Methane capture grants boost to California natural gas

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The California Department of Food and Agriculture announced last month it would be tackling one of the biggest the state’s biggest greenhouse gas headaches. California has awarded more than $67 million to 43 dairy digester projects across the state, mostly within the impoverished Central Valley, to fund methane-capture technologies.

In California, livestock and dairies alone represent 55 percent of the state’s methane emissions. Producing 25 times the impact of carbon dioxide over a 100-year period, methane is one of the most critical contributors to climate change in California. The $65 billion and 180,000 in-state jobs generated annually by the industry further complicates matters.

“Every dairy farmer cares about the environment, but these improvements can be very expensive,” dairy farmer Richard Wagner said. Wagner is a grant recipient from San Joaquin County. “We are contributing a significant portion of the total project costs, but without funding from the state, we wouldn’t be able to move forward.”

That’s why Sacramento’s latest scheme will see methane waste produced from decomposing manure collected and converted into pipeline quality natural gas. The produced gas will then be injected directly into California’s existing natural gas pipelines and used as an ultra-clean, low cost fuel for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, as well as energy for homes and businesses.

“Dairy cows are incredibly prolific energy resources,” California Natural Gas Partnership’s Todd Campbell said “One cow can produce enough transportation fuel to drive a car across the country and five cows can produce enough methane to power one home for an entire year.​”

This project will enable SoCalGas to add up to 2.26 billion cubic feet of RNG each year to its pipeline system, enough to fuel more than 1,200 Class 8 heavy-duty trucks. Replacing just 16-20% of traditional natural gas with RNG would reduce emissions the equivalent amount as electrifying all buildings in California.

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