Four California utilities look to turn dairy biogas into profit, issuing a draft solicitation for dairy biomethane pilot projects under California Senate Bill (SB) 1383.

Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas), San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), Pacific Gas and Electric Co, (PG&E) and Southwest Gas proposed the projects, hoping to demonstrate an ability to capture and process biogas from dairy cows to produce renewable natural gas.

“This is an exciting first step to building the market for renewable natural gas,” said Lisa Alexander, vice president of customer solutions and communications for SoCalGas. “Renewable natural gas, with its ability to turn methane emissions into a source of energy, is a critical element of a comprehensive approach to climate change, and we look forward to supporting these efforts.”

At least five projects will be selected under the new program created by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), which has been directed to reduce methane emissions from agriculture in the state by 2030.

“Identifying new ways to reduce methane emissions and their effect on the environment is one of PG&E’s highest priorities. We remain committed to playing a key role in California’s emissions reductions effort and clean energy future. And, we are proud to partner with the state’s leading energy companies and agriculture producers to convert organic waste into a reliable source of energy. The capturing, transformation and utilization of methane emissions as a clean fuel source will have significant environmental benefits,” said Christine Cowsert. senior director for Gas Operations at PG&E.

Proposed projects will be selected by the CPUC, California Air Resources Board and the California Department of Food and Agriculture. The agencies will jointly choose projects based on an evaluation of the proposed business model, likely greenhouse gas reductions realized, and cost effectiveness of achieving these reductions, environmental benefits, disadvantaged community benefits and project readiness.

Dairy biogas development is rapidly increasing in California, with help in part from $35 million in grant funding last year from the California Department of Food and Agriculture. CDFA is expected to provide an additional $61 million-$75 million in grant funding for new dairy biogas projects this year. There are currently about 40 projects in the works, and experts say there could be as many as 120 projects being developed by 2022.