As our nation looks to shape our energy future, it needs organizations seeking to make positive impacts to imagine energy differently. At Southwest Gas, sustainability underscores the company’s values and innovation drives its operations, while collaboration helps create a more balanced energy future for people and our planet.
For more than 90 years, Southwest Gas has worked with communities across Arizona, California and Nevada, fueling their lives, homes and businesses, supporting a better quality of life through community partnerships, while helping to grow the region’s economy by providing safe, reliable and affordable energy service.
As customers and communities seek to meet their energy needs and achieve environmental goals, Southwest Gas will continue to offer energy solutions that can help build pathways toward a balanced energy future. The increased use of natural gas over more carbon-intensive fuels continues to play an integral role in driving down greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Southwest Gas is also dedicated to supporting the evolution of energy through collaboration with stakeholders and investments. This includes innovative solutions that deliver impactful, equitable and reliable results. Some of those solutions are infrastructure that furthers renewable natural gas (RNG) advancement, using compressed natural gas (CNG) in our fleet, supplying CNG to customers and researching potential development of other low-carbon energy alternatives such as hydrogen.
Turning Waste into Renewable Energy
Technology and collaboration have made it possible to convert waste into useful energy, replace diesel for vehicles and support the generation of electricity.
During the natural decomposition of waste, GHG emissions, such as methane, are released into the atmosphere. Using innovative technology, these emissions can be captured before entering the atmosphere, then cleaned and upgraded into pipeline-quality fuel known as RNG. This alternative form of energy can then be injected into and safely and reliably transported on, pipeline systems for an intended end-use, delivered just like the natural gas you may already use in your home or business.
Southwest Gas, along with public, private and government entities, is actively working with the agriculture industry and local municipalities to explore opportunities to innovatively use waste byproducts from dairies, wastewater treatment facilities and landfills.
Taking something seemingly unusable, such as agricultural waste and turning it into useful energy like RNG provides economic benefits to third parties while reducing GHG emissions—a great demonstration of innovation and collaboration at work. To date, Southwest Gas has constructed interconnects at five third-party facilities to help bring RNG to market, four of which are located in Arizona and one in California. Collectively across the five interconnection projects currently in operation, more than 13 million therms of RNG are being generated, equivalent to providing energy to over 8,600 homes for one year.
Most recently in the spring of 2023, the Butterfield Dairy RNG plant came online in Buckeye, Arizona. This facility is expected to generate enough RNG to power the equivalent of 6,000 homes, all from agricultural waste.
In Tucson, Arizona, the Tres Rios Water Reclamation Facility just celebrated its second year in operation. This innovative facility was the first of its kind in Arizona connected to the Southwest Gas pipeline. By repurposing the biogas as an alternative energy source, Pima County was able to reduce the amount of methane flared, reducing emissions.
RNG is only one of the ways Southwest Gas is Imagining Energy Differently and embracing innovative energy solutions through collaborations within a growing new industry.
The Possibilities of Hydrogen
Using existing natural gas resources to create hydrogen presents an exciting opportunity to help customers, manufacturers and fleets reach their carbon reduction goals. Across the world, hydrogen has begun demonstrating its potential as a low- to no-carbon fuel source that can be blended with natural gas to support economy-wide carbon reductions.
Fair and equitable energy delivery is vital to a low-carbon future. Utility collaborations with universities like Arizona State University and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and respected research institutes like GTI Energy and NYSEARCH are researching this potential fuel source first-hand in Tempe and Las Vegas to determine its compatibility with existing pipeline delivery systems while ensuring safety, integrity and reliability. Today’s research is addressing many questions about hydrogen’s viability as a future fuel while keeping in mind cost-effective solutions for customers.
Driving down the road, you have likely seen the diamond-shaped sticker on city buses with the letters CNG on it. CNG is an established fuel source that is heavily utilized for commercial fleets, mass transit and other over-the-road vehicles. Not only does it burn cleaner than diesel or gasoline, emitting, on average, as much as 28 percent fewer GHG emissions than traditional fuels, but is more affordable and domestically produced.
In 2022, Southwest Gas delivered over 37 million therms of natural gas to be used as CNG in place of diesel to its fleet customers. By using CNG over other more carbon-intensive fuels, Southwest Gas customers emitted 79,000 fewer metric tons of CO2 – the equivalent of removing more than 17,000 gasoline-powered passenger vehicles from the roadway per year.
Developing sustainable solutions requires cooperation, a diverse energy portfolio and ingenuity to ensure families and businesses can continue to enjoy the reliable energy they need to grow and thrive. Southwest Gas is committed to doing just that to sustain our communities well into the future.
Laura Nelson is the Vice President of Sustainability and External Affairs at Southwest Gas Corporation.
Members of the editorial and news staff of the Las Vegas Review-Journal were not involved in the creation of this content.