Energy & Infrastructure

What is renewable natural gas?

Staff Reports

Commercial Development Representative Sarah Lederach at the Apex landfill facility.

Williams recently released its 2018 Sustainability Report that included information on various environmental efforts Williams is supporting, as well as information on safety, diversity and inclusion practices, biodiversity, land use and corporate governance.

Before I joined the company as a summer intern, I was unfamiliar with Williams. The Sustainability Report has been a useful tool in understanding the business and getting to know how Williams works as a responsible corporate citizen. One thing in particular that I found interesting was Williams’ involvement in renewable natural gas. At first glance, it begs the question—renewable natural gas? I had never heard of it before.

Natural gas, or more specifically, methane, can be found in landfills due to the waste decomposition process. The idea of renewable natural gas is explained by the use of burning landfill-produced methane as a source of energy. Williams’ involvement in this unique process is through various partnerships with energy companies and public utility districts in Washington, Ohio and Texas.

Montauk Energy, an international company with operations across the United States and a leader in the development of renewable energy, produces and processes methane at the Apex Landfill, located in Amsterdam, Ohio.

“Williams is proud to partner with the company,” said Sarah Lederach, commercial development representative in our Northeast operating area with responsibility for the Flint Gas Gathering System, which handles Montauk’s renewable natural gas.

Williams’ pipelines connect directly to Montauk’s renewable natural gas facility located onsite at the Apex landfill. Lederach explained the process Montauk Energy goes through in order to produce methane from this landfill and make it available for consumption. In order to collect the methane, Montauk Energy drills tiny wells across the face of the Apex Landfill. Once gathered, the methane is treated in an onsite facility to make sure it is ‘pipeline quality’—or meets Williams’ pipeline specifications.

Landfill produced methane isn’t exactly the same as conventionally produced methane, however. It has a significantly higher oxygen content and carbon dioxide content, as well as a few other differences in its chemical composition. For that reason, Williams employs advanced gas analysis equipment to ensure the renewable gas stream is pipeline quality and can be safely commingled with conventionally produced gas on our larger system.

The innovative work Williams is doing by partnering with Montauk Energy on projects such as the Apex Landfill highlights Williams’ dedication to leading by example in the natural gas industry. Williams is excited about future endeavors and the possibilities that come with renewable natural gas. Learning about the process and Williams’ involvement has been a great experience for me as an intern.

Binish Azhar is a student at the University of Houston. She worked as a summer intern in Williams’ Communications & Community Relations department.