The California Air Resources Board (CARB) said its measurement of renewable natural gas vehicle (NGV) portfolios earlier this year showed their carbon intensity was less than zero under the statewide low carbon fuels standard (LCFS).*

In 2Q2020 data recently released, CARB said the renewable NGV fuel mix achieved a carbon negative status, marking a first for the LCFS program for any low carbon fuel portfolio.*

In defining carbon neutrality, or net zero emissions, the International Energy Agency said it is any carbon dioxide (CO2) released into the atmosphere from human activity that is balanced by an equivalent amount being removed. “Becoming carbon negative requires a company, sector or country to remove more CO2 from the atmosphere than it emits,” the global energy watchdog noted. 

The LCFS, which measures the climate impact of various motor vehicle fuels, is a market-based incentive program aimed at decreasing the carbon intensity of California transportation fuels. According to CARB, the carbon intensity of any given fuel measures all greenhouse gas  emissions associated with the entire lifecycle of a transportation fuel.

Renewable natural gas (RNG) used as an on-road fuel may achieve a net carbon-negative result as credits can be used to replace diesel, said NGVAmerica President Daniel Gage. “In effect, you get a double carbon intensity reduction of sorts.”

RNG made up nearly 77% of all NGV fuels in the LCFS program last year. More than $1 billion of investments are said to be underway to develop a wide array of in-state RNG production projects.

Advocates see CARB’s negative carbon rating as a selling point. Other forms of RNG, such as those produced from dairy waste, may have carbon intensity ratings lower than a battery in electric vehicles powered by solar or wind, according to the NGV Partnership.

Meanwhile, California energy officials and lawmakers have urged Gov. Gavin Newsom to include hydrogen among the alternative transportation fuels when the state plans to ban the sale of gasoline vehicles after 2035. California Energy Commission (CEC) Chairman David Hochschild, CARB Chair Mary Nichols, and state officials emphasized the need to remain neutral on which alternative fuels are used to replace gasoline, particularly in the long-haul trucking space. Separately, a group of state lawmakers urged the CEC in August to allocate more funds for hydrogen fueling.

The CEC is investing $20 million annually for an initial network of 100 public hydrogen fueling stations. Forty-four hydrogen stations were open as of August, said spokesperson Michael Ward. CEC also has an outstanding solicitation of up to $115.7 million in grant funds for 110 hydrogen fueling infrastructure projects in 2021-2024, he told NGI.  

*Clarification: The California Natural Gas Vehicle Partnership originally incorrectly reported that the California Air Resources Board data revealed the average carbon intensity of all compressed natural gas vehicle fuel in the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard program was negative for the first time in program history. The findings reveal the average carbon intensity of all renewable compressed natural gas RNG vehicle fuel in the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard program was negative for the first time in program history.