New electrolyzer technology can convert the unwanted carbon dioxide in raw biogas directly to pipeline quality natural gas using renewable electricity
Simplifies process of storing surplus renewable electricity as renewable natural gas
LOS ANGELES, April 19, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) and Opus 12 today announced the successful demonstration of a new process to convert the carbon dioxide in raw biogas to methane in a single electrochemical step, a critical improvement in the science of upgrading biogas to pipeline quality natural gas, and a simpler method of converting excess renewable electricity into storable natural gas.
Opus 12, a clean-energy startup incubated in the prestigious Cyclotron Road program at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, used a new type of Polymer Electrolyte Membrane (PEM) electrolyzer to convert carbon dioxide to methane, showing that instead of wasting the carbon dioxide in raw biogas, it can be converted to methane using renewable electricity.
The research is part of SoCalGas' development of technologies known as power-to-gas (P2G), a cutting-edge method of storing excess renewable energy. Because gases can be easily stored for long periods of time using existing infrastructure, power-to-gas technology has two distinct advantages over storing renewable electricity in batteries.
"This groundbreaking innovation holds the potential to simplify storing renewable electricity in the form of zero-carbon renewable natural gas that can be used for home heating, water heaters, or clean trucks to transport goods," said Yuri Freedman, SoCalGas senior director of business development. "Across Southern California, people prefer natural gas four to one over electricity because it is more affordable and reliable. Technological advances like this are one more example of how we can protect the environment while protecting consumer choice."
"Southern California has ideal conditions for this type of solution, with significant biogas resources and high penetration of renewable electricity," said Nicholas Flanders, Opus 12's chief executive officer. "SoCalGas has identified this regional advantage, and with their scale and expertise in P2G and biogas, the company has been the ideal partner for this project."
Raw biogas is mostly methane, but also contains about 30 to 40 percent carbon dioxide, which is typically vented to atmosphere in a biogas production facility. While other power-to-gas systems convert water into hydrogen and oxygen using renewable electricity, Opus 12's method would likely be implemented adjacent to biogas production so it can make use of a greenhouse gas that would otherwise contribute to climate change.
This feasibility study was the first phase of research that will also explore new catalysts, modifying the catalyst layer formulation, and other ways to enhance the system's methane conversion performance.
Headquartered in Los Angeles, SoCalGas® is the largest natural gas distribution utility in the United States, providing clean, safe, affordable and reliable natural gas service to 21.7 million customers in Central and Southern California. Its service territory spans 22,000 square miles from Fresno to the Mexican border, reaching more than 550 communities through 5.9 million meters and 101,000 miles of pipeline. More than 90 percent of Southern California single-family home residents use natural gas for home heat and hot water. In addition, natural gas plays a key role in providing electricity to Californians—about 60 percent of electric power generated in the state comes from gas-fired power plants.
SoCalGas has served communities in California for 150 years and is committed to being a leader in the region's clean energy future. The company is working to accelerate the use of renewable natural gas, a carbon-neutral or carbon-negative fuel created by capturing and conditioning greenhouse gas emissions from farms, landfills and wastewater treatment plants. SoCalGas is a subsidiary of Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE), a Fortune 500 energy services holding company based in San Diego. For more information visit socalgas.com/newsroom or connect with SoCalGas on Twitter (@SoCalGas), Instagram (@SoCalGas) and Facebook.
SOURCE Southern California Gas Company
Melissa Bailey, SoCalGas, Office of Media and Public Information, (213) 244-2442, (213) 453-6537