SocalGas unveils the largest ‘animal waste to energy facility’ in the US


The largest natural gas distribution utility in the US has announced the completion of the Calgren dairy renewable natural gas facility in Pixley.

The natural gas facility, developed in partnership with Calgren Dairy Fuels, is the first of its kind in California

Calgren will collect cow manure from four dairy farms and process it using an anaerobic digester to produce methane emissions which will then be used to come up with renewable vehicle fuels.

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Calgren plans to partner with eight additional dairy farms by the end of 2019.

The renewable natural gas will be integrated into SoCalGas’ pipeline and will be used as fuel for ultra-low emissions trucks and buses, to generate clean electricity and heat homes and businesses.

SocalGas has provided Calgren with a $5 million incentive, authorised by the California Public Utilities Commission, to support the project.

Jeff Walker, vice president of customer solutions at SoCalGas, said: “As part of our vision to be the cleanest natural gas company in North America, we have committed to replacing 20% of the natural gas we deliver today with renewable natural gas, primarily from organic sources, by 2030.

“Renewable natural gas is a ready, reliable and realistic way to reduce GHG emissions and pollution from heavy-duty transportation and buildings and will help ensure that families and businesses have an affordable option for heating and cooking as California transitions to a clean energy future.”

Walt Dwelle, principal owner of Calgren Renewable Fuels, added: “This facility alone will eventually capture methane produced from the manure of more than 75,000 cows, preventing about 130,000 tons of greenhouse gas from entering the atmosphere each year, the equivalent of taking more than 25,000 passenger cars off the road for a year.” 

Over the last five years, renewable natural gas use as a transportation fuel has increased 577%, helping displace over seven million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (equivalent to energy enough to power 868,000 homes a year).

SoCalGas is working to build on RNG’s success in the transportation sector by making it available to fuel the homes of the company’s 21 million customers across Southern California.

Research shows that replacing about 20% of California’s traditional natural gas supply with renewable natural gas would lower emissions equal to retrofitting every building in the state to run on electric-only energy and at a fraction of the cost.

The dairy digesters in the Calgren project are partly funded under California’s Dairy Digester Research and Development Programme, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from manure generated at state dairy farms. The state currently has about 30 operational dairy RNG projects and 50 more in various stages of development that will result in more than 50 million metric tons of greenhouse gas reduction (CO2e) over the next 20 years.