Sempra Energy's Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas), on Wednesday declared it is all-in on renewable natural gas (RNG), or biomethane, as it works to become the “cleanest” natural gas utility in North America.
The new initiative aims to make RNG 5% of supply by 2022 and 20% by 2030. The utility plans to seek approval from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to increase the percentage of RNG in its system after asking regulators for permission to allow customers to voluntarily choose RNG for their homes and businesses. A decision from the CPUC is expected by the end of this year.
SoCalGas officials are convinced there are sufficient RNG supplies produced from waste streams that include landfills, sewage treatment plants and agriculture.
State senate bill (SB) 1383 requires that 40% of the methane capture come from waste stream sources. More than 80% of California's fugitive methane emissions are from sources covered in SB 1383.
A study by the University of California, Davis in 2016 calculated that the state has the potential to produce nearly 100 Bcf of RNG annually. "In addition, out-of-state sources are significant and growing," SoCalGas spokesperson Chris Gilbride said.
NW Natural has begun a similar transformation in offering RNG to its customers, but on a much smaller scale. An analysis by the U.S. Department of Energy set current RNG volumes nationwide at 1 Tcf with the projection to reach to 10 Tcf in 2030.
Since the start of the year, SoCalGas has inked an agreement with biofuel producer Calgren to get RNG from a network of 12 digesters at Tulare County dairies. The utility has 24 methane capture projects in the state either operating or in development.
SoCalGas CEO Bret Lane said Californians "deserve clean, safe, and reliable energy that every family can afford," and the initiative is an "important step" in delivering it.