14 Juli 2020

SoCalGas, PG&E and Opus 12 Announce Advancements in Technology that Converts Carbon Dioxide to Renewable Natural Gas

Demonstration shows new electrochemical technology is commercially competitive with other methods of converting the unwanted carbon dioxide in biogas into pipeline-quality renewable natural gas

Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas), Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), and Opus 12 today announced they have demonstrated further advancement of a new electrochemical technology that converts the carbon dioxide content in raw biogas to pipeline-quality renewable natural gas, a critical improvement in the science of upgrading waste emissions to renewable gas. The single-step process is designed to use renewable electricity, and thus also provides a way for long-term storage of excess wind and solar power. The twelve-month research and development effort was funded by SoCalGas and PG&E and builds on the success of an initial feasibility study in 2018.

Raw biogas is produced from the anaerobic breakdown of waste from sources like landfills, sewage, and dairy farms. It contains roughly 60 percent methane (the main component of natural gas), and 40 percent carbon dioxide. While current biogas upgrading technology removes the carbon dioxide from biogas, this new technology captures the carbon dioxide and converts it into additional renewable fuel.

The new demonstration shows that improved catalyst activity could speed reactions by five times and nearly double conversion efficiency, making the technology commercially competitive with other new biogas upgrading methods. The core technology was scaled up and tested using commercially available electrolyzer hardware. The next step will be to test this technology for longer periods at an existing biogas facility.

“This cutting-edge method of using renewable electricity to convert carbon dioxide in biogas to renewable natural gas in a single-step process is significant to SoCalGas,” said Yuri Freedman, SoCalGas’ senior director of business development. “As we work to meet California’s ambitious climate goals, emissions-reducing innovations like these will help us protect the environment by providing a reliable carbon-neutral fuel.”

“PG&E is deeply committed to meeting California’s bold vision for a sustainable energy future in a reliable and cost-effective manner for customers.  We continue to work toward advancing innovation that provides new possibilities in our quest to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and find alternative sources of carbon-neutral fuel. We are very proud to be part of this collaboration with Opus 12 and SoCalGas,” said PG&E’s Manager of Innovation and Research and Development, Francois Rongere.

“We achieved significant advances in reaction rate and demonstrated the scalability of our approach by moving from lab scale to commercial-grade components,” said Dr. Etosha Cave, Opus 12 co-founder and chief science officer. “We look forward to continuing to work with our partners at SoCalGas and PG&E toward a field demonstration of this technology.”

“Our vision for deploying this technology in California is to recycle CO2 emissions from industry and agriculture before they reach the air, and create valuable products such as renewable natural gas and feedstocks for everyday materials, chemicals, and even liquid fuels. They are compatible with existing infrastructure, and when produced with renewable electricity, these products will have significantly lower lifecycle emissions than conventional products.”

Opus 12, a clean-energy startup with its origins at Stanford University and the prestigious Cyclotron Road program at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, has created a new proprietary Polymer Electrolyte Membrane (PEM) electrolyzer that uses electricity to convert water and carbon dioxide into renewable natural gas in one step. The technology differs from those that use microorganisms.

The research is part of SoCalGas’ and PG&E’s respective development of cutting-edge technologies for storing excess renewable energy. Because gases can be easily stored for long periods of time using existing infrastructure, these technologies have distinct advantages over storing renewable electricity in batteries.

About SoCalGas

Headquartered in Los Angeles, SoCalGas® is the largest gas distribution utility in the United States. SoCalGas delivers affordable, reliable, clean and increasingly renewable gas service to 21.8 million customers across 24,000 square miles of Central and Southern California, where more than 90 percent of residents use natural gas for heating, hot water, cooking, drying clothes or other uses. Gas delivered through the company’s pipelines also plays a key role in providing electricity to Californians— about 45 percent of electric power generated in the state comes from gas-fired power plants.

SoCalGas’ vision is to be the cleanest gas utility in North America, delivering affordable and increasingly renewable energy to its customers. In support of that vision, SoCalGas is committed to replacing 20 percent of its traditional natural gas supply with renewable natural gas (RNG) by 2030. Renewable natural gas is made from waste created by dairy farms, landfills and wastewater treatment plants. SoCalGas is also committed to investing in its gas delivery infrastructure while keeping bills affordable for our customers. From 2014 through 2018, the company invested nearly $6.5 billion to upgrade and modernize its pipeline system to enhance safety and reliability. SoCalGas is a subsidiary of Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE), an energy services holding company based in San Diego. For more information visit socalgas.com/newsroom or connect with SoCalGas on Twitter (@SoCalGas), Instagram (@SoCalGas) and Facebook.

About PG&E

Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation (NYSE:PCG), is one of the largest combined natural gas and electric energy companies in the United States. Based in San Francisco, with more than 23,000 employees, the company delivers some of the nation’s cleanest energy to 16 million people in Northern and Central California. For more information, visit www.pge.com and www.pge.com/news.

About Opus 12

Opus 12, headquartered in Berkeley, CA, has developed a device that recycles CO2 into cost-competitive chemicals and fuels. The company’s technology bolts onto any source of CO2 emissions, and with only water and electricity as inputs, transforms that CO2 into some of the world’s most critical chemical and energy products.

Founded at Stanford in 2016, Opus 12 launched during the prestigious Cyclotron Road fellowship program at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. The company’s founders were featured in Rolling Stone’s 25 People Shaping the Next 50 Years, Forbes 30 Under 30 in Energy, MIT Technology Review’s TR35 Innovators, and the New York Times’ Climate Visionaries, and the company was recently featured in Bill Gates’s 2019 Netflix documentary, Inside Bill’s Brain. For more information visit opus-12.com and follow Opus 12 on Twitter (@Opus12CO2).

Source: SoCalGas, press release, 2020-06-22.

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