RINs Open New Market for Landfills

By Arlene Karidis, Waste 360.

In 2014 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classified landfill gas as a cellulosic biofuel, a step that some industry analysts believe could blossom into a biogas gold rush. With this biofuel classification, landfill operators began leveraging assets to tap into a new market: Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) credits.

RINs are serial numbers assigned to batches of biofuel for the purpose of tracking its production, use and trading. The credits are often purchased by oil companies, that buy them to meet certain investment thresholds on the percentage of gas produced from renewable sources.

The industry is both guarded and optimistic about the use of RINs for landfill gas. It’s uncertain whether the regulatory framework driving it will remain intact under the Trump administration. Though California and Oregon have moved forward with their own clean fuel programs, creating a healthy market for landfill gas across the country. Canada may soon follow suit, project some stakeholders. 

For now, “Federal law mandates year over year that [oil companies’] total fuel portfolio have greater shares of cellulosic biofuel. That’s why so many [landfills] are getting into transportation fuel. We have a high- value commodity that big oil companies need,” says David Cox, director of operations for the Coalition for RNG. According to the Coalition’s records, about 30 landfills are selling RINs for transportation fuel as of January 2017.

RINs can be carried over, or oil refineries and other obligated parties can trade them once they meet their requirements. This in itself could possibly create a market, believes Brian Lips, energy policy project coordinator for North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center.