California’s Placer County debuts wood scraps for energy technology

In California, a new technology developed by Canadian firm G4 Insights, converting scraps and small trees from forest thinning projects into renewable natural gas, was demonstrated for the first time ever today in Auburn. In its first public demonstration, G4 used gas produced on site to fuel an unmodified Placer County truck.

G4 principal Matt Babicki said “This project demonstrates the potential for G4 PyroCatalytic Hydrogenation technology to transform forestry waste into high value, low carbon fuel, and support forestry communities with long term jobs to collect biomass and operate G4 renewable natural gas plants.”

The G4 technology uses raw, untreated forestry waste that otherwise has no commercial use. Competing technologies require clean wood chips, stripped of bark, from harvested trees that could be used for other purposes. The gas it produces is of the same quality as conventional gas, and can be used for any of its purposes, not just vehicle fuel. The G4 natural gas reduces fossil emissions by 86 percent compared to standard gasoline.

G4 received a $1.2 million grant from the California Energy Commission in 2011 to develop the demonstration plant. Placer County provided G4 with forestry waste from Tahoe National Forest, workspace and logistical support at its transportation yard in North Auburn, and assisted with the planning, coordination and preliminary environmental permitting for a potential larger-scale pilot facility in Placer County.

Renewable natural gas produced from forestry waste could serve a helpful role in alternative energy production, especially in heavily forested areas. Typically, forestry waste is burned where trees are felled to reduce wildfire hazards, which increases air pollution locally. Converting it into natural gas instead would reduce air pollution and increase the supply of sustainably-produced clean energy. Future production facilities near large sources of waste have the potential to provide jobs and other economic benefits to rural, forest communities.

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