Colorado Energy Office Study Finds State Could Eliminate 1.4M Metric Tons of Emissions Annually by Utilizing Renewable Natural Gas

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DENVER – October 25, 2019 – The Colorado Energy Office today released a Renewable Natural Gas in Transportation: Colorado Market Study that provides a preliminary assessment of Colorado’s potential to produce renewable natural gas from major organic waste sources—including landfills, wastewater, animal and food waste—for use in on-road transportation systems.

Renewable natural gas (RNG), also known as biomethane, is made by capturing and refining biogases emitted from decomposing organic materials such as food scraps, animal manure and sewage. Once refined, RNG is interchangeable with conventional natural gas and can be transported and utilized via the same pipelines and infrastructure. As a transportation fuel, RNG can replace high-carbon fuels in trucks and buses.

With Colorado’s growing population and significant agricultural activities, the state has a considerable potential resource for producing RNG. Based on organic feedstocks and existing technologies to capture and refine methane-rich biogases produced as waste materials decompose, the study finds Colorado’s RNG resource could replace approximately 140 million gallons of diesel, or 24% of the state’s total diesel consumption for transportation, eliminating approximately 1.4 million metric tons of CO2 from fuel combustion annually.

“Colorado has a significant opportunity to produce and utilize RNG in medium- and heavy-duty vehicles throughout transportation systems in the state,” said Will Toor, executive director of the Colorado Energy Office. “With RNG, the replacement of diesel fuel and mitigation of methane emissions from agricultural, municipal and commercial waste management practices could provide meaningful climate and clean air benefits through reduced greenhouse gas and nitrogen oxide emissions.”  

To date, Colorado’s RNG potential remains largely untapped. While there is a significant opportunity for RNG development in Colorado, there is also a range of economic, regulatory, geographic and policy barriers, which the study details. There may be potential for RNG use in the state outside the transportation sector as well, such as sourcing by electric utilities or natural gas distribution utilities. The study identifies additional areas of research for a Phase II "roadmap" study that CEO will conduct this fiscal year.

Authored on behalf of the office by Energy Vision, the study is available for download here. Funding will be available to public and private fleets for RNG vehicles and equipment through Colorado’s recently updated Volkswagen Diesel Emissions Beneficiary Mitigation Plan.