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US$3 million award to SoCalGas for new RNG technology

Published by , Editorial Assistant
Hydrocarbon Engineering,

Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) has announced that the California Energy Commission (CEC) has awarded the company a US$3 million grant to fund the next phase of development of a new technology that doubles the amount of renewable energy created from the decomposition of organic material at wastewater treatment plants.

The new process, known as hydrothermal processing (HTP), reduces greenhouse gas emissions by three times that of traditional anaerobic digestion and costs about half. HTP is highly efficient, using heat and pressure to capture 86% of the energy in the waste and using only 14% to process it. A pilot project, to be located at the Central Contra Costa Sanitary District Wastewater Treatment Plant in Martinez, California. The work is being funded in part by the CEC, SoCalGas and other private participants.

"Technological advances, like hydrothermal processing, are an important part of SoCalGas' vision to be the cleanest natural gas utility in North America and will help us meet our commitment of to deliver renewable natural gas to homes and businesses," said Ron Kent, Technology Development Manager at SoCalGas. "This new technology holds the potential to convert not only wastewater, but landfill, forestry and food waste into carbon-neutral renewable energy that displaces fossil fuels and helps California meet its climate goals."

"The best thing about HTP is how simple it is," said Corinne Drennan, who is responsible for bioenergy technologies research at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. "The reactor is literally a hot, pressurised tube. We've really accelerated hydrothermal conversion technology over the last seven years to create a continuous, and scalable process which allows the use of wet wastes like sewage sludge without the need for drying it first. And we're excited to see HTP piloted beyond the lab, at an actual waste treatment plant."

"The project will lay the groundwork for full-scale commercial hydrothermal processing plants that could revolutionise the way renewable energy is produced at wastewater treatment plants," said James Oyler, president of Genifuel Corporation, which produces the HTP equipment patented by PNNL. "Unlike anaerobic digestion, this technology completely eliminates leftover biosolids. Getting rid of the biosolids hauled to landfills would significantly reduce costs for wastewater treatment facilities."

Scientists at the University of California, Davis, estimate that the state's existing organic waste could produce enough RNG to meet the needs of 2.3 million homes.

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Downstream news North America downstream news Biofuel news