This year, the Triangle Clean Cities Coalition partnered with the Land of Sky Clean Vehicles Coalition to host two renewable natural gas (RNG) workshops at the Wake Technical Community College RTP campus in Durham and the Biltmore Estate in Asheville on January 14th and 15th. The workshops brought together a diverse group of stakeholders and community leaders to discuss all things RNG. The Clean Cities events were sponsored by Dominion Energy and included an exciting panel of experts working in various parts of the industry.
Ryan Childress of Dominion Energy began the Triangle area workshop by examining the RNG production process, including a case study about swine waste. RNG is produced from the anaerobic digestion of biomass and can be derived from landfills, organic plant/animal matter, wastewater from treatment facilities, or food processing waste. He also presented the environmental benefits, technical considerations, and initiatives that are currently present to implement this technology.
The policy and regulations that are currently in place for RNG were then introduced by Natasha Beilstein of EcoEngineers. She explained the importance of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) programs. The information presented focused on how these programs are structured and implemented, the environmental attributes, and how they were monetized.
The third panelist, Paul Sandsted of NGV America discussed the importance of natural gas vehicles (NGVs) in the reduction of greenhouse gases, as heavy duty vehicles emit large amounts of CO2, as well as criteria pollutants such as NOx. He explained the lower cost opportunities available for this technology and how the demand for NGV’s is increasing.
Following Sandsted’s presentation were Kraig Westerbeck of Smithfield Renewables and Erika Bailey from the City of Raleigh Public Utilities. They each demonstrated how their organizations are incorporating RNG into their business models. Smithfield aims to reduce 25% of its carbon emissions by 2025. Their carbon footprint largely consists of emissions from manure management operations (nearly 45% of their total emissions, a vast majority of which is methane). In response, they have developed manure treatment technologies to convert the captured methane into pipeline-grade RNG. Ms. Bailey discussed the bioenergy recovery project at Neuse River Resource Recovery Facility which will address the aging biosolids handling infrastructure, the future capacity needs, and a sustainable solution for the future. The new process will allow for the biogas to be converted into RNG and produce high quality low odor biosolids. Lee McElrath from Dominion Energy closed out the Triangle workshop by examining the accessibility of RNG.
In Asheville, Sierra Nevada Brewing has implemented biogas generation and wastewater treatment technologies. Jeff Muston, Sierra Nevada’s utilities supervisor, presented this information and stated that in 2019 this system produced 10% of the power consumed at the brewery. Sarah Frasier explained how New Belgium Brewing is working towards capturing and using the biogas that is being produced from the newly constructed anaerobic digestor and wastewater treatment plant. Some of the proposed options included fueling brewery trucks, selling biogas to a local municipality for use within their fleet, and reintroducing it into the pipeline.
These workshops were very successful, with well over 100 people in attendance combined. They provided an in depth understanding of RNG, allowed for different members of the community to interact with one another and learn about RNG, and generated dynamic discussions between participants. We look forward to having more events like this in the future.
Written by: Claire Kubitschek, Clean Cities Intern