While most dairies in California are known for the milk and cheese they produce, farms within Merced County are beginning to produce a new and very different product by converting waste from cattle into a clean, green, renewable source of energy.
Under a partnership between Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), Maas Energy Works and California Energy Exchange (CEE), manure produced from thousands of cows will be converted to renewable natural gas (RNG), further advancing California’s greenhouse gas reduction goals and providing PG&E customers with yet another source of renewable energy.
This project was primarily funded through the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Dairy Biomethane Pilot Program, established as part of California’s strategy to reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants, including methane.
Marking a first for PG&E, RNG from Maas Energy’s facilities in Merced began flowing into PG&E’s gas transmission system in mid-December through a “mid-market” third-party pipeline. This project effectively diverts methane that would have been released into the atmosphere from dairies in Merced County and converts it to RNG, a net ultra-low carbon emission fuel source. Approximately 55 percent of California’s methane emissions come from dairies and livestock, according to the California Air Resources Board 2018 Greenhouse Gases Emissions Inventory.
“Our work with Maas Energy and California Energy Exchange has enabled years of research and development to reach implementation. Together, in partnership with the dairies, we’re able to take greenhouse gas emissions out of the atmosphere and, in turn, provide clean renewable gas to PG&E’s residential and business customers, including the transportation industry,” said Chris DiGiovanni, Director of Wholesale Marketing and Business Development for PG&E. “PG&E was an early supporter of California’s statewide goal to reduce methane emissions to 40 percent below 2015 levels by 2030, and projects like this are key steps toward this effort.”
This project produces RNG (also known as biomethane) by capturing methane at the source from 15 dairy farm partners in Merced County, and conducting a process called anaerobic digestion. From there, pipeline-ready RNG is transported to PG&E’s gas system via CEE’s pipeline where it is introduced at a receiver station near Panoche. The Maas Energy project, which includes gas production and cleaning equipment, as well as the interconnection facilities to move RNG from farms into the CEE and PG&E transmission pipelines, was funded in part by incentives from the CPUC under Senate Bill 1383 (Lara, 2016).
The private pipeline operated by CEE enables remote dairies with the infrastructure to connect an economically viable source of renewable energy to the PG&E pipeline system. Historically, access and a lack of cost-effective alternatives to transport RNG to PG&E’s pipeline system hindered otherwise viable partnerships with dairies. Mid-market pipelines, such as the CEE pipeline transporting RNG from the Maas Energy project, provide a necessary solution to make methane capture a cost-effective source of RNG for California.
“Maas Energy Works, and our 15 dairy family partners, are grateful to PG&E for delivering our clean cow gas to the market. Merced County is the nation’s second largest dairy county and we expect this project will make Merced a leading producer of renewable transportation fuels as well,” said Daryl Maas, CEO for Maas Energy. “This effort prevailed through permitting, COVID, construction challenges, and many other ‘first ever’ milestones. PG&E’s team did a great job implementing a first ever mid-market transmission through California Energy Exchange, and ensuring the project successfully performed under the California Public Utilities Commission’s biomethane programs, which were a huge support to making this plan a reality.”