WRA Turning Waste Into Renewable Natural Gas

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DES MOINES, Iowa — The Des Moines Metropolitan Wastewater Reclamation Authority (WRA) is turning their biogas waste into renewable natural gas worth millions annually.

The WRA’s main job is to convey and treat wastewater for 17 metro communities in central Iowa. During the wastewater process, biogas is generated. For years, that biogas was simply burned off. The flame could easily be seen off of Vandalia Road.

“Well we know we had a very valuable resource here and we were wasting it,” Scott Hutchens, the Director of WRA said. “Every day when I drove in, seeing that huge flame, knowing that we’re only using a fraction of that in some of the generators and in our boilers to heat for heating process, that we could take that. One, we can generate revenue and reduce the cost to the ratepayers and to the communities, but secondly, reduce our carbon footprint and be good for the environment. So it was the right thing to do all around.”

Now, after multiple years and $20 million invested, the facility takes that gas, cleans it up by removing unwanted contaminants, and then injects the clean gas into a local utility’s pipeline. From there, the gas can be used on the utility’s grid for compressed natural gas and vehicle fuel.

The amount of renewable natural gas the facility will provide daily is the equivalent volume that 5,500 average U.S. homes use on a daily basis.

“It’s just a stepping stone. We continue to try to be as green as possible and be energy efficient as possible. Someday, I don’t know when, but it’d be nice to be net-zero if we can get there. I’m not sure if we can, but it’s a big step in that direction. We consume a lot of electricity and we continue to try to get the most efficient operations, most efficient electric motors and create renewable resources and do all of that.”

The renewable natural gas that is injected into the pipeline is expected to provide revenues of around $3,000,000 annually.

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