Utilities prepare to open natural gas pipes to biogas
I have a story today on Enbridge Gas Distribution and its early investigation of biogas-injection into its natural gas pipelines. It’s already being done in several European countries and some U.S. states, and is even mandated in countries such as Germany. Enbridge, and Terasen Gas in British Columbia, are among a number of gas utilities in North America that are trying to prepare themselves for the day when “bio-methane” will become a common component of natural gas pipeline infrastructure. Will the biogas quality affect the pipeline? Can it be used in all natural gas appliances without problem? How much does it cost to scrub out impurities? What’s the best source: landfills, sewage treatment plants, biodigesters? All questions that are being asked and answered. Indeed, the Gas Technology Institute is in the middle of a $1.6 million (U.S.) study aimed as answering these questions.
Mandated access to such infrastructure would be in the public interest, and not just so the natural gas we use to heat our homes and cook our food can be a little greener. It’s important from the perspective of electricity generation as well. In Ontario, for example, there are certain regions of the province that are ideal for biogas production, such as from farm-based biodigesters or landfills. Problem is those same regions are either too remote to connect to the grid or the grid is simply at overcapacity.
But what if you could produce huge amounts of biogas in one area, inject it into the natural gas pipeline, and then build a power plant in a grid-friendly area that runs on natural gas? The idea is that the natural gas used at the plant would be offset by the biogas injected into the pipeline from another location. Theoretically, you could have a “green” natural gas plant because the fuel it uses is offset by dozens of biogas systems located elsewhere.
The natural gas pipeline basically becomes a massive storage system for biogas, and in the Ontario context would over time reduce the need to import natural gas from out west.