The Promise And Opportunity Of Renewable Natural Gas Vehicles In 2022

California Fleets Have Now Realized This Potential And Paved The Way For Carbon Negative Fleet Operations Across The Country

RNG Landfill Development Project In Springfield, Nebraska (Image Courtesy Of US Grain)

This article was written by Brandon Jones.

2021 was a big year for renewable natural gas (RNG). Also known as biogas, RNG is natural gas produced from methane emissions from landfills, farms, wastewater plants, and food waste. And there’s reason to believe 2022 will be an even bigger year.

Two developments are especially noteworthy. First, in April 2021, Natural Gas Vehicles for America (NGVAmerica) and the Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas (RNG Coalition) announced that data on US natural gas-fueled vehicles (NGVs) from 2020 revealed that RNG made up 53% of all on-road natural gas vehicle fuel. This was the first time RNG had achieved a majority use in NGVs.

Second, data analyzed by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) found that in 2020, California fleets running on RNG achieved overall carbon negativity for the first time, with an annual average carbon intensity score of -5.845 gCO2e/MJ.

The CARB finding brings into reality the previously theoretical and unique promise of RNG’s carbon negativity. Because the generation of RNG supply involves the capture or sequestration of carbon that would otherwise have been emitted to the atmosphere, NGV operations have the potential to achieve net-negative carbon emissions. California fleets have now realized this potential and paved the way for carbon-negative fleet operations across the country.

We are excited about these developments at Clean Fuels Ohio as we turn the page on a new year because of the opportunities RNG is poised to bring Ohio in 2022, both environmentally and economically.

According to the 2021 annual Clean Jobs Midwest Report, advanced transportation is Ohio’s fastest growing clean energy sector. Its 3% jobs increase in 2020 brought the total number of advanced transportation jobs in Ohio to 16,668.

Moreover, Ohio has a strong foundation in RNG generation upon which to build. Argonne National Laboratory’s Renewable Natural Gas Database shows that Ohio accounts for 5.7% (nine facilities) of US RNG production facilities. Ohio (with two) is second only to California (with four) in number of operational facilities producing RNG from food waste.

In addition to the existing strength in RNG generation and clean transportation sector jobs in Ohio, there are multiple funding opportunities available for RNG vehicles and fueling infrastructure in the recently passed federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). The economic landscape is ripe for the growth of the state’s RNG industry.

While the expansion of the nation’s electric vehicle (EV) charging network has been one of the most discussed features of the IIJA’s clean transportation sector commitments, the IIJA also commits investments in other alternative fuels. US$2.5 billion will be competitively allocated to alternative fueling and charging station projects, inclusive of infrastructure for vehicles running on hydrogen, propane, and natural gas as well as for EV supply equipment (EVSE). Another US$5 billion will fund a Clean School Bus Program for replacing diesel buses with low- and zero-emissions buses.

Both IIJA provisions demonstrate an openness to multiple fuel pathways for reducing the nation’s overall transportation-based emissions and open the door for RNG to make its strong case for funding and adoption.

As clean transportation advancements make zero-to-negative carbon emissions solutions for vehicle operations more widespread and accessible, fuel diversity continues to be important for the variety of vehicle applications utilized by fleets and motorists. Fuel diversification through RNG adoption is an attractive option for ESG initiatives focused on clean transportation, providing unique opportunities for carbon-negative operations in the present and future.

About The Author

Brandon Jones is a consulting services manager at Clean Fuels Ohio.