California: natural gas vehicle fuel is carbon negative for the first time

California: natural gas vehicle fuel is carbon negative for the first time

Just released Q2 2020 data from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has confirmed that the energy weighted carbon intensity (CI) value of California’s natural gas vehicle fuel portfolio in the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) program was below zero—at -0.85 gCO2e/MJ. This is the first time in the history of the LCFS program that any low carbon fuel portfolio has achieved a carbon negative status.

“Given the large and growing volume of heavy-duty natural gas vehicles already hard at work on California’s roads, this is an extremely significant milestone,” said Todd Campbell, chair of the California Natural Gas Vehicle Partnership (CNGVP) and vice president of public policy and regulatory affairs, Clean Energy. “Both the short- and long-term climate benefits of this achievement are extremely significant. When combined with the fact that most natural gas vehicles recently placed into service are powered by near-zero emission engines, the natural gas vehicle industry is providing the most substantial and cost-effective contributions towards California’s goals to reduce criteria and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while eliminating the use of diesel in favor of renewable, low carbon fuels.”

California’s LCFS, which measures the climate impact of various vehicle fuel pathways, is a market-based incentive program designed to decrease the carbon intensity of California’s transportation fuel and instead provide a range of low-carbon and renewable fuel alternatives, reducing petroleum dependency and achieving air quality benefits. The “carbon intensity” of any given fuel measures all GHG emissions associated with the entire life cycle of a transportation fuel including production and consumption. Fuels with low (or even negative) carbon intensity scores are better for the environment as they produce less climate-altering  GHG  emissions.

Renewable natural gas has the lowest carbon intensity rating of all fuels in the CARB’s LCFS program. Many forms of biomethane, such as that produced from food and green waste, have a carbon neutral and even a carbon negative rating. Other forms, such as that produced from dairy waste, can have carbon intensity ratings that are 200 to 300% lower than even a battery electric vehicle powered by renewable energy such as solar or wind. The most recent data from LCFS program also confirms another significant milestone: biomethane made up nearly 90% of all natural gas vehicle fuel in the program and consumed in California in the first half of 2020.

“With a strong foundation in place, CNGVP members look forward to working with Governor Newsom, CARB, California Energy Commission, local California air districts, the Biden Administration and the federal government to further build upon these extremely important successes,” added Campbell. “With smart policies, we have the ability to significantly scale up these short- and long-term emission benefits, while providing an economically sustainable alternative fuel option to customers, simultaneously driving in-state investment in circular economies at the local level; it’s a win-win-win-win opportunity.”

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