- Title: Manure, trash and wastewater: US utilities get dirty in climate fight
- Date: 23rd October 2019
- Summary: PIXLEY, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES (RECENT) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF COWS BEING MILKED ON TURNING WHEEL AT DAIRY FARM CLOSE-UP OF MILK COMING OUT OF COW AS IT IS BEING MILKED DAIRY FARMER JOEY AIROSO MILKING COW (SOUNDBITE) (English) DAIRY FARMER JOEY AIROSO, SAYING: "We actually looked at this as an opportunity to not only maintain the value of our facility but also to increase the value by getting more out of the cow than just milk and beef." COWS GOING AROUND ON CIRCULAR WHEEL AS THEY ARE MILKED (SOUNDBITE) (English) DAIRY FARMER JOEY AIROSO, SAYING: "You know it is actually exciting. We've been producing gas and sending it to Calgren since August of last year and so far it's ... everything has been going, almost according just to plan." COWS ON MILKING WHEEL FARM WORKER MILKING COW (SOUNDBITE) (English) DAIRY FARMER JOEY AIROSO, SAYING: "I felt like we needed to invest in something that would be quite simple on the farm and let us kind of do what we do, which is to produce milk here. And so, this project with Calgren and Maas Energy really made sense because it really got all the farmers around here working together." VARIOUS OF COWS AT FARM AND STREAMS OF WATERED-DOWN COW MANURE FLOWING TOWARDS METHANE DIGESTER PIT VIEW PIT FILLED WITH COW MANURE COVERED IN PLASTIC SHEETING A.K.A. METHANE DIGESTER PIPE EXTRACTING METHANE FROM COW MANURE PIT PAN OF METHANE DIGESTER PIT NEAR DAIRY FARM TRACTOR IN FIELD AIROSO TALKING TO SHARON TOMKINS, VICE PRESIDENT OF STRATEGY AND ENGAGEMENT AT SOCALGAS AIROSO AND TOMKINS TALKING WITH SOCALGAS OFFICIALS IN FRONT OF METHANE DIGESTER (SOUNDBITE) (English) SHARON TOMKINS, VICE PRESIDENT OF STRATEGY AND ENGAGEMENT AT SOCALGAS, SAYING: "We have wind and solar which are renewables but there is another renewable natural gas or renewable energy source that we really haven't tapped into as much as we can and that is renewable natural gas. It is taking our waste streams and converting them into energy, putting them to work. And we think that's a really important piece of the overall puzzle in trying to solve climate change." VARIOUS OF CALGREN ETHANOL PLANT IN PIXLEY SIGN READING: "CLEAR GAS SOLUTIONS" PIPE WITH "FLAMMABLE GAS" WRITTEN ON IT SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA GAS COMPANY WRITTEN ON SHIRT OF SOCALGAS PROJECT MANAGER TY KORENWINDER/KORENWINDER TALKING TO CALGREN PLANT MANAGER (SOUNDBITE) (English) SOCALGAS PROJECT MANAGER TY KORENWINDER, SAYING: "So, what we are doing here is we are capturing methane from our dairies in the San Joaquin Valley and that would be considered renewable natural gas. In its raw state, it comes to this facility, it starts at this end and moves through the process to the membranes and the process behind me that does final polishing. After it is finished with that final polishing it is considered biomethane or renewable natural gas and doesn't look any different than the natural gas that is in our pipeline currently." VARIOUS OF PIPING AT THE CALGREN METHANE PLANT WHERE THE METHANE FROM THE DAIRY FARMS' METHANE DIGESTERS IS FILTERED (SOUNDBITE) (English) SOCALGAS PROJECT MANAGER TY KORENWINDER, SAYING: "So if you think about a sort of circular economy or circular energy stream, it is taking that manure that comes off of the dairy process. And if you are making hot chocolate on your stove, you are taking and creating the energy that was used to make that milk is now powering the stove." VARIOUS OF COWS BEING MILKED AT DAIRY FARM
- Embargoed: 6th November 2019 09:43
- Keywords: Cows methane manure natural gas California farmers
- Location: PIXLEY, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES
- City: PIXLEY, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES
- Country: USA
- Topics: Environment
- Reuters ID: LVA001B2BHH6V
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:Joey Airoso has always been proud of his cows, whose milk goes into the butter of national dairy company Land O'Lakes. Now he has something new to brag about: the vast amounts of gas produced by his 2,900-head herd is powering truck fleets, homes and factories across the state of California.
"It's pretty incredible if you think about it," Airoso said during a recent tour of his 1,500-acre farm, as a stream of watered-down manure flowed from cow sheds into a nearby pit. There the slurry releases methane that is captured and sent via a pipeline to the local Calgren ethanol plant where it is filtered and then eventually piped into fueling stations and buildings.
Airoso is tapping into a growing market among U.S. utilities for so-called renewable natural gas, or biomethane that is being driven by the fight against climate change.
For farmers, it is a way to get ahead of a wave of greenhouse gas regulation and make a bit of cash at the same time. And for utilities that buy or transport the gas, it is a way to respond to the increasing demands of customers and lawmakers to cut their reliance on fossil fuels.
Renewable natural gas can come from manure, landfills or wastewater and is interchangeable with gas drilled out of the ground. It cuts greenhouse gas emissions by ensuring significant volumes of methane that would have been produced anyway never reach the atmosphere. Methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide when it escapes into the air unburned.
Nationwide, more than a dozen utilities have started developing renewable natural gas production through partnerships with farmers, wastewater treatment plants and landfill operators, while nine have proposed price premiums for customers who choose it as a fuel, according to the American Gas Association industry group. Renewable natural gas is currently between four and seven times more expensive to produce than fossil gas, a gap that its proponents hope will narrow as the fuel becomes more widely used.
California's SoCalGas, the nation's largest natural gas distribution utility, is one of the industry's top proponents of the alternative fuel. It has committed to making renewable natural gas 20 percent of its supply by 2030, said Sharon Tomkins, vice president of strategy and engagement.
She said California has enough biomethane potential "to make a significant dent in reducing the overall emissions from both the agricultural sector as well as reducing the carbon intensity of our gas stream."
Until now, nearly all the market for biomethane has come from bus fleets and other vehicles that are able to use state and federal subsidies to make the fuel competitive with fossil gas. Production of the fuel doubled between 2015 and 2018 to 304 million ethanol gallons equivalent thanks to the incentives, according to a report from consulting firm Bates White.
Today about three quarters of renewable natural gas production is still used for transportation.
Some states are more aggressive in bolstering the renewable natural gas industry than others.
Oregon, for example, passed a bill in August that sets a goal of making renewable natural gas account for 30% of what is carried in the state's gas pipeline network by 2050.
California, meanwhile, has mandated a 40 percent reduction in methane emissions by 2030, something that will spell specific regulatory curbs on agriculture in the coming years. Methane accounts for about 9 percent of the state's greenhouse gas emissions, half of which comes from livestock.
For Airoso, that made tapping into the growing biomethane market an easy decision. "We've got a $10 mln investment here, so I had to figure out how I protect my investment," he said.
(Production: Omar Younis & Krystian Orlinski)
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