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SoCalGas, partners to study CO2-to-methane conversion as power-to-gas tech

Image by Southern California Gas Co (SoCalGas)

August 2 (Renewables Now) - Southern California Gas Co (SoCalGas) said on Wednesday that together with the US Department of Energy (DOE) it will fund a power-to-gas research project based on using microbes to turn carbon dioxide (CO2) into renewable natural gas.

The project will examine how microbes can convert CO2 directly to methane using renewable electricity, which is known as microbial electromethanogenesis (ME). According to the company, ME could potentially become an efficient, large-scale storage technology for surplus wind and solar generation, aiding the cost and pervasiveness of both renewable electricity and renewable natural gas.   

The research will be carried out at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and Stanford School of Engineering's Spormann Laboratory, which have been awarded USD 800,000 (EUR 689,000) in grant funding from DOE. SoCalGas will invest USD 400,000 on top of the USD 125,000 of seed funding it provided in 2017. The project starts in August and is expected to be completed by mid-2020. Biogas will be supplied by California wastewater treatment plant Delta Diablo.

SoCalGas explained that raw biogas is mostly methane, but also contains about 30% to 40% CO2. A biogas production facility usually vents the CO2 in the atmosphere.  

"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 of SoCalGas.

The aim of the project is the development of prototype reactors that enable both economical upgrading of biogas and storage of renewable electricity as methane, said LLNL chemist Sarah Baker.

(USD 1 = EUR 0.861) 

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Plamena has been a UK-focused reporter for many years. As part of the Renewables Now team she is taking a keen interest in policy moves.

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