Oregon could meet as much as one-fifth of its current natural gas needs with locally produced renewable natural gas, according to a new report by the Oregon Department of Energy.
Renewable natural gas can be produced in a variety of ways, such as by harnessing methane from waste in landfills, dairy farms and sewage treatment plants. It dramatically reduces greenhouse gas emissions. If Oregon realized its full potential to tap renewable natural gas, that could prevent the annual release of approximately two million metric tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, according to the report.
Fostering the production of more renewable natural gas also could provide economic benefits by replacing natural gas now exclusively imported from outside the state with locally made energy.
The Department of Energy report was mandated by the Oregon Legislature last year it passed Senate Bill 334.
Renewable natural gas, also known as biomethane, is a clean form of biogas that's 98 percent methane. It can be used interchangeably with conventional fossil-fuel natural gas, as transportation fuel, heating and cooking fuel, electricity generation or as feedstock in chemical manufacturing.
There are untapped opportunities to manufacture renewable natural gas via food waste, slaughterhouse waste, breweries/distilleries, chicken manure, beef and dairy cattle manure and municipal sewage sludge. Metro, the Portland area's regional government, is phasing in a new mandate to recycle commercial food waste, and is seeking an anaerobic digester at the Portland sewage plant to convert that waste into renewable natural gas.
There also are opportunities in tapping material left over after timber and agricultural harvests.
Anaerobic digesters are already used to produce biogas at 26 of Oregon's largest wastewater treatment plants, according to the report.
There also are nine anaerobic digesters located on Oregon farms, though four are not operating at this time. Those tap renewable energy from Oregon dairy cows, which produce more than 6.7 billion pounds of manure annually.
The Department of Energy made several suggested policy changes to help nurture the nascent industry here. Those include lifting restrictions on natural gas companies to buy and sell it to customers, allowing local gas distribution companies to recover pipeline interconnection costs through their rates; and explore financial incentives.
The full report, including detailed data, is available at https://www.oregon.gov/energy/Data-and-Reports/Pages/Reports-to-the- Legislature.aspx.
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