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Biogas Roadmap Could Advance Development of Renewable Natural Gas

Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture unveiled its Biogas Opportunities Roadmap, a document that highlights policy options for reducing methane emissions through the increased production and use of biogas. Last week, we reported on the efforts the Administration is taking to address upstream emissions associated with the oil and gas industry. These reports and plans are part of the Administration’s Climate Action Plan Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions. A fact sheet released by the Dept. of Agriculture says that the Biogas Opportunities Roadmap “outlines strategies to overcome barriers limiting further expansion and development of a robust biogas industry in the United States.” According to the Roadmap, there are 239 biogas production facilities in operation at livestock operations around the country. While not focusing as much on the potential of landfill and water treatment facilities, the report does indicate that there are currently 639 landfill sites and 1,241 waste water treatment sites where biogas systems are in operation. The report indicates that the number of such systems could increase by more than 400 (landfill) and 2,400 (waste water). The Roadmap indicates that 11,000 agricultural facilities also could come online with the proper support. “These biogas systems could produce enough energy to power more
than 3 million American homes and reduce methane emissions equivalent to 4 to 54 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions in 2030, the annual emissions of between 800,000 and 11 million passenger vehicles.”

The Roadmap highlights steps that the government can take to foster this increased production of biogas (taken from Agricultural Dept. Fact Sheet but abbreviated here):

• Promoting Biogas Utilization through Existing Agency Programs: The various federal agencies intend to leverage over $10 million in research funding to enhance the economic viability and surrounding benefits of the biogas systems;
• Fostering Investment in Biogas Systems: USDA will lead efforts to improve the collection and analysis of industry financial and technical data needed to track the performance of anaerobic digesters, evaluate current loan and grant programs for opportunities to broaden the financing options available for biogas systems;
• Strengthening markets for biogas systems and system products: Review opportunities to overcome barriers to integrating biogas into electricity and renewable natural gas markets, for example, though modernizing existing federal incentives provided for renewable energy generation.
• Improving communication and coordination: USDA will establish a Biogas Opportunities Roadmap Working Group that will include participation from DOE and EPA, as well as the dairy and biogas industries. The Working Group will collaborate with industry to publish a progress report in August 2015, which identifies and prioritizes policies and technology opportunities to expand the biogas industry and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Roadmap also highlights the recent decision by EPA to treat biogas as a cellulosic feedstock under EPA’s renewable fuel standard, a step that is expected to advance the use of biogas as a transportation fuel. The report also states that the U.S. Department of Energy will “include renewable natural gas from biogas as a clean energy option for research and development in the Vehicle Technology Office’s Fuel and Lubricant Technologies Program to drive additional research on the utilization on biogas as a transportation fuel. It also states that DOE “will also increase the visibility of their existing commitment to support the use of renewable natural gas as a part of the Clean Cities Program’s.”

The Fact Sheet and Roadmap may be viewed at: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentidonly=true&contentid=2014/0 8/0166.xml; http://www.usda.gov/oce/reports/energy/Biogas_Opportunities_Roadmap_8-1-14.pdf.