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Renewable NatGas Advocates Push for More Generous Federal Limits

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."

The limited data points on the draft standard methodology resulted in what Cox called "a significantly lower RVO" for the draft rule.

EPA's intention in changing the methodology was to simplify the annual process of projecting volumes rather than trying to limit production, Cox said. However, if not changed, "the new methodology certainly could have that impact."

Touted as a factor in expanding the use of natural gas among heavy duty NGV vehicle fleets, RNG in California 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 built a 1.4-mile pipeline that was scheduled to be in place earlier this year to link CR&R's anaerobic digestion facility in Perris, CA, with its broader distribution pipeline system. That permits 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.

Since the low-NOx heavy duty vehicle engine's introduction last year, its use in combination with RNG has been promoted by the industry as a game changer.

Landi Renzo USA recently reported on successful initial crash testing of one of it CNG fueling systems in a Ford pickup truck and is offering to crash test other NGV systems to make sure they comply with National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and Department of Transportation requirements.

Crash testing regulations are in place, according to federal regulators, "to reduce deaths and injuries occurring from fires that result from fuel leakage during and after motor vehicle crashes." Landi Renzo USA officials are encouraging purchasers of NGVs to get verification from manufacturers that their products have been crash tested as required by the federal standards.

Landi Renzo USA plans to complete more crash tests of its CNG equipment by the end of July and report on the results shortly after that.

Elsewhere, Love's Trillium CNG recently reported the opening of another of its 29 CNG fueling stations in Pennsylvania for Rabbit Transit in York, PA. It is the latest public access station in a network that Trillium has been developing in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation under a 20-year, $84.5 million program.

Trillium intends to open an additional 13 stations in the state this year and five more in 2018. With stations already operating in Johnstown and Donora, Trillium is eyeing openings later this year in State College, Ebensburg, Greensburg, Beaver, Meadville, New Castle, Allentown, Lebanon, Altoona, and Gettysburg.

In the marine transportation sector, the use of LNG continues to grow globally. ExxonMobil, Eagle LNG and Florida-based shipping company Crowley Maritime Corp. have agreed to work collaboratively to support growth for LNG as a marine fuel in North America.

Crowley is set to deploy two LNG-fueled container ships between Jacksonville, FL, and Puerto Rico, and Eagle LNG is establishing an LNG fueling infrastructure in and around the Jacksonville area.

With experience throughout the LNG chain, ExxonMobil will provide its technical support and expertise to help the other two companies carry out safe bunkering operations and sell LNG bunker fuel to vessel operators. 

Recent Articles by Richard Nemec

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