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Smelling the Future: Duke Targets Cow Poop in Its First Renewable Gas Investment

By Naureen S. Malik

(Bloomberg) Duke Energy Corp. has seen the future and it smells of cow manure.The Charlotte, North Carolina-based utility giant has made its first investment in renewable gas, a source of fuel that’s tiny relative to the vast natural gas industry but also one that’s growing fast as more companies recognize its environmental benefits.Duke has taken a minority stake in SustainRNG, a company that plans to capture bovine emissions of methane on dairy farms in the Southwest with the potential scale up nationwide. SustainRNG’s first farm-based project is slated to start in late 2021 and the gas will be transported nationwide on existing gas pipelines, said Sasha Weintraub, senior vice president of Duke’s gas business.

U.S. utilities are increasingly looking to farms, landfills and even food waste as a way to capture substitutes for the fossil fuel while at the same time reducing their own greenhouse-gas emissions. Capturing methane is particularly desirable since it’s more than 80 times as potent as a global warming agent in its first 20 years in the atmosphere compared with carbon dioxide.

Farmers will be partial owners of the systems installed by SustainRNG on their land to gather and process the manure and methane, which will “create a revenue stream or at the very least minimize their costs” from managing waste, Weintraub said in an interview. He declined to disclose terms of the deal, but said Duke will have the opportunity to invest in specific projects.

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