injecting RNG produced at CR&R’s anaerobic digestion (AD) facility in Perris into SoCalGas pipelines.

In June, it joined two French utilities and a Canadian natural gas utility in a new collaboration to advance the research and development of RNG and technologies such as power-to-gas (P2G). The company also assists California fleets in obtaining state funds designated for the purchase of near-zero emissions heavy-duty natural gas trucks.

SoCalGas has supported the implementation of California Senate Bill (SB) 1383, considered the most aggressive law in the nation designed to tackle short-lived climate pollutants.  Last year, SoCalGas worked with other natural gas utilities in the state to solicit the dairy biomethane pilot projects required by the legislation.

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