Join the NW Alliance for Clean Transportation on Wednesday, September 9, from Noon – 1:00 PM, for the first of three September Seminars. Learn from Ameresco, DMT Clear Gas Solutions, and Live Oak Bank about what is required to take an RNG project successfully from start to finish. Ameresco has built more than 40 biogas projects, including several RNG projects that Ameresco owns & operates at landfills and wastewater treatment plants. Listen while one of Ameresco’s lead project developers summarizes critical elements required to carry an RNG project from beginning to end, e.g.: sourcing feedstock, getting the right off-take agreement, as well as identifying and securing grants, tax credits, and other project incentives. DMT Clear Gas Solutions have deployed robust gas-conditioning systems from Hungary to Hawaii. Learn from Robert Lems about what is needed to successfully mitigate pernicious trace elements, such as siloxanes and H2S, in a reliable and cost-effective manner. Live Oak Bank has provided important debt financing to many RNG projects. Listen while Max Vernier explains what is required from the lender’s perspective.

To register for this webinar, click here.

PART I of II

The transportation sector has entered a period of dynamic change. For roughly a century, we have propelled ourselves with internal combustion engines that burn liquid fossil fuels. At present we are evaluating a menu of fuel choices to drive us into the future, including propane, electricity, hydrogen fuel cells, and natural gas.

When contemplating the future of transportation, it can be helpful to think about our original transition from horses to motor vehicles. Between 1890 and 1915 we experimented with many means of propulsion, including steam-driven vehicles such as the Stanley Steamer, battery-electric vehicles like the Becker Electric, as well as vehicles that burned liquid fuels in internal combustion engines like Ford’s Model T.

We are entering a similar period of change, and we would do well to use the fuel that offers the best financial and environmental benefits for each application. There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution when it comes to transitioning our transportation sector from gasoline and Diesel to cleaner fuels.

What are the Options?

  • Propane is compelling because existing vehicles may be easily retrofitted to accommodate this low-cost fuel. While propane is cost-effective, it does not offer meaningful Greenhouse Gas reductions over gasoline and Diesel.
  • Electricity has distinct advantages insofar as electric propulsion is extremely clean, very efficient, and quite cost-competitive. In this way, battery-electric propulsion is a perfect solution for passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks and buses. Recent experience, however, has shown that battery-electric technology is not reliable or cost-effective for medium- and heavy-duty applications.
  • Hydrogen fuel cells are attractive because their exhaust consists of steam. At present, however, hydrogen fuel cells are not cost-competitive, and fuel is difficult to find outside of Southern California.
  • Conventional Natural Gas (CNG) and Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) offer a good solution for medium- and heavy-duty fleets that return to base on a daily basis, such as transit, refuse, and cement fleets. CNG and RNG may also work well for log and drayage trucks.

PART II of II

Why Natural Gas?

  • Natural gas is a proven technology that is cost-competitive and reduces both criterion air pollutants and GHG emissions.
  • CNG and RNG are well-suited for use in congested areas where human health is compromised due to poor air quality. This is because CNG and RNG reduce criterion air pollutants, such as NOx and particulate, by 90% over the cleanest Diesel engines.
  • As such, CNG and RNG offer cost-competitive and commercially-ready technology that benefit human health and combat the effects of climate change.

What is Renewable Natural Gas?

Both Conventional Natural Gas and Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) contain an identical CH4 molecule. RNG is a green fuel that comes from waste material, such as garbage, human waste, and animal manure. As such, RNG uses waste streams that are part of the current lifecycle to create a useful product that burns cleanly and significantly reduces Greenhouse Gas emissions as compared with gasoline or Diesel.

GHG reductions accrue when using CNG and RNG as opposed to gasoline or Diesel
Conventional (fossil) Natural Gas (CNG) 5% – 15%
Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) sourced from a landfill 40% – 50%
RNG sourced from a municipal wastewater treatment plant 75% – 85%
RNG generated from animal manure 100%

With the above context in mind, we would do well to be thoughtful when making transportation-fuel choices moving forward. Just as “Silver Bullet” isn’t the best beverage for all occasions, there is no single silver bullet that will ween us off of Diesel and gasoline. Renewable propane may be a good choice for First Responders, where rapid acceleration is important. Battery-electric technology is almost certainly the right choice for passenger cars and light-duty vehicles, but battery-electric technology has proven both expensive and unreliable in medium- and heavy-duty applications. . While the notion of steam as exhaust is extremely compelling, hydrogen-fuel technology is not ready for commercial deployment, and this fuel type is not readily available. We have yet to identify a solution for long-haul, heavy-duty trucking with inconsistent routes and multiple destinations. We do know, however, that RNG, with CNG as back-up fuel, works very well for fleets that return to base on a regular basis. That’s why you can’t find a transit bus, a refuse truck, or a drayage vehicle in Southern California that isn’t already burning RNG. To that end, let’s pursue an “all-of-the-above” strategy that embraces the best technology for each application.