Vermont Gas adds RNG and supports future production

By Katie Fletcher | August 19, 2014

Renewable natural gas (RNG) has been delivered to homes and businesses in Franklin and Chittenden Counties near Burlington, Vermont since the beginning of August through Vermont Gas’s distribution system. The RNG addition to the company’s portfolio is part of a pilot project that is providing enough RNG to heat 350 average residential homes.

Vermont Gas’s natural gas supply has been coming from natural gas fields in Alberta, Canada, since its establishment in 1965. The natural gas is transported across Canada through the TransCanada PipeLine and enters VGS’s main pipeline at Highgate, on the Vermont and Canada border.

The new infusion of RNG is comingled in the same distribution system, but originates from a landfill in Quebec. According to Don Gilbert, president and CEO of Vermont Gas, supporting the expansion of RNG production in Vermont is one of the company’s priorities.

Vermont Gas got interested in adding RNG while working on the Addison Rutland Natural Gas Project, which was planned to incorporate a distribution system in Middlebury. “When we were working on that project we found out that Lincoln Renewable Natural Gas LLC was working with Middlebury College to develop RNG, and having a distribution system really married well with that project and brought the developer and end-user together,” said John St. Hilaire, director of operational services with Vermont Gas. “That is what really kind of got us looking at developing and supporting developers with renewable natural gas.”

Vermont Gas is now supporting LincolnRNG’s first commercial-scale, pipeline-quality RNG production facility in Vermont. “Right now their main customer is Middlebury College, and we have reached out with interest in purchasing any excess from that project,” St. Hilaire said.

St. Hilaire added that if the excess from the facility does not meet their customer demand they will seek out other markets. “We think the opportunity for our customers to purchase RNG or have it as a part of our portfolio will grow,” St. Hilaire said. “Supporting RNG developers in Vermont is a priority, but if there is not enough supply we will definitely look at other markets to bring it in and serve our customers.”

According to LincolnRNG’s letter detailing the notice to file permit of the RNG facility to Middlebury, LincolnRNG and the College have contracted for the long-term supply and purchase of approximately 75 percent of the RNG plant’s output.

Beyond the excess planned to supply Vermont Gas, LincolnRNG will also direct-market part of the remaining RNG product as a green, alternative heating fuel to other larger-scale institutional customers to the Vermont Gas System’s pipeline facilities, as well as market it as an alternative, green vehicle fuel in compressed form.

The plant will be supplied with dairy farm manure from Goodrich Home Farm, where the facility will be located in Salisbury, Vermont, as well as other dairy farm and organic fuel sources like corn silage. The facility expects about 60 percent of the feedstock will be manure and 40 percent corn silage. Over time, additional feedstocks are up for consideration, such as additional waste from farms and food waste byproducts to substitute for the corn. The feedstocks will be fed into a three-tank system supplied by Weltec Biopower. “The solids that are extracted out will be used for animal bedding and soil enrichment products,” St. Hilaire said.

The RNG upgraded at the plant will be produced in technology manufactured by Greenlane Bio Gas. The finished RNG product will leave the upgrade equipment and interconnect with the Vermont Gas pipeline facilities at a metering station, which will be designed, permitted, constructed and operated by Vermont Gas. The RNG transport pipeline will move the RNG product from the metering station to Middlebury College and other customers.

The facility plans to be in production in fall 2015 with estimates of producing 125,000 to 130,000 cubic feet (Mcf) of renewable natural gas per year, according to St. Hilaire.