Expert Q&A: Tetra Tech's Keith Henn Discusses Creating Biogas and Biofuels from Waste
Keith Henn has nearly 30 years of experience with a focus on biogas, bioenergy, renewable natural gas (RNG), and waste-to-energy. He serves as Vice President for Tetra Tech’s bioenergy and biofuels market sector and has led and managed numerous programs and projects up to $500 million.
His experience includes feedstock quantification, best-fit technology analysis, and off-take analyses, including planning, feasibility study, development, permitting, design, and operation and maintenance of renewable bioenergy and biofuel systems. Keith has participated in more than 100 bioenergy, biogas, biomass, and waste-to-energy projects for public and private clients in the solid waste, agriculture, industrial, federal, state, and municipal sectors worldwide. Projects involve biological (anaerobic digestion) and thermochemical (combustion, gasification, pyrolysis) conversion of agricultural and food residuals, solid waste, landfill gas (LFG) utilization, wastewater, and waste tires and plastics.
Keith holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Pittsburgh and Master of Science from Wright State University. He is a member of the American Biogas Council and the RNG Coalition.
What are the benefits of RNG and other types of renewable fuels?
The benefits of RNG include environmental, social, and governance—known as ESG—and financial benefits. First, RNG is a carbon neutral or carbon negative fuel. Large and small businesses are encouraged by the public and investors to decarbonize their energy and fuel, which is driving oil and gas companies to develop and produce renewable fuels. Renewable fuels are one way to accomplish that.
There are numerous programs encouraging and requiring the use of alternative sourced energy. ESG is an emerging industry focus whereas local and federal government programs require the use of low-carbon or renewable fuels. The Renewable Fuel Standard Program (RFS) is a U.S. federal program to increase the use of renewable fuels. Complementary state programs, such as California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), are designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Biogas used as RNG or to generate electricity for electric vehicles offers both ESG and financial benefits.
What future value do you see for RNG?
RNG can be used by any process or anywhere traditional natural gas is used. Voluntary markets, utilities, and oil and gas companies are all looking to embrace the use of RNG in place of natural gas. Major companies are using RNG to fuel shipping and mass transit. Going forward, RNG can be utilized to support generation of green hydrogen. Additionally, utilities are selling RNG into the voluntary market and offsetting natural gas use.
How is Tetra Tech able to support oil and gas companies in meeting renewable energy and carbon offset goals?
We provide technical expertise on feedstock sourcing, feedstock analysis, and support in execution of biogas and biofuels projects. Our multidisciplinary teams have extensive experience working on all types of projects. Our team has experience with the means, methods, and standards common to the oil and gas industry and therefore can apply those standards to the biogas and biofuels market.
Our first ag-based anaerobic digester was constructed in 2004. It is still operating today—going on more than 17 years. Our first RNG project was implemented in 2007 and was one of the first five RNG projects in North America. Since then, we have been part of more than 300 bioenergy and biofuel projects and more than 30 RNG projects. We are a pioneer and market leader in the sophistication and integration of these complex systems. This rich history is a solid foundation to continue to expand and lead the market, improving on efficiency and cost-effectiveness, achieving successful implementations for our customers, and having an overall positive impact.
How can Tetra Tech help my business implement, or even help develop, our plans to include bioenergy and biofuels into our low-carbon business strategy?
We help our customers optimize their low-carbon business strategy with a bioenergy and biofuel approach that best meets their business objectives. We use our Leading with Science® approach to create solutions focused on meeting our clients’ specific project goals. We implement objective solutions based on engineering, science, and economics to cost-effectively transform materials into salable, low-carbon products such as renewable natural gas and other low-carbon fuels.
Our team executes all types of bioenergy and biofuels projects. These include biogas and landfill gas to electric and RNG generation, biofuels and low-carbon fuels, advanced recycling and waste-to-energy, and organics management and diversion.
Our team supports all types of customers, including developers, utilities, conventional energy suppliers, including oil and gas, and municipalities looking to reduce carbon emissions by providing full life cycle bioenergy and biofuels planning, design, construction, and commissioning. After operations begin, we often provide refinement, optimization, and compliance solutions to keep operations running at a high efficiency.