PG&E capturing methane from CA dairies as new source for natural renewable energy

ByDan Ashley and Timothy Didion KGO logo
Sunday, February 12, 2023
PG&E capturing methane from CA dairies as new source for energy
PG&E is capturing methane from California dairies as a new source for natural renewable energy.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- It might not be the hike most people would take. But turns out, climbing a giant pile of cow manure can offer a stunning view of California's energy future.

"So in 2022, we interconnected our first four projects for renewable natural gas. So that was a huge milestone for us," said Christine Cowsert, senior vice president for Gas Engineering at PG&E.

The utility now has millions of cubic feet of renewable natural gas flowing through its pipelines, created from methane captured from manure at dairies in the Central Valley.

And Cowsert says the network is growing fast.

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"We're leveraging any opportunity we can find to bring additional renewable natural gas onto our system," she said.

The methane is processed by partner companies like Aemetis, which operates a high-tech facility near Modesto and has also laid miles of pipeline.

"And that gas is then being cleaned up and transmitted into PG&E's pipeline, which runs throughout the state of California, and ultimately is going to be used as transportation fuel to replace carbon based or fossil fuel diesel," said Aemetis President Andy Foster.

This refers mainly to big rig diesel trucking, which creates a significant amount of vehicle pollution.

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They say the reduction in emissions from using renewable natural gas is equal to taking thousands of vehicles off the road over the course of a year. And while Dairies are a significant source of methane, PG&E believes other sources could soon be added to the system as well, including wastewater treatment plants and industrial landfills.

"Landfills are a huge source of renewable natural gas across the country. And so there are really plenty of places where this hasn't been leveraged in the state of California that we're beginning to explore. And we have ultimately a goal of 15% renewable natural gas in our gas system at PG&E by 2030," Cowsert said.

It's a goal, steadily becoming reality, as dozens of dairies dotting the Central Valley go on line, to feed a fast growing alternative energy network.

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