What is Renewable Natural Gas?
Renewable natural gas (RNG), or biomethane, is a type of biofuel made from methane produced by decomposing organic material (“biomass”) in oxygen-free (“anaerobic”) conditions. Essentially, gas from the material is captured, and other matter such as water, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen sulfide are removed to purify the natural gas to pipeline purity standards. RNG is comparable to conventional natural gas and can travel in the same pipeline grid as natural gas; or, once converted to compressed or liquid form, may be used for transportation fuel.
In contrast to conventional natural gas, RNG is made from recent waste material such as substance from landfills, animal manure, or even solid waste from water treatment plants. Because these substances are reoccurring in our environment daily, this type of natural gas is considered renewable. There is no finite amount of source material to produce RNG.
Is Renewable Natural Gas a new energy source?
Not really! The first use of RNG was in 1982 in New York State. Fresh Kills Landfill opened in 1948. By 1971, Fresh Kills received half of the garbage collected in New York City. As a waste site fills with decomposing garbage, methane gasses form and must be released. The traditional method for doing this is to install gas wells into the ground that capture the gasses and send them to a series of lateral pipes that burn off the methane and releases a less harmful substance, carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere.
Beginning in 1982, Fresh Kills implemented an innovative process to recycle the methane gas and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The landfill converted those pipes to transport the gas from the wells to a purification plant. There, the gas is purified, compressed, and collected. Today, RNG produced from the 2,200 acre Fresh Kills landfill is used to supply power to 22,000 homes on Staten Island. The system works well, and over 30 landfills across the nation have adopted this same technique to produce RNG.
Why use Renewable Natural Gas?
Of course, choosing to use a renewable energy source means that as it is consumed, we can produce more. We don’t need to worry about running out of RNG or finding sources of fuel in the ground.
Another tremendous benefit of using RNG is that we are using naturally occurring methane gasses for energy instead of allowing them to naturally escape into our atmosphere. If not converted into RNG, these methane gasses would be contributing to the greenhouse effect around our planet. In this manner, RNG is often referred to as a “carbon neutral fuel.”
Want to learn more about how you can choose energy sources like Renewable Natural Gas?
Visit us at the Rogue Valley Clean Cities Coalition today! The Coalition works to enhance the livability and sustainability of Rogue Valley residents.