Innovations in Energy Solutions: Turning Food Waste into Energy
Updated: Apr 2, 2021
Under the AB 32 Scoping Plan, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) identified the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) as one of the nine discrete early action measures to reduce California's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that cause climate change. The LCFS is designed to decrease the carbon intensity of California's transportation fuel pool and provide an increasing range of low-carbon and renewable alternatives, which reduce petroleum dependency and achieve air quality benefits. Implementation of the LCFS regulation has spurred innovations in the development of renewable energy from traditional waste products.
One innovative path that is currently garnering a lot of industry interest is the production of renewable natural gas and/or low Carbon Intensity (CI) electricity from the anaerobic digestion of commercial food scraps. In the traditional scenario, food scraps from retailers are predominantly diverted to the landfills and only a small portion is composted and the intrinsic energy inherent in the organic fractions of these food scraps is unrealized. A more sustainable approach exists within the regulatory framework of the LCFS program. By anaerobically digesting these food scraps in mesophilic or thermophilic anerobic digesters and subsequent upgrading of the biogas, renewable natural gas can be produced and used in California within the transportation sector. The renewable natural gas could also be used to generate low CI electricity that could be used for electric vehicle (EV) charging. Both these scenarios have credit generating opportunities within the LCFS pathway with the potential of obtaining fuel pathways CI’s lower than -100 g CO2e/MJ. Given the trading prices of LCFS credits (> $190/MT), this can generate an extra stream of income for industry and get California one step closer to its greenhouse gas reduction targets. A win-win scenario for all.
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