SoCalGas biomethanation system to be used in dairy digester

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SoCalGas’ biomethanation reactor system will be used to help produce renewable energy as part of a power-to-gas demonstration at a dairy digester in Maine.

The power-to-gas process converts renewable electricity into hydrogen. The biomethanation reactor converts the hydrogen and biogenic CO2 into methane that can be used on-site or injected into the grid. The system will be installed at an anaerobic digester facility in Clinton in early 2023.

This process will source organic waste from six dairy farms in Clinton and other areas in the state to create biogas that can be used for heating, cooking, and other processes.

SoCalGas, Plug Power, Electrochaea, and the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) collaborated to develop the reactor in Colorado. The biomethanation reactor will be transferred to Maine as a key component of this DOE-funded project.

Summit Natural Gas, of Maine, was recently awarded $5 million (€4.3 million) from the DOE to demonstrate power-to-gas with biomethanation process at a dairy digester in Clinton.

“The development of the biomethanation reactor was a collaborative effort and the technology will help us reach our net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions target,” said Neil Navin, SoCalGas’ vice president of clean energy innovations.

“The reactor being utilised across the country shows its effectiveness at a significant scale. Working with other organisations in creating innovative technologies is part of the climate solution.”

Nancy Dowe, NREL’s senior research scientist, commented: “SoCalGas has been a pioneer in developing the biomethanation process with NREL and Electrochaea where self-replicating single-celled organisms transform CO2 and hydrogen into renewable methane.

“SoCalGas funded the design, fabrication, and validation of the bioreactor system at NREL that was successfully commissioned in 2019. Now, with this new project at a dairy digester, we feel like we are graduating to a real biogas source and enabling impactful research in the field at a meaningful scale.”

The system is capable of recycling CO2 from multiple sources, such as ethanol plants and anaerobic digesters, preventing GHG emissions and displacing fossil methane consumption.

Summit’s digester project is among 22 selected projects focused on producing cost-effective, low-carbon biofuels that are receiving funding from the DOE.