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Renewable Natural Gas Gets New Pipeline Link in California

Touted as a factor in expanding the use of natural gas among heavy duty vehicle fleets, renewable natural gas (RNG), or biomethane, is getting a new pipeline link in Southern California with a joint project of waste management company CR&R Environmental Inc. and Sempra Energy's Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas).

SoCalGas is building a 1.4-mile pipeline that is scheduled to be in place in early April to link CR&R's anaerobic digestion facility 60 miles east of downtown Los Angeles in Perris, CA, with its broader distribution pipeline system. This will allow the first direct interconnection between a major RNG source and the SoCalGas pipeline system.

CR&R currently uses the RNG to fuel its 320-vehicle fleet of waste-hauling trucks in Southern California.

SoCalGas officials said they expect to complete construction of measurement, monitoring and control equipment in early June, allowing RNG from the digestion facility to be piped into the utility distribution pipeline system for use by CR&R's natural gas vehicle (NGV) fueling sites and other NGV fueling facilities.

CR&R's anaerobic digester was supplied by Eisenmann USA and Greenlane Biogas. It uses source-separated organic waste collected in cities' green collection carts to produce carbon-neutral renewable methane, a SoCalGas spokesperson said. "That gas is further refined using pollution-free technology and distributed through the utility pipeline infrastructure."

The new SoCalGas pipeline and the cleanup system to produce the pipeline quality RNG are being funded by CR&R and public sector grant support from a combination of the California Energy Commission (CEC), California Department of Resources' CalRecycle unit, and the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

"Using RNG to fuel CR&R's trucks is another important milestone toward our goal of increasing the use of this carbon-neutral fuel in our pipeline system," said Lisa Alexander, SoCalGas vice president for customer solutions and communications. Alexander said the utility wants to expand the use of RNG in California as another way to reduce the state's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

State officials, including CEC Commissioner Janea Scott, praised the SoCalGas-CR&R project, calling it part of the state's transition to cleaner fuels.

Separately, on Tuesday the CEC announced that it plans to cut $2.8 million from the state's alternative/renewable fuel and vehicle technology program next fiscal year (2017-18) because of new requirements in the proposed state budget that would eliminate business and residential utility ratepayer fees as a source of funds for the program. The 2017-18 program is penciled in for $97.2 million, instead of the previously expected $100 million, a CEC spokesperson said.

Under the current fiscal budgetary proposal, the nine CEC alternative/renewable fuel programs -- including separate units for NGVs and NGV fueling infrastructure -- will each see 2.8% funding decreases compared to this current (2016-17) fiscal year.

CEC should have $9.7 million for NGV grants and another $2.4 million for NGV fueling infrastructure funds.

In a lead commissioner's report released earlier this month by the CEC, the state's goals for reducing GHG emissions on a phased basis between 2020 and 2050 were reiterated as the drivers for the alternative/renewable fuel and vehicle program. It aims to meet its state legislative-set mandate to "develop and deploy technology and alternative and renewable fuels in the marketplace, without adopting any one preferred fuel or technology."

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