RNG Poised for Growth in New Administration

By Marcus Gillette, Biomass Magazine

By the time this issue hits your mailbox, Donald Trump will have been sworn into office as president of the U.S. With the incoming Trump administration naming appointees with strong ties to the petroleum industry, not surprisingly, there was much discussion at the RNG 2016 Conference in San Diego in early December, about how the next few years would play out for the renewable natural gas (RNG) industry.

The RNG industry is positioned to continue thriving. Johannes Escudero and David Cox, executive officers of conference host RNG Coalition, kicked off the two-day event programming by depicting the positive state of the industry. “The RNG industry has never been stronger,” they affirmed, noting that the industry has built more projects in the past five years than in the previous 25 years. 

There are more than 53 RNG projects in the U.S., 43 of which inject into the natural gas pipeline system. These projects convert a portion of the more than 70 million tons of organic waste generated per year in the U.S. into ultra-clean compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas transportation fuel and renewable heat and power. 

A panel moderated by Evan Williams of Cambrian Energy assessed the factors that financiers and developers consider when evaluating the viability for prospective projects. Two other panels delved into fuel regulations that drive RNG development. During one panel, representatives from the California Air Resources Board, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, and U.S. EPA discussed the futures of California’s Low Carbon and Very Low Carbon Fuel Standards, Oregon’s Clean Fuels Program, and the federal renewable fuel standard (RFS). The other addressed hot button issues under the RFS, including pipeline injection guidance, the Renewables Enhancement and Growth Support Rule, and prospective RNG to electric vehicle fuel pathways.

Production and use of RNG to displace gasoline and diesel in heavy-duty vehicles has rapidly grown since RNG transportation fuel became eligible to generate cellulosic biofuel RINs, the corresponding credits attached to gallons of RNG fuel under the RFS. Domestic production grew from the equivalent of 20 MMgy of petroleum fuel in 2013, to just under 90 MMgy in 2015. RNG is on pace to supplant more than 250 MMgy by 2018.