Biogas – Revealing the renewable side of gas
Today, we often talk about the way gas is helping make a clean future real by partnering with renewables, but we tend to overlook the fact that gas itself can be renewable, in the form of biogas for example. Put simply, biogas offers an easy way to turn waste into energy.
This carbon-neutral renewable gas, once upgraded to reach the same quality as natural gas to become biomethane, can play a key role in achieving the EU’s 2050 climate goals by reducing the greenhouse gas footprint of natural gas.
Biogas is produced through anaerobic digestion of waste or organic matter from a variety of sources. These sources can include waste from landfills, from crop and animal waste, from wastewater, as well as from industry, like the food and drink industry. By producing biogas from these types of waste and thus creating a valuable energy source we are moving towards a truly circular economy. Farmers, for example, can ferment their leftover crop waste and manure, producing biogas, which they can then use for heating, or upgrade it to biomethane and sell to the local gas grid, and even use to fuel their tractors. Moreover, the wide range of uses for natural gas can benefit from injecting biomethane into the existing natural gas infrastructure. Finally, farmers can return the organic by-products from biogas production back into the ground, which has a fertilizing effect on the soil, thus bringing the benefits of biogas full circle. European communities, farmers and industries alike can contribute to the production of biogas, decentralizing energy production.
In addition to being sourced from various waste products, once produced, biogas can be used in a range of ways – as transport fuel, for generating electricity, for heating homes – actually, after upgrading to biomethane, it can be used in all applications designed for natural gas, for cooking, gas turbines, and drying.This means European communities, farmers and industries alike can benefit by contributing to the production of biogas, and from its end uses.
European cities can also stand to benefit from biogas production. This September, Strasbourg welcomed the opening of its first wastewater-to-biogas facility, Biovalsan, with the aim of producing 1.6 million cubic metres of methane from the city’s wastewater each year. At the plant, biogas is produced by sludge digestion, upgraded to natural gas quality (biomethane) and then funnelled into the city’s gas grid. This exciting pilot project will supply renewable gas heating to more than 5,000 homes locally – just one concrete example of how biogas can serve as a renewable energy source and contribute to the circular economy.
Finally, biogas also helps secure Europe’s gas supply and diversifying supply sources.
Thanks to mature technology and existing infrastructure, Europe can and should capitalize on this greener energy source to meet climate goals sooner rather than later. There are currently 15,000 biogas plants across Europe, with about 15 000 000 000 m3 of biogas produced in 2014 alone. Biogas production numbers continue to grow: Germany leads European countries in production, along with other key biogas producing countries like the UK and France, but more recently central European countries also saw an increase of 18% in the number of biogas plants.
This all points to a bright future for biogas and biomethane, and their role in demonstrating the benefits of gaseous energy. We’re excited to see what the coming years have in store for gas as a renewable energy source.