Three California state agencies have set aside $319 million in funding for six pilot projects to convert cow manure from 45 dairies into biomethane that will be intermixed in natural gas utility pipelines as clean biomethane, or renewable natural gas (RNG).
A 2016 state law that created the program is aimed at 40% reduction by 2030 of methane emissions from California dairy operations, which represent a quarter of the state's overall methane emissions. All six of the pilot projects are expected to be operational and connected to local utility gas systems in the next two years, according to state officials.
Located in the state's agricultural San Joaquin and Sacramento Valleys, the pilot projects will demonstrate the collection of the RNG from dairy digesters and its injection into utility gas pipelines. State officials said producing biomethane for use with traditional natural gas eliminates significant emissions volumes of methane from the dairy cows.
"The pilots chosen will provide us with valuable information about the interconnection process and hopefully facilitate other biomethane projects," said Commissioner Clifford Rechtschaffen.
Working in tandem on the program are the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). An interagency committee composed of CPUC, CARB and CDFA representatives selected the projects and developers.
The CPUC said it created the dairy biomethane pilot program as part of the state's strategy to reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants, including methane, which is considered to be 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas (GHG).
With the nearly four dozen dairies participating in the pilots, state officials are expecting some "significant reductions" in GHG emissions from animal manure by using the RNG as a transportation fuel. More than $300 million infrastructure and operating expenses will be spread over 20 years, a CPUC spokesperson said.