Sustainability & Energy Efficiency

Biogas: Another Part of the Sustainability Picture

Businesses with aggressive sustainability goals can aim for full 100 percent renewable status by considering different resources for powering their facilities, including an emerging resource: biogas. Biogas is natural gas derived from the decomposition of organic matter and can be produced from landfills, agricultural and industrial waste digesters, and wastewater treatment plants.

Organic material is delivered to a digester, for example, which breaks down the matter into biogas, liquids and solids.1 The biogas product is mostly methane – the primary component of natural gas – carbon dioxide and water vapor. Biogas can replace traditional natural gas supplies after it is first processed to remove non-methane compounds. Biogas becomes renewable natural gas or “RNG” once cleaned and injected into a commercial pipeline system and can be used to produce heat and electricity.

In addition to heat and electricity, renewable natural gas can be used to power vehicles. Constellation works with compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling stations to make biogas available as vehicle fuel and to become eligible to generate renewable vehicle fuel credits.

The Environmental Impact of Biogas

When compared with natural gas, carbon emissions are 40 percent lower in biogas engines.2 In addition, when used to power vehicles, biogas reduces greenhouse gas emissions by up to 91 percent relative to gasoline.3

Although biogas, like natural gas, produces carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas, the carbon in biogas comes from plant matter, making biogas production carbon-neutral and not adding to greenhouse gas emissions.4 Ultimately, fossil fuels replaced by biogas will lower CO2 emissions.

In addition to reduction in carbon emissions, the inclusion of biogas – in addition to solar, wind or other renewable energy sources – might ensure that a business’ access to renewable power is more constant and uninterruptible.

When compared with natural gas, carbon emissions are 40 percent lower in biogas engines. In addition, when used to power vehicles, biogas reduces greenhouse gas emissions by up to 91 percent relative to gasoline.

“Large municipal and government agencies, RE100 companies (i.e., influential businesses committed to 100 percent renewable electricity) and Fortune 500 companies and utility distribution companies are some examples of companies who might opt to use biogas for heating or electricity reasons, in addition to a variety of other renewable sources, in order to reach or maintain sustainability leader status” says Adam Waterson, a Constellation senior business development manager.

Apple, for example, announced in spring 2018 that they are globally powered by 100 percent renewable energy, including biogas. 5

Sustainability Claims

Companies that use biogas to power or to heat their facilities can claim that they are using natural gas that is 100 percent renewable, which also can be a direct reduction in Scope 1 emissions

When biogas is consumed for electricity purposes, users might also be eligible for renewable energy certificates. (RECs). A REC is created when 1 MWh of electricity is generated from a renewable source. RECs allow you to make environmental claims about a reduction in Scope 2 emissions. Learn more about Scope 1 and Scope 2 Emissions on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) website.

Lastly, CNGs that work with Constellation to make renewable natural gas available as vehicle fuel can become eligible for renewable vehicle fuel credits such as Renewable Identification Numbers (RINS) in the Renewable Fuel Standard program, a federal initiative to expand the nation’s renewable fuels sector, and other state-level credits such as California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard. RNG and natural gas usually flow together within the pipeline, making RINS the primary means for tracking biofuel production and showing the EPA that obligated parties are meeting annual quotas.

The evolving sustainable energy market provides opportunities for Constellation to offer more simplified solutions to customers in an increasingly complex environment. Stay tuned and subscribe to our future communications about ways to meet your business’ sustainability goals by visiting www.constellation.com/subscribe.

References

  1. https://americanbiogascouncil.org/resources/why-biogas/
  2. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10934529.2018.1459076
  3. https://www.eesi.org/papers/view/fact-sheet-biogasconverting-waste-to-energy
  4. http://biogas.ifas.ufl.edu/FAQ.asp
  5. https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2018/04/apple-now-globally-powered-by-100-percent-renewable-energy/

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