Stations pump fuel from landfill methane

Natural gas fuel company Clean Energy Fuels has launched the continent’s largest effort to fuel vehicles with landfill gas.

The company’s renewable natural gas will use methane that would otherwise be vented into the atmosphere or simply burned at landfills, said Harrison Clay, president of Clean Energy’s renewable fuels division. In a bid to become a leader in renewable fuels, Clean Energy plans to make the waste gas available at its 400 refueling stations nationwide, the company said.

Using biomethane produced from the waste, Clean Energy displaces natural gas or petroleum-based fuels extracted from the ground for energy use.

“When we take that methane and we then process it and use it to displace fossil fuels, there’s no incremental carbon addition to the existing carbon cycle,” Clay said in an interview with FuelFix.

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The California Air Resources Board estimates that replacing gasoline with the renewable natural gas cuts emissions by 90 percent.

Clean Energy, which is backed by Texas investor T. Boone Pickens and is based in Newport Beach, Calif., is currently selling the renewable natural gas as part of its fuel mix, combining it with other natural gas that sells for more than $1 less than the equivalent of a gallon of diesel or gasoline.

On one day this summer, the company has sold as much as 100,000 gallons of the biogas, which it calls Redeem, in its fuel mix, Clay said.

“We expect that this year alone we’ll get through 15 million gallons of biomethane vehicle fuels,” Clay said.

Clean Energy is acquiring some of the fuel from companies that produce it at landfills. The company is not taking gas from landfills that use biomethane to fuel onsite power plants, Clay said.

Clean Energy also has built two of its own sites to produce the biomethane, including one in Michigan and one in Texas. Clean Energy is currently developing a new site in Tennessee, he said.

Clean Energy is using the fuel at its stations throughout the country, including at dozens that have been built to serve long haul trucks that use natural gas as a cheaper and lower emitting fuel than diesel, Clay said.

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The company still will use large quantities of natural gas produced by oil and gas companies nationwide.

“We will continue to take advantage of the abundant and inexpensive supplies of the conventional natural gas that we have,” Clays said. “So this isn’t moving away from that by any means, this is just about adding to it.”

Still, the biomethane effort responds to large fleet customers that want ever cleaner sources of energy, Clay said.

“There’s nothing on the horizon in the alternative fuels universe that really can provide these kinds of environmental benefits at this price,” he said.


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