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Renewable Natural Gas: A Game Changer

Key Points
  • A more environmentally friendly transportation fuel, renewable natural gas, is gaining ground.
  • Renewable natural gas produces up to 70 percent fewer emissions than gasoline and diesel.
  • The demand for RNG is growing; the fuel could represent 38 percent of the NGV market by 2018.

RNG pump

The drive to meet emissions regulations and sustainability goals is fueling increased interest in renewable natural gas (RNG) for fleet applications. 

Derived from methane produced from the decomposition of organic waste (biogas), RNG is then upgraded to pipeline quality or transportation fuel standards. Benefits include:

  • Up to 70 percent cleaner than gasoline and diesel (tail pipe emissions)
  • Reduced well-to-wheel emissions of fleets by 90 percent or more versus diesel
  • Full interchangeability with conventional CNG, with similar engine performance

Even when blended with conventional natural gas at just 20 percent, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are significantly reduced. When 100 percent RNG is combined with a low NOx engine, overall GHG emissions are lower than an electric or fuel cell vehicle. RNG sources are also under development that are 125 to 400 percent below the diesel baseline for carbon emissions produced per unit of energy.

Fueling sustainability

More vehicle fleets are switching from compressed natural gas to RNG to take advantage of its benefits:

  • Republic Services is expanding RNG fueling of its CNG trucks in 20 states, tripling its usage of RNG from 2016.
  • Torrance Transit is switching its CNG buses to RNG at an estimated annual consumption of some 5.5 million gasoline gallon equivalents (GGEs).
  • Fair Oaks Farms (Indiana) uses RNG to reduce the amount of diesel that its milk tanker/trailers use by 2 million gallons per year.
  • Clean Energy Fuels, a major RNG supplier, has seen its volumes grow from 20 million GGEs in 2014 to approximately 60 million GGEs in 2016, almost a 200 percent increase.

LA Metro Transit is switching all of its fleet to RNG fueled low-NOx engines. The project is set for completion in 2025. LA Metro expects to save another $5 to 6 million a year in fuel costs and reduce NOx emissions by 90 percent.

Low-NOx engines produce emissions that are 99.8 percent cleaner than a 2010 diesel truck, according to the University of California-Riverside. Another study tested two low-NOx engines for 45,000 miles with no mechanical problems. 

RNG moves the market

The RNG market is moving faster. During the last five years, 31 RNG projects have come online, according to the Coalition for RNG. That's compared to just 22 projects over the previous 25 years. Over the next year alone, 22 new RNG projects are expected to come online. If all projects are completed, RNG could reach 38 percent of the total NGV market by 2018. 

RNG is expected to represent 29 percent of CNG/LNG fueling in 2017; it grew by nearly 83 percent from 2014 to 2016. 

An economic driver

There are currently more than 2,200 biogas facilities across the U.S. The American Biogas Council (ABC) says there's still plenty of waste available for converting to RNG:

  • 66,500,000 tons of food waste per year
  • Manure from 8 trillion farm livestock
  • Sludge from 31 trillion gallons of wastewater every day

With the potential to build another 13,500 new biogas and RNG systems across the U.S., ABC estimates this could add $40 billion in construction spending into the economy, creating 335,000 short-term construction jobs and 23,000 permanent jobs. 

A cost-effective and clean-burning fuel, RNG can provide benefits for your fleet, your community and the environment. 

We can help

National Grid has tools and energy solutions to grow your business and foster strong client relationships. For more information, contact us at 844-280-4325 or retrofit@nationalgrid.com.  

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