In North America, we rely on natural gas to provide the majority of our space and process heat. It is also safe to assert that, in most cases, the next MegaWatt hour will be generated through the combustion of natural gas. For example, 80% of the heat used for food processing is derived from natural gas.

In order to make meaningful progress toward addressing climate change, gas utilities are taking steps to reduce the carbon footprint of their fuel mix. Gas utilities have five tools that will enable them to reduce the carbon intensity of their fuel, including:

  • Energy efficiency;
  • Reduce gas flaring and fugitive methane emissions;
  • Tighten up pipeline infrastructure to minimize methane leakage;
  • Surplus renewable electricity may be used to convert water into Renewable Hydrogen (RH2); and,
  • Decomposition of organic waste may be used to produce Renewable Natural Gas (RNG), e.g.: at landfills, at commercial & municipal wastewater treatment plants, as well as on dairies and confined animal feeding operations.

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 Ø  > than 100%

Food processing plants may offer a special opportunity for the production of RNG. Many food-processing facilities have their own wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). Often times, gas generated at commercial WWTPs is captured in covered lagoons and then sent to a flare. These types of waste-management scenarios offer significant opportunities to improve gas collection, production, and utilization.

Because the Federal Renewable Fuel Standard classifies biogas generated at food-processing facilities as an “Advanced Biofuel”, RNG generated at such projects will only earn D5 Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) when used as a transportation fuel. More valuable D3 RINs, however, are generated at landfills, municipal WWTPs, as well as from animal manure. As such, RNG from food-processing facilities will not deliver as much economic benefit as RNG from landfills or municipal WWTPs when used as a transportation fuel.

To that end, RNG produced at food-processing plants may offer a cost-competitive resource that gas utilities may use to reduce the carbon footprint of their fuel mix. For example, a recent analysis of anthropogenic GHG emissions associated with RNG that will be produced at a dairy-processing plant in Washington State revealed that this fuel will have a carbon footprint that is more than 95% lower than conventional natural gas. In this way, food processors may help gas utilities reduce the carbon intensity of their fuel mix in a cost-effective manner.

At present, 32% of US energy consumption is fueled by natural gas. Unlike electricity, which must be used immediately or lost forever, RNG and RH2 can be stored for use when needed. A diversified decarbonization strategy will embrace all technologies, including cleaning up both the electricity grid and natural gas pipeline network. With this context in mind, we encourage an “All-of-the-Above” strategy as we work to decarbonize our energy future.


  • New NGV engines are cleaner than alternatives. The Cummins Westport Ultra-Low NOx engine is 90 percent cleaner than the latest available diesel engine. It beats electric motors based on full fuel-cycle comparisons.
  • Natural gas vehicle fuels reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A vehicle operating on liquefied natural gas (LNG) emits 11 percent less CO2 than a comparable diesel vehicle. That difference increases to 17 percent for vehicles running on compressed natural gas (CNG).
  • RNG is the best for greenhouse gas reduction. Capturing methane and reusing it as a vehicle fuel – replacing a fossil fuel – reduces greenhouse gas emissions by up to 115 percent.
  • Dollar for dollar, NGVs are the best option for reducing NOx when replacing old diesel vehicles. For example, it would cost $85 to remove a pound of NOx by replacing a conventional diesel regional-haul truck with an electric one. Switching to a cleaner diesel technology would cost $54/pound, but reducing a pound of NOx would only cost $39/pound with a natural gas vehicle.
  • Low operating costs. Competitive fuel costs and low maintenance bring payback to the fleet operator in as few as 18 months. And natural gas costs remain stable – an important factor for fleet operators.
  • Proven technology. Once limited to return-to-fleet vehicles, natural gas is powering long-haul trucks across the U.S. More than 23 million NGVs are in use around the world.
  • Quiet! NGVs are up to three times quieter than diesels, something that can make a big difference on busy urban streets.
  • It’s in all our interests to reduce conventional diesel use. Diesel emissions are associated with serious health issues. Everyone is susceptible to health problems from diesel soot, but children, the elderly and those who already have lung conditions are most at risk. The Union of Concerned Scientists quotes research indicating that “tens of thousands of people die prematurely as a result of particulate pollution,” of which diesel is a principal source. The same paper says, “Diesel emissions of nitrogen oxides contribute to the formation of ground level ozone, which irritates the respiratory system, causing coughing, choking, and reduced lung capacity.”

Source of Union of Concerned Scientists paper:

Source of financial and comparative emissions data: Attached document from NGVA.

Other data from AGA Magazine Sept./Oct. 2017 (used verbatim).

JOIN US as we launch the Northwest Alliance for Clean Transportation, a group of diverse stakeholders with a common mission to promote a cleaner transportation environment through expanded deployment of natural gas vehicles (NGVs), particularly in the medium and heavy-duty transportation industry.