Portland Plans To Replace Diesel Completely — Using Sewage

This plan will eliminate more greenhouse gases than any single city plan to date.

Credit: OPB

Diesel fuel has never been great for the environment, and with a federal government that has zero interest in helping the environment, local governments are taking matters into their own hands when it comes to this poisonous fuel. The city of Portland, Oregon recently announced their plan to eliminate the use of diesel fuel by maximizing their methane collection from the city’s sewage and converting it into renewable gas.

Portland already collects methane from the sewage, which is a greenhouse gas that is produced by bacteria as it decomposes solid waste, and has been collecting about 77 percent of the methane emitted since 2008. The city decided to increase this amount to 100 percent, thereby allowing no methane to go to waste and converting what’s collected into a renewable natural gas that can replace diesel fuel.

The new plan will cut greenhouse gas emissions by 21,000 tons a year, which is more than any other single city project to date. It will also generate more than $3 million in revenue a year because they intend to sell the new gas and it will also replace 1.34 million gallons of dirty diesel fuel with clean, renewable gas.

“We are creating a triple-win for the public in terms of revenue, climate action and cleaner air,” said Commissioner Nick Fish. “The renewable natural gas we will produce is truly local and homegrown, a by-product of the waste from every Portland household that we can now repurpose.”

Diesel fuel harms the environment, humans, and animals because of the release of carbon, particulate matter, and nitrogen dioxide into the atmosphere, which contributes to smog and causes health problems. Particulate matter can cause or aggravate cardiovascular and lung diseases, heart attacks and arrhythmias, cancer, and birth defects. Nitrogen dioxide has a similar effect and can even lead to premature death.

Credit: Portland Planning Commission

Though some newer models have filters to catch particulate matter and prevent it from going into the air, these filters sometimes don’t work and are often taken off by truck owners. This is why it’s so important for Portland, and many other cities with similar plans already in place, to replace diesel fuel as soon as possible.

Portland estimates that it can produce enough clean gas to fuel 154 garbage trucks for an entire year, but they intend to sell it to outside customers within the city and nearby in order to fund the project. Since the renewable gas is more expensive than diesel fuel, it’ll raise tons of money faster than diesel.

“Because our product is a renewable fuel and not a fossil fuel, it commands a five-to-ten times higher price on the renewable energy market,” said Environmental Services Director Mike Jordan. “Doing the right thing turns out to be a great deal.”

By the end of 2017, the new fueling station for city trucks is expected to be done and operable. By the end of 2018, Environmental Services plans to start feeding the renewable natural gas into NW Natural’s network, which is how fuel will be sold on the renewable energy market using a system of energy credits to Oregon and out-of-state buyers.

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