LDC Focus: Spotlight on Dominion Energy
Dominion Energy is developing cleaner forms of natural gas to help its customers reduce their carbon footprint
Every day, more than 3 million Americans depend on Dominion Energy to deliver natural gas to their homes and businesses. For more than 100 years, the company has focused on a core public utility mission: delivering safe, affordable and reliable energy.
As governments and corporations across the globe confront climate change, Dominion Energy is determined to serve a broader mission. The company is pioneering clean energy technologies to reduce its emissions and provide cleaner forms of natural gas.
In early 2020, Dominion Energy announced an ambitious plan to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions across all its operations by 2050. Technological innovation is playing a critical role — not only in achieving the company’s climate goals, but also helping customers reduce their footprint.
Reducing methane emissions
Over the last decade, Dominion Energy has reduced emissions from its gas distribution system by 25%. The company says it’s just getting started. Over the next two decades, they will reduce emissions by 80% by deploying new technologies like Zero Emissions Vacuum and Compression (ZEVAC), which eliminates gas venting into the atmosphere during maintenance, replacing higher-emitting infrastructure and expanding the use of infrared technology to detect the hardest-to-find leaks.
Renewable natural gas
One of the most exciting aspects of the company’s strategy is its pioneering work with renewable natural gas (RNG). Dominion Energy is partnering with leading ag producers like Smithfield Foods and Vanguard Renewables to capture methane and convert it into a cleaner form of natural gas (see Figure 1). The company says RNG is an effective way for climate-conscious customers to reduce their carbon footprint.
A large natural gas user, for example, can achieve carbon neutrality by sourcing just 11% or 12% of its gas supply from RNG. That’s because more emissions are captured from the farms than are released when customers use the gas, giving RNG the lowest carbon-intensity score of any energy source. The company says this value proposition has been very appealing for natural gas users across sectors — from transportation and heavy industry to colleges and hospitals.
In addition to RNG, the company is exploring the use of zero-carbon hydrogen. Hydrogen can do everything natural gas can do — only with fewer or even zero emissions. It can generate electricity, heat homes and buildings, serve as a heat source and feedstock for heavy industry and fuel transportation. The company will use a process known as electrolysis, which results in zero emissions. The company will begin blending hydrogen into a test system in Utah this year with the goal of blending hydrogen into the distribution system that serves its gas utility customers in the years to come.
As Dominion Energy explores these and other next-generation clean energy technologies, the company says it is focusing on the principle of shared value. What is good for the company’s customers, shareholders and employees is also good for the climate. Technological innovation is making it all possible.
– This article appeared in the Gas Technology supplement.