Today, one of the most promising forms of clean energy is biogas. It is a renewable and non-fossil variation of LNG. It consists mainly of biomethane which is made from fermented biomass. For humans, biogas is not a new discovery at all. Today’s industrial conversion of organic waste into energy in biogas plants is simply fast-forwarding nature’s ability to recycle its useful resources.
And what is biomass? From tree branches, raw materials, feedstock, food waste and much more, all the material can be used in biogas production. Its production process involves the components to be broken down by microorganisms in the absence of oxygen, in a process called anaerobic digestion.
Top 5 misconceptions:
1. Biogas is a new energy source
Biogas has been used very early on in human history. The first recorded evidence of the biogas process dates back to the 17th century. Therefore, biogas is not a new clean source of energy, but it is just becoming more mainstream. More and more industrial farms are being open across Europe and some of the largest plants in countries like Germany or Denmark, can produce great amount of energy to produce electricity in people’s homes.
2. Biogas is not really that ‘clean’
Very often we hear about large amounts of methane within the biogas and LNG. It can even come up to 99%! Scary, right? Not necessary…Biogas digesters are designed to capture methane and release as little as possible of the element while converted to biogas. For instance, a biogas facility lets landfill gas to be captured and converted into energy. Stored biogas can limit the amount of methane released into the atmosphere.
Moreover, biogas is indeed a ‘clean’ source of energy, because it is sustainable in comparison to fossil fuels. Biogas gives the opportunity to create ‘circular economy’. Food and organic waste are produced, then sorted or mixed. After that the waste enters the biodigester to create biogas. Biogas is then used in heat and electricity production or is used as biomethane for fuel production.
It is also worth mentioning the LNG benefits we have now: no sulphur emissions, a high reduction in nitrogen oxide emissions, and almost zero particulate matter emissions. That means less heart diseases, pneumonia, or lung cancer for us all. LNG helps to reduce the deaths caused by air pollution, and mainly by particulate matter. With Bio-LNG we can even see up to 100% of emission reduction.
3. Supply of Bio-LNG is limited
Recent official reports prove that only 2% of biogas is untapped in the potential production today.
In recent years we see the very rapid acceleration in the availability of Bio-LNG. If biogas replaces around 20 percent of road freight energy consumption, this will be more than sufficient to meet the needs considering the additional potential for electrification. In Europe almost 10% of the LNG consumed by the road transport sector is composed with Bio-LNG (through certificates and first physical refill at the station). Additionally, the switch from LNG to Bio-LNG is very smooth since it does not require any modifications to the vehicles powered by LNG only. Hence biomethane (where Bio-LNG derives from) has a huge potential.
4. Bio-LNG is expensive
With the development of biogas production technology and large-scale biogas production, this sector expects the cost for biogas to go down which will improve the total cost of ownership for gas driven trucks. If we take as an example, food waste, that is being produced every year during Christmas period in the UK from households, hospitality, retail and food manufacturers, we would be able to produce around 10 million tonnes of food waste annually, which could then generate 11 TWh of biogas which is enough to heat up 830,000 homes and cut emissions by 8.8 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent, or 2 % of the UK’s annual emissions.
5. Bio-LNG and LNG have high NOx levels
According to a study from the Sustainable Gas Institute (2019), ‘Can natural gas reduce emissions from transport?’, which investigated air quality, the study displays a reduction of NOx pollutant – a chemical compound of oxygen and nitrogen that is formed at very high temperatures as a result of the reaction between the two elements. The study presents the results of 40%-60% reduction of CO2 emissions compared to diesel (different variations of the road to be considered). For particulate matter, NGV engines display up to 95% reduction levels compared to diesel.
Another study concerning CO2 emissions, shows up to 15 % reduction achieved by driving LNG compared to diesel for heavy-duty applications. On the other hand, using Bio-LNG increases the reduction of CO2 emission to even 80%.
While investigating the results and the data of Green House Gas (GHG) emissions within heavy transport industry, the conclusions really draw themselves.
Some of the best practices have been used, like production and usage of energy via biomas. Biogas made out of it, has an extreme potential to further reduce GHG emissions and provide energy solutions not only for heavy transport sector but also within agriculture, construction, food and energy industries.
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National Grid: What is biogas?
Skyline Energy: Misconceptions on Biogas
Informa Connect: Four common misconceptions about the LNG industry