There’s been a lot of news lately about natural gas, especially with the Jordan Cove project going on in Coos County, Oregon. Let’s take a quick look at some information to clear up common misconceptions about natural gas.
There are actually two different types of natural gas that are often referred to interchangeably, but they are very different: natural gas and renewable natural gas.
Natural gas, the substance that is likely fueling your furnace or your stove, is a fossil fuel. Just like the gasoline fuel you put in your car, natural gas formed deep in the ground millions of years ago. When plant life and animals died and were buried under layers of sand, silt, and other rock, the remains decayed under pressure and transformed into coal, petroleum oil, and natural gas.
Natural gas is composed mainly of methane. Methane gases occur every day when plant and animal life decay. It’s that smell you might get now and then from the water treatment plant as sewage is being processed.
This natural gas is often found in large cracks and spaces of overlying rock or in pores within shale, sandstone, and other sedimentary rock. Fracking is a process used by gas companies to drill and break up the rock so that the natural gas can be retrieved and pumped out. There’s a lot of concern about whether or not the fracking process may be harming the structure of the earth in these areas, resulting in earthquakes.
So no, ordinary natural gas is not renewable.
What IS renewable is biomethane, commonly referred to as RNG or “renewable natural gas” or sometimes “biogas.”
Biomethane is produced in current time, using waste animal and plant materials to create a controlled decay that produces methane for transformation into renewable natural gas.
Where does the waste animal and plant materials come from? Some comes from farmers. Just as you might toss waste fruits and vegetables onto a compost heap to break down, farmers can ship waste plant materials to manufacturers of RNG. Manufacturers will also take manure from farmers.
Another source of material for RNG are our landfills. Since the 1980’s, landfills have begun farming the methane gasses that form from decaying materials and thus stopping them from entering our atmosphere. This trapped methane is then transformed into RNG. Take a look at our article about the Fresh Kills Landfill that led the way with this technology.
Want to learn more about Renewable Natural Gas and other alternative energy solutions?
Visit us at the Rogue Valley Clean Cities Coalition today! The Coalition works to enhance the livability and sustainability of Rogue Valley residents.