A growing number of vehicles in California are relying on a surprising energy source to get around: trash. The methane gas drained from landfill waste is cheaper and cleaner than gasoline fuel. Kathy Vara reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 10, 2014.
An innovative new fuel is now available here in Southern California. It’s clean, cheap, and made from an unlikely source -- trash.
Trash that is thrown away generates pollution as it decomposes, releasing tons of methane gas into the atmosphere. Cars also spew out soot and smog that pollute the air.
Now, a Southern California company has figured out a way of capturing methane that escapes from landfills and farms, and turning it into clean fuel.
Harrison Clay, President and CEO of Clean Energy Renewable Fuels, explained how the science-fiction-turned-reality is done.
"At landfills we drill holes and wells into the landfill, we drop in slotted pipes and we vacuum and we pull the gas that’s being produced within that landfill," Clay said. "We pull that gas out and then we process it until it’s pipeline quality, which means it’s the same as what comes out of your stovetop and what you cook your food with probably every night."
This renewable gas -- called Redeem -- is heavy-duty. It can power 18-wheelers and any natural gas vehicle.
Hugo Gonzalez fills up his trucks with Redeem near the Port of Long Beach. He is a manager for Lily Transportation. His company invested in eight trucks that can run on natural gas.
"Fuel is one of the main costs, one of the biggest costs that we have, and switching over to CNG has saved us probably $40,000 a year," Gonzalez said.
That saving comes because Redeem is about a dollar less per gallon than diesel, thanks to state and federal clean air incentives.
California has imposed strict regulations to help reduce carbon emissions by the year 2020. Redeem burns 90 percent cleaner than conventional gasoline when used to power cars and trucks.
"You could see the difference. When you turn the truck on, you don’t see anything, you don’t smell anything. You smell a very light scent of gas, but other than that you don’t see black smoke, you don’t see anything. Not even when you start, when you take off from the truck," Gonzalez said.
Redeem is now being sold at some 35 clean energy stations in California – thousands of cars, shuttles and commercial fleets are running on the fuel now. Last year, 15 million gallons were sold, which in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, is equivalent to taking 30,000 passenger cars off the road, according to Clay.
"The largest biomethane fueling operation in the world -- and something that we expect to double, triple, quadruple in terms of volume in the coming years," Clay said.