Ella Kim

Ella Kim

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Ph.D.
Francois Fiessinger Scholar 2013

Renewable Natural Gas from Anaerobic Digestion Processes

Project Description (while EREF Scholar):
Renewable natural gas (RNG) is the gas produced by cleaning and upgrading biogas produced through anaerobic digestion of organic waste, such as food wastes, livestock manure and wastewater solids. RNG is currently one of the lowest carbon transportation fuels; it is also chemically identical to natural gas and can be used at any stage of the natural gas fuel supply chain.

Cities in the United States have numerous solid waste resources that can be exploited to produce RNG. Sites where organic wastes are already being aggregated with biogas production and collection, such as landfills, wastewater treatment plants and farm-based anaerobic digesters, can become producers of RNG by investing in technology to upgrade the raw biogas. However, most of the waste-to-energy projects at landfills and wastewater treatment plants in the U.S. currently only produce electricity for sale into the grid or local heat and power; no RNG is being used for transportation. Therefore, analyzing the benefits and barriers to utilizing RNG as a transportation fuel in the United States can further both sustainable urban transportation and the economic development of the solid waste management industry, while highlighting the crucial linkage between local waste systems and urban sustainability.

Ella is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in environmental planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Prior to her studies at MIT, she graduated from Dartmouth College with a BA in economics and Columbia University with an MIA in environmental policy and an MA in quantitative methods. She has worked at a variety of private, public and not-for-profit organizations, including KPMG, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Earth Institute and the Clinton Climate Initiative.

She is currently a Co-Instructor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.