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U.S. EPA launches waste to biogas mapping tool


San Francisco, CA – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Pacific Southwest Region has launched an online waste to biogas mapping tool to support the use of organic waste for energy projects.

“This innovative mapping tool, the first of its kind in the nation, helps restaurants, hotels and other food waste generators to connect with large energy producers,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Harvesting this energy prevents waste from ending up in landfills or clogging sewer lines.”

The tool is an interactive map created to link food and other biodegradable waste sources with facilities such as wastewater treatment plants that can enhance energy production with their existing infrastructure. Wastewater treatment plants and some dairies manage waste with anaerobic digesters, which produce methane-rich biogas as a natural byproduct.

By adding food scraps or fats, oils, and grease to an anaerobic digester, facilities can increase biogas production to make money while providing a renewable energy source, reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These business and environmental opportunities may present a largely unrealized potential.

The tool is designed for decision-makers with technical expertise in the fields of waste management, wastewater treatment, and renewable energy. This includes businesses, state and local governments, and non-profits. The tool allows users to determine the types of facilities in their area, where clusters are located, and the distance between a waste producer and an anaerobic digester. The tool also functions in reverse – allowing generators of organic waste to find partner facilities that will accept it.

Features include:

  • Fats, oils, and grease (FOG) hauler information for California, Arizona and Nevada
  • California landfill information
  • On-site energy generation for California dairies with digesters (in kilowatt hours per year)
  • Energy estimates for wastewater treatment facilities, with and without co-digesting FOG (in kilowatt hours per year for California, Arizona, Nevada and Hawaii).
  • A “correct record” option that allows facilities to change information presented on the map. 

A study performed by the Northern California Power Agency in 2008 determined that agricultural, wastewater, and food processing wastes could be digested to obtain 453 megawatts of energy – enough to run a utility-scale power plant while also preventing 3.7 million dry tons of organic material from ending up in a landfill. This use of biogas to displace natural gas would have a climate change abatement potential equal to taking approximately 160,000 cars off the road.

The mapping tool is found at: www.epa.gov/region9/biogas.