Renewable Natural Gas Advocates Push for More Generous Federal Renewable Fuel Limits

By Richard Nemec, Natural Gas Intelligence. 

Advocates for increased use of renewable natural gas (RNG), or biomethane, warned that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could unintentionally curb future RNG production with a new way of calculating standards for the increasingly popular fuel for natural gas vehicles (NGV) and other near-zero emission technologies.

At issue is an early draft Renewable Fuel Volume Standard (RVO) for cellulosic biofuels that has drawn the ire of the Sacramento, CA-based Coalition for RNG even before it becomes an official EPA proposal. RNG is the major source of cellulosic biofuel, according to the coalition.

RNG projects turn cellulosic waste, such as garbage and manure, into natural gas-quality fuel that in turn can be made into compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG) for use in powering NGVs or other types of equipment crucial to lowering greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The RNG Coalition is suggesting an RVO of at least 421 million gallons is needed, and the EPA draft standard calls for 238 million gallons, some 73 million gallons less than the agency's 2017 RVO of 311 million gallons. Following expected Federal Register publication later this month, EPA would take comments on its proposal through October, with a final rule published by December, said David Cox, the RNG Coalition's operations director and general counsel.

"EPA's action changes the methodology by which future fuel availability is assessed," Cox said. "The new methodology uses only renewable identification number (RIN) data, rather than continuing the past practice that also looked at data from projects with pending renewable fuel standard (RFS) pathway applications and projects under development with relevant online dates."

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