At Nicor Gas, we believe natural gas is an important part of our nation’s effective transition to a clean energy future. We are committed to leading the industry in reducing the environmental impact of natural gas usage, including minimizing methane emissions across the natural gas supply chain.
To advance our commitment to sustainability and support the company’s net-zero greenhouse gas emission goals, Nicor Gas has been a leader in emissions reductions through infrastructure modernization projects and other initiatives and aspires to achieve net-zero methane emission from its operations by 2030. Additionally, we empower our customers to reduce their carbon footprint through comprehensive energy efficiency programs and other offerings.
Renewable gas will be a critical component to support greenhouse gas emission reductions in Illinois. While decreasing the carbon intensity of our fuel, it will boost customer value and provide resilient and affordable energy.
What is Renewable Gas and RNG?
RNG, short for renewable natural gas, is one type of renewable gas. RNG is a sustainable and alternative fuel produced from naturally occurring methane that is captured primarily from landfill, agricultural, wastewater plants, and food waste sites. Capturing this biogas at the source before it is emitted into the atmosphere reduces the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to the warming of our planet. Because RNG is an interchangeable substitute for geologic natural gas, each cubic foot of RNG made available to our customers replaces a cubic foot of geologic natural gas from traditional supply sources, making our gas supply less carbon intensive. RNG can be used in existing natural gas appliances, equipment and infrastructure.
Renewable gas is any pipeline-compatible gaseous fuel. It can also be derived from biogenic or other renewable energy sources. This includes methane-based RNG and low-carbon future fuels, such as hydrogen.
How is Renewable Gas produced?
RNG is produced using organic waste primarily from sources such as landfills, agriculture, wastewater plants and food waste sites. Methane is collected from the waste stream and integrated into anaerobic digesters or thermal gasification systems to produce methane-rich biogas. The biogas undergoes a process to clean and condition the gas to meet infrastructure quality requirements for transport and storage.
Renewable gas can also be produced from power-to-gas processes. Renewable electricity is used to convert water into hydrogen by using a process called electrolysis. Using a methanation process, the hydrogen can also be converted to methane.
What are the benefits of Renewable Gas?
Renewable gas provides a clean energy option that benefits our customers, our communities and our environment. Producing and using renewable gas contributes to emissions reductions and, in certain applications, the management of waste that would ultimately end up in a landfill. Utilizing RNG promotes energy resilience and fuel diversity through additional locally sourced supply options. This not only supports local economic investment and local jobs but also increases the flexibility and utilization of the existing natural gas system. RNG can be used the same way as geologic natural gas, including in homes and businesses, in manufacturing and heavy industries, for electricity production and for natural gas-powered vehicles. End-use natural gas customers do not need to make any changes to their equipment to accept and utilize this carbon-neutral energy source.
How is Renewable Gas transported?
Our existing infrastructure delivers clean, safe, reliable and affordable natural gas to more than 2.2 million residential, commercial and industrial customers across northern Illinois. Existing, natural gas infrastructure can also be used to transport renewable gas, as well. RNG can be used in existing natural gas appliances, equipment and infrastructure, and our company is engaged in research and development projects to understand how hydrogen can be blended in natural gas infrastructure.
What’s happening now?
Through its Renewable Gas Interconnection Pilot, Nicor Gas proposes to introduce renewable gas to its service area. We actively receive new requests for interconnection to renewable gas facilities and are working with local suppliers to integrate more renewable fuels into our system. Nicor Gas is also working with regulatory agencies, as well as local and state legislators, to bring renewable gas to our communities and facilitate economy-wide carbon reductions while fueling resiliency, energy security and the growth of the clean energy economy.
In addition, Nicor Gas recently filed a rate request with the Illinois Commerce Commission, which includes a proposal to offer our customers a new pilot program called TotalGreen. If approved by the ICC, participating customers in this voluntary program will be able to reduce their GHG emissions associated with natural gas usage and help create a cleaner environment now and into the future. TotalGreen will allow customers to voluntarily opt-in to heat their homes, cook meals and enjoy hot water with portions of RNG, and to purchase carbon offsets to offset the GHG emissions associated with their natural gas usage.
The RGI Pilot is a limited pilot program that is available to any renewable natural gas (RNG) producer on a first-come, first-served basis to any party who enters into a Renewable Gas Interconnection Service Agreement with Nicor Gas for an interconnection to deliver renewable gas through the company’s distribution system to our customers.
This tariffed interconnection service allows RNG producers in Nicor Gas’ service territory to interconnect with Nicor Gas facilities in order to sell safe, pipeline-quality gas from an RNG facility to third parties and with the physical gas delivered to and sold for resale to a customer within Nicor Gas’ service territory.
RNG is a pipeline-quality alternative to geologic natural gas that can be carbon neutral or carbon negative. It is generally produced using methane - a gas with 25 times the warming effect of carbon dioxide - released by decaying organic waste collected in landfills, wastewater plants and farms or produced by renewable energy. The finished RNG product is interchangeable with geologic natural gas and can be injected directly into existing gas pipelines without upgrades.
As an important renewable energy source, RNG has several environmental benefits such as offsetting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and other aspects associated with the production, combustion, use and transport of RNG when compared to geologic natural gas. In addition, in certain applications, RNG can provide local air quality benefits to communities. All these factors play an important part in helping our state and nation transition to a clean energy future.
Qualifying RNG projects under the RGI Pilot program would create environmental attributes, and the company would negotiate a set number of environmental attributes received from each RNG production facility interconnected under the program. Nicor Gas would use and retire those attributes to offset GHG emissions associated with natural gas.
RNG projects have the potential to create a variety of economic benefits to the State of Illinois through local temporary and permanent jobs and transforming the high cost of disposing waste into a local asset. Anaerobic digester and biogas upgrading system construction requires expertise in site work, plumbing, electrical, permitting and concrete that can provide work for many different local contractors and industries.
Through the RGI Pilot, stakeholders will be able to assess whether there is interest in RNG production in northern Illinois, and to gain on –the ground, real-world insight into the specific costs and benefits of RNG Production Facilities. RNG could be a key tool in achieving the State’s environmental goals. Understanding whether RNG production is viable in northern Illinois, and if it will bring the environmental and economic development benefits that have been experienced in other parts of the country, are key learnings needed to assess the future of RNG.
The RGI Pilot Program will enable Nicor Gas and other stakeholders to review real-world empirical learnings gained from the pilot before committing to a permanent interconnection measure. The pilot provides a framework for RNG producers to interconnect with Nicor Gas’ system and offers an allowance per RNG project (to a total of no more than $16 million) to help offset the capital costs of interconnection.
The total investment cap shall be $16 million with a $3.2 million per-project limit.