SoCalGas, City of Escondido Create Renewable Energy From Sewage

Feb 8, 2011

Demonstration project is first in California to purify methane gas from wastewater treatment plant for potential use in homes and businesses.

LOS ANGELES, Calif. - Feb. 8, 2011 - Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) and the city of Escondido today announced the official start-up of the first renewable energy project in California to purify wastewater biogas so that it meets state standards for natural gas delivered to homes and businesses.

The city of Escondido’s Hale Avenue Resource Recovery Facility is the test site of an innovative new pressure swing adsorption system that takes raw gas produced from the facility’s normal operation and upgrades it through a multi-stage process to pipeline-quality natural gas. Biogas from wastewater treatment plants is a largely untapped source of renewable energy. Typically, the raw gas originating from sewage treatment facilities is not suitable for natural gas pipelines and has to be burned, or flared, into the atmosphere.  By employing this new technology, the city of Escondido can produce enough natural gas to serve about 1,200 homes.

"The city is always looking for opportunities to take advantage of green technologies,” said Sam Abed, mayor of Escondido. “This project will demonstrate a new technology that will potentially reduce our city’s carbon footprint by decreasing greenhouse gas emissions at the Hale Avenue Resource Recovery Facility,” he said.  “An added bonus is the fact that the recovery and reuse of this methane gas will save money for our city’s ratepayers."

The $2.7 million demonstration project is expected to continue for up to 12 months in order to prove that this technology can cost-effectively produce renewable natural gas that reliably meets California’s stringent gas quality standards. After that, the equipment will be put into commercial use on-site or, if necessary, moved to an alternative location.  The demonstration project will be funded by SoCalGas’ research and development group. 

"This project puts the city of Escondido on the map for being the first to actually produce renewable natural gas from sewage wastewater so that it meets gas quality standards for injection into the natural gas pipeline system,” said Hal Snyder, vice president of customer solutions at SoCalGas and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E).  “This means San Diego residents might some day be heating their homes and cooking their food using renewable natural gas.” 

Today’s announcement supports SoCalGas’ vision for sustainable energy.  In November, SoCalGas and SDG&E filed a proposal with the California Public Utilities Commission seeking authorization to develop, own, operate and maintain bioenergy production and gas conditioning facilities that would transform organic waste from water treatment plants, farms and other operations into renewable natural gas suitable for power production or injection into utility pipelines. 

Power generated using biomethane as a fuel qualifies as clean, renewable power.  Thus, the increased availability of pipeline-quality biomethane is expected to help electric utilities meet California’s aggressive renewable energy goals.

Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) has been delivering clean, safe and reliable natural gas to its customers for more than 140 years.  It is the nation’s largest natural gas distribution utility, providing safe and reliable energy to 20.9 million consumers through nearly 5.8 million meters in more than 500 communities.  The company’s service territory encompasses approximately 20,000 square miles throughout Central and Southern California, from Visalia to the Mexican border.  The Gas Company is a regulated subsidiary of Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE).  Sempra Energy, based in San Diego, is a Fortune 500 energy services holding company.

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For further information: Media Contact: Denise King, Southern California Gas Co., (877) 643-2331, www.socalgas.com, Joyce Masterson, City of Escondido, (760) 839-4621, www.escondido.org


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