Biomethane for use as a transport fuel
Biomethane for transport is one of the options being supported by the European Green Cars Initiative (a €5 billion PPP boost to the European car industry).
Biogas is a mixture of biomethane CH4 (65-70%) and CO2 (30-35%) and small amounts of other gases. It is created by anaerobic digestion of organic wastes such as sewage, manure, food wastes, landfill, etc. This is an established technology. After removal of contaminants, biomethane is the same as natural gas, and can be used as a transport fuel in the form of Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) or Compressed Natural Gas (CNG).
Bio-SNG (Bio Synthetic Natural Gas) is produced by gasification of lignocellulosic (woody materials). A number of Bio-SNG demonstration projects are discussed on the Bio-SNG page of this website.
Biogas may also be produced form lignocellulosic feedstocks, such as straw, following pre-treatment with steam and enzymes. See VERBIO straw project.
The latest news and statistics on biogas production and use in Europe are available from the European Biogas Association website.
Anaerobic Digestion technology is well established, hence biogas is often categorised as a 'first generation' biofuel. However, biogas derived from organic wastes does not compete with food production, and is considered to be sustainable. Developing use of biomethane for transport is the focus of several projects such as BIOMASTER, MADEGASCAR, GasHighWay, BioGas Max, Urban Biogas, Green Gas Grids and Baltic Biogas Bus, which aim to increase its use in the market.
View presentations from the Final conference of Green Gas Grids, Urban Biogas and BIOMASTER
Biogas is used globally in waste to energy plants, and is increasingly being converted to natural gas for injection into pipelines or use in vehicles. For example, in the US, Waste Management Inc. operates 2 plants in California and Ohio (with a third announced in October 2013) to convert landfill gas to liquified natural gas. Waste Management also produces over 500 MW of electricty from biogas, and its subsidiary Wheelabrator Inc. has a capacity of almost 670 MW. Waste Managment also uses bioCNG to power a fleet of 100 trucks.
In March 2014, Waste Management Inc., Ventech Engineers International LLC, NRG Energy Inc. and Velocys plc formed a joint venture to produce renewable fuels and chemicals from biogas and natural gas using smaller-scale gas-to-liquids (GTL) technology. The joint venture’s first facility will be at East Oak, Oklahoma. Velocys, will supply the Fischer-Tropsch reactor and catalyst.
Demonstrations on biogas production in Europe
On 18 December 2012 it was announced that VERBIO Straw project, Germany, has been selected to receive counterpart funding of €22.3m under the first call for proposals of the NER300 funding programme for innovative low-carbon technologies. The Project will be built as an extension to an existing ethanol-biogas plant in Schwedt, Germany, to produce biogas. The Project will have a design capacity of 25.6 Mm3(S) of biogas containing 12.8 Mm3(S) of methane and make use of 70000 t/year of straw. The process comprises raw material handling, biomass pre-treatment of biomass by steam and enzyme successively, production of biogas by anaerobic fermentation, and biogas post-treatment. The produced gas will be cleaned to natural gas quality and fed into the grid. The Project is planned to be located in a refinery site of PCK Raffinerie GmbH (Refinery Site) and it benefits from the existing site infrastructure.
EC Projects related to use of biomethane in transport in Europe
- BioGas Max
- Urban Biogas
- Green Gas Grids
- Baltic Biogas Bus
The BIOMASTER Project (supported by Intelligent Energy Europe) aims to engage with people and processes to enable a significant breakthrough in the uptake of biomethane for transport. The four participating regions in BIOMASTER, Malopolska Region (Poland), Norfolk County (United Kingdom), Skåne Region (Sweden) and Trentino Province (Italy), are working together to promote biomethane production, its grid injection and use for transport. They are undertaking a joint initiative involving all these key components of the biomethane chain, stimulating investment, lobbying to remove non-technological barriers and mobilising action for uptake.
BioWALK4Biofuels: Use of macroalgae for biogas production
The FP7 project BioWALK4Biofuels aims to develop an innovative system for the treatment of biowaste and use of GHG emissions to produce biofuels, through the use of macroalgae.
The Eureka BIOGASFUEL project is developing a dual-fuel supply system for diesel engines using alternative fuel. The research programme on fuel will assess the possibility of using biogas as a fuel for compression ignition engines of non-road vehicles and machines used in agriculture.
Other EU and global reseach on biogas production and use in transport
Pretreatment of agricultural residues for enhanced production of biogas
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute IKTS, Germany, have developed the first-ever biogas plant to run purely on agricultural wastes. This demonstrates that pretreatment with enzymes can greatly increase biogas yields from cellulosic residues such as corn stalks.
In China, 3 pilot facilities have been built to demonstrate the production of biogas from rice straw pretreated with Sodium Hydroxide. With 23 day anaerobic digestion at mesophilic temperature of 35°C, rice straw pretreated with 10% NaOH at 20°C for 24 hours had the biogas yield of 0.6 L /g VS, 50% higher than the biogas yield from untreated straw. After enzymatic hydrolysis using cellulase from Trichoderma reesei ATCC 26921 and cellobiase from Aspergillus niger, the pretreated straw had the reducing sugar yield of 298 mg glucose/g VS, 185% higher than the untreated straw (Source: Dong Yang et al, published April 2009 American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers)
In the US, MagneGas has developed a technology to produce a mix of hydrogen and carbon monoxide from sewage and other liquid organic wastes using a patented technology called Plasma Arc Flow™, based on flowing the target liquid waste through a submerged electric arc between two electrodes. The arc decomposes the liquid molecules into atoms and forms a plasma around the tips of the electrodes at about 10,000°F / 5,500 C. The Plasma Arc Flow moves the plasma away from the electrodes and controls the formation of MagneGas that rises to the surface for collection. MagneGas is composed of hydrogen (55-65%), carbon monoxide (30-35%), carbon dioxide (1-2%), water vapor (2%), and trace gases (0.5-1%). The gas mixture can be used in a similar way to natural gas or can be co-combusted with existing hydrocarbon fuels.
Further links on biogas R&D&D and use in transport in Europe and globally
The following links provide further information on EC R&D&D on Biogas production and its use as a transport fuel:
NVGA Europe (Natural Gas Vehicle Assocation) - promoting the use of Bio-CNG, LNG and L-CNG
Use of natural gas as a transport fuel in Europe
Gas is widely used as a transport fuel in many European countries, notably Italy, which boasts 650,000 gas powered vehicles. Sweden is a world leader in upgrading and use of biomethane for transport, and has many 'biogas vehicles', including private cars, buses, and even a biogas train and a biogas powered touring car team.
In February 2014 Cambi AS inaugurated a facility near Oslo to convert 50,000 tonnes of food waste to biogas, and produce LNG as a transport fuel for a local bus fleet. The biogas liquefaction plant was delivered by Wärtsilä Corporation and will produce fuel for 135 buses. The plant is operated on behalf of EGE (Waste-to-Energy Agency) and the City of Oslo.
New techiques are being developed to increase the methane content in 'product gas', so that it is suitable for direct injection into the grid. For example ETW Energietechnik in Germany, which uses Pressure Swing Absorption (PSA) technology developed by Schmak Carbotech.
In December 2013, the UK National Grid and Future Biogas announced an £8m anaerobic digestion project at Lindholme. The system will convert 35,000 metric tons of biomass into 12,000 cubic metres of biomethane for injection into the natural gas network. In February 2014, Iona Captial and Scotia Gas Networks announced an investment in a joint venture Keithick Biogas, the first biogas-to-grid project in Scotland, UK.
To promote the potential of biomethane as a transport fuel, E.ON has entered the 2009 Swedish Touring Car Championship (STCC) with two gas-driven Volkswagen Sciroccos. E.ON is Sweden’s leading player in biogas. The company produces biogas, builds refueling stations and sells biogas. View at larger size >>
Liquefied biogas as a transport fuel in Sweden
In Summer 2012, a new liquefied biogas plant in Lidköping, Sweden, started operation. The plant produces transport fuel for cars, trucks and buses, in both gaseous and liquefied form, and is run by Lidköping Biogas AB, owned by Göteborg Energi AB and the Municipality of Lidköping. Swedish Biogas International Lidköping AB owns and operates the biogas production plant.
Liquid biomethane from landfill to fuel commercial delivery vehicles in the UK
The UK's largest retailer, Tesco, is commissioning 25 Iveco EcoDaily light commercial vehicles fuelled by sustainable liquid biomethane for its online retail and delivery service tesco.com. The fuel is made by UK company, Gasrec (the first commercial producer of Liquid Biomethane in Europe), and is created by extracting naturally occurring methane from organic waste in landfill sites and converting it to a high quality, clean fuel. [Source: Gasrec].
In the UK, the University of East Anglia (UEA) Low Carbon Innovation Centre (LCIC) and Hardstaff Group (Nottingham, UK), have modified a standard Optare Solo single-deck diesel midibus from the Anglian Bus fleet. Originally powered entirely by diesel, the Mercedes-Benz engine has been adapted to run for 60-80 per cent of the time on biomethane.
Sustainability of biomethane
Methane Slip and certification
If methane is accidentally released into the atmosphere, it is much more damaging than carbon dioxide as a GHG. In 2008, the Naturemade certification system was initiated in Switzerland to guarantee the ecological quality of the biomethane injected into the grid. To qualify, the emission of biomethane (also known as 'methane slip') must not exceed 1% of the total biomethane generated by a plant [Source: BioGas Max].