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SoCalGas Funding Research Converting Biowaste, Excess Solar into Renewable Gas


By David Schwartz
Published: August 7th, 2018

Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) is providing funding to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Stanford School of Engineering’s Spormann Laboratory on new power-to-gas research. The U.S. Department of Energy is pitching in $800,000 for the work, while SoCalGas is contributing another $400,000 in addition to the $125,000 it provided last year.

The researchers involved are studying how microbes powered by renewable electricity could turn carbon dioxide into methane, a process known as microbial electromethanogenesis (ME). The hope is that ME will become a highly efficient and large-scale storage technology for excess wind and solar energy.

Research at Spormann Laboratory already has used microbes to create methane, while biogas will be supplied by the Delta Diablo wastewater treatment plant in Livermore, CA. Raw biogas is mostly methane, but also contains up to 40 percent CO2.

“This technology has the potential to cut the cost of processing biogas, while nearly doubling the amount of this easily-stored renewable energy and reducing carbon dioxide emissions,” said Yuri Freedman, SoCalGas senior director of business development. “It could make a big difference for small-scale biogas producers like dairy farms and feedlots, which collectively make up the majority of California’s renewable natural gas potential.”

The research could help solve an energy problem known as the “duck curve,” where supply and demand mismatches during the day result in losses of excess energy that can’t be stored for future use. If that excess renewable energy could be used to convert CO2 into methane and was stored as renewable natural gas, it could help resolve the mismatch and supply more renewal energy to customers.

“Through this project we intend to devise scalable, efficient prototype reactors that enable both economical upgrading of biogas and storage of renewable electricity as methane,” said LLNL chemist Sarah Baker. “To do this, we will leverage recent advances in materials synthesis and manufacturing to fabricate reactors tailored to the requirements of the microbes and the overall process.”

Source: Power Engineering

Posted under: Industry-Sponsored Research Week

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