Fuelling Solid Waste Fleets with Renewable Natural Gas

By Sarah Stadnyk, Solid Waste & Recycling.

With the transportation sector contributing the largest portion of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Canada, renewable natural gas (RNG) from food waste and organic material is the next game-changer in vehicle fuelling and the biggest opportunity for near-term, cost-neutral sustainability.

RNG can be generated from any source where organics undergo anaerobic digestion, such as landfills, residential source separated organics treatment facilities, and wastewater treatment. RNG is cost-competitive with diesel fuel, interchangeable with natural gas, and carbon neutral.

“Farms and municipalities are well-positioned to convert their biogas to RNG, a locally produced alternative fuel suitable for on-farm use and for trucking fleets,” says Jennifer Green, executive director of the Canadian Biogas Association.

Fuelling with RNG is an excellent opportunity for the solid waste sector, as they can locally produce vehicle fuel on-site for their fleets. “For the waste industry, RNG just makes sense,” says Bruce Winchester, executive director of the Canadian Natural Gas Vehicles Alliance. “Fifty per cent of fleets in North America are natural gas powered anyway, taking the product they carry around and making it a fuel is the perfect way to close the loop.”

Environmental Benefits of RNG

Generating biogas from landfill gas (LFG) and diverting organics to biogas facilities has several environmental benefits. The 2013 Canadian Biogas Study by Kelleher Environmental found that converting just half of the food waste discarded in Canada into biogas would avoid 2.2 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year, the equivalent of taking 490,000 cars off the road. The biogas process recovers nutrients from organic waste and returns them to the soil, resulting in improved soil health. Water sources are protected by destroying pathogens in organic material, which reduces the risk of potential environmental impact.