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Symposium Explores How Biogas Could Fuel California

October 21, 2019
Professor Sarah Kurtz
Professor Sarah Kurtz

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas with a global warming potential 104 times greater than carbon dioxide. But what if the methane could be turned into energy?

The topic of using waste for power is a hot one, both literally and figuratively, for the San Joaquin Valley. Biogas — the gases naturally produced from the decomposition of organic waste — can be a useful byproduct. If harnessed correctly, greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced and dairies and wastewater managers could capture added value by creating, using and selling natural gas.

UC Merced Professor Sarah Kurtz is leading a workshop that seeks to answer questions about how to convert biogas production sites that currently flare the biogas into ones that can take advantage of the power in the gas.

The workshop, “ What should we do with our biogas ?” takes place from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12, in the California Room at UC Merced. Discussions include applications and financial considerations for biogas. There will be opportunities to discuss specifics in facilitated breakout sessions, as well as a poster session.

The workshop is open to the public. Admission is free, but those interested are asked to register by Nov. 1. Lunch is provided but registration is required.

“Dealing with a rapidly changing planet requires that we take a both/and approach. If we can capture and use biogas to fuel our electricity grid, we can both chip away at greenhouse gas emissions and speed our transition to a renewable-energy future,” said Professor Joshua Viers , director of the UC Merced branch of the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) and the Banatao Institute, which is co-sponsoring the event. “The technology exists to do this already, but we need to focus now on local implementation by working with community partners.”

Expert speakers will discuss the Low-Carbon Fuel Standard, wastewater control facilities and dairy farm integration, among other topics.

“This workshop is meant to bring together those who have questions about biogas with those who have the experience, whether from industry, municipal wastewater treatment or agriculture,” Kurtz said.

The Valley has urban and agricultural waste producers. While he has not announced plans for carbon neutrality, Gov. Gavin Newsom has supported initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and to get all of the state’s electricity from clean energy sources by 2045 . California has several programs aimed at reducing methane emissions, all of which incentivize waste producers to capture and reuse the energy produced.

Contact CITRIS citris@ucmerced.edu with any questions.