Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) — or biogas — is the quiet darling of alternative energy. It’s not a pretty process, fermenting organic waste materials like plant matter and manure to extract the methane, but it’s an affordable approach to renewable, sustainable, clean energy production that is gradually being implemented across the US.
Scientists are already looking into ways to make biogas production more effective and have hit upon a solution that has massive results. In November 2015, Dr. Zhengjian Wang and Dr. Nigel Baily published a study showing that autoclaving municipal waste prior to anaerobic digestion can increase methane production by over 300%. Further reports on this research indicate that this process works by denaturing proteins and thus reducing ammonia production, creating a more stable feed for the anaerobic digesters. The digesters have a higher throughput with this stable feed.
According to the American Biogas Council, there are more than 2,000 sites in the US producing biogas, although without the benefit of an autoclave to break down the waste for the anaerobic digester.
On the heels of Wang and Baily’s research, the City of Los Angeles announced that, by the end of 2016, they were going to power their waste water treatment plant entirely with biogas.
[photo credit: Som Energia Cooperativa, CC BY 2.0]