In an age of worrying climate change and looming fossil energy decline, the benefits of biogas are obvious. It's no longer a matter of proving the many benefits. The challenge is now to rapidly increase the adoption of the process, wherever there is a source of waste biomass. This was always going to be essential to reduce the impact of man on the global ecology. But, now it is even more crucial now that Russia has invaded Ukraine.
Added in September 2022:
Update: How the Russian Attack on Ukraine has Raised the Benefits of Biogas
How Energy Prices have Risen in the UK
Higher wholesale energy prices, particularly after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, have caused huge increases in energy prices, especially across Europe.
For us, in the UK the energy price cap rose by 12% in October 2021, 54% in April 2022, and was set to rise by 80% in October 2022 (gas by 91% and electricity by 70%). However, the new government of LizTruss has announced that domestic bills will be limited by the UK government for 2 yrs with the government borrowing money to pay the bills.
For ‘typical' levels of dual fuel consumption paid by direct debit, the October increase will be equivalent to an average capped bill level of £2,500 per year (marked in Orange on the chart).
This is effectively a doubling of domestic energy bills over the last 18 months.
Some predict that the cap would have been raised by 50% in January 2023, so the funding the UK government will need in order to maintain its cap will be massive.
What Do Higher Consumer Prices Mean for Biogas Producers?
The well-run UK and European biogas businesses were already profitable before the increases, so the answer is simple: they will be making big profits way above their most optimistic dreams!
Contributing to the Effort to Reduce European Dependency on Russian Oil and Gas
The anaerobic digestion industry is contributing to the effort to reduce European dependency on Russin oil and gas supplies by growing capacity through extensions to existing biogas facilities, and completely new projects in progress.
If the UK government, for example, was to give more support to the UK AD industry to build new biogas plants fast, a further 6% of the current supply of natural gas could be replaced by homegrown biomethane. (Biomethane is biogas which is upgraded to the pressure and methane quality of Natural Gas.)
Biogas Plants Are Being Built in Ukraine to Supply other European Nations
Win-win benefits of Biogas Technology located in Ukraine are beginning to emerge as a useful contributor to the European energy grid, reducing our dependency on Russian natural gas (compressed methane). Read on for our explanation for this in the sections below:
Energy Benefits from Biogas Plants in Ukraine
Ukraine has highly developed agricultural sectors, which makes it an attractive candidate for biogas projects. Biogas is an excellent alternative energy resource because it is a renewable, inexpensive source of energy. It can be produced from a wide range of organic substrates, including household waste and litter. A biofuel plant is a compact facility that employs different types of raw materials.
A law was recently adopted by the Ukraine Parliament that defines biomethane as a renewable energy source. This law is expected to make it easier to transport biomethane in the country's pipeline system. Biomethane can be produced and used for a variety of purposes, including transportation and heating.
The agricultural sector in Ukraine has experienced tremendous growth in the last two decades. This has created an abundance of solid biomass for use in heat and electricity production. Ukraine is the largest producer of sunflowers in the world, and sunflower waste can be burned to generate heat and electricity. Other biomass sources include wheat and straw, which are expected to replace natural gas in the coming years.
The country is moving quickly to promote the use of biogas. Its government has taken several steps to improve its development since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022. The country's biomethane production reached grew to 2% before the attack from Russia in February this year. The country was also on track to meet 20% of its gas needs by 2030, which is higher than the gas imported from Russia last year.
Even without fossil energy decline, the benefits of biogas are in fact clear. But, let us state what those benefits are, just in case the readers of this article are unaware.
The Benefits and Advantages of Biogas
Direct Benefits of Using this Gas
As a gas, the direct benefits of biogas are similar to the benefits of natural gas.
When purified to a high level biogas which has been upgraded to biomethane can be injected into gas grids to supply home and businesses. In theory, another of the benefits of biogas, is that it can be used as fuel in nearly all types of combustion engines. These include as gas engines (e.g. the Otto motor), diesel engines, gas turbines and Stirling motors etc.
Biomethane can also be used as a transport fuel, achieving significant environmental and cost savings in HGVs, buses and other vehicles, compared to diesel vehicles, while also playing an important role in improving poor air quality in our towns and cities.
That same gas can be compressed at service stations to provide CNG to power heavy goods vehicles. The benefits of biogas here, is that his would rapidly provide for refueling to be made available. This can be done while the cost of very high efficiency batteries is reduced after the time when such batteries can actually hold the necessary charge without excessive weight, for HGV use.
Indirect Benefits of Biogas Production
In a much wider sense, they include not only the production of renewable energy that substitutes the use of fossil fuels, resulting in carbon dioxide (CO2) emission reductions. But, are also benefits associated with the handling of manure.
Fertilizers and Soil Improvers
In addition, the biogas process (known as anaerobic digestion) produces a wonderful set of fertilizers. But, the output from a biogas plant can also go further than that and be called a soil improver. That's because the solid output includes soil improvement fibres, which can raise the fertility of vastly depleted soils. This is important because most chemically fertilized soils, badly need the carbon content to be raised within them.
To go into a little bit more detail: One of the benefits of biogas is that making it creates digestate. Digestate can be produced to three specifications; whole, liquor and fibre. Acidogenic digestate can also, for example, be used as an environmentally friendly filler to give structure to composite plastics.
Almost all macro- and micro-nutrients are conserved during anaerobic digestion. Therefore, high-quality digestate can be ensured by feeding AD plants with high-quality substrates, such as source-separated organic waste.
Digestate can be used whole, spread on land with tankers or umbilical pipelines.
It is accepted that care is needed that digestate that is used on land does not spread infections, or create a toxic substance build-up over time. The input material largely determines whether or not compost or digestate can be used on your land.
If the only waste feedstock for an anaerobic digestion process is farmyard manure or slurry only, most environmental regulators accept that the best quality digestate can be spread on agricultural land as a fertilizer or soil conditioner without being regulated as waste.
A Way to Reuse Waste Materials Which Can Otherwise Cause Pollution
Biogas can be produced from raw materials such as agricultural waste, manure, and municipal waste. It also, includes plant material, sewage, green waste or food waste. It can be combusted to provide heat, electricity or both. It can be compressed, the same way as natural gas is compressed to CNG, and used to power motor vehicles. It can be ‘upgraded' to pure methane, often called biomethane, by removing other gases.
Making Biogas Helps Mankind to Use What Nature Tells Us is Possible by Investigation the Stomachs of Ruminants Such as the Cow
Biogas can be produced with various types of organic matter, and therefore there are several types of models for biogas digesters. None of those models however is anywhere near as efficient as a cow.
To be that good at digesting organic matter today's best biogas plants would need to be at least 15 times more efficient. There is every prospect that man will learn from the cow and get far better at the AD process. When that happens the profits to be made from biogas will be absolutely amazing!
How Biogas Production Can Unburden Electricity Networks
The use of biomethane can unburden electricity networks everywhere, and contribute to a temporary easing of cost-intensive High-Voltage national grid upgrading work. Biogas plants are small compared to fossil-fuel power plants. When used to generate electricity and heating, they do so within smaller decentralized combined heat and power plants. The result is that much more of the electric power they produce is used locally.
This reduces power distribution cost which is due to the electricity warming up power lines a tiny amount as it flows through them.
Biogas – The Advantage of Providing Additional Employment to Run the Plants
The technology also creates employment in rural areas where work can be much needed.
Is Enough Biogas Being Made to make a Difference?
Yes. Billions of cubic meters of biomethane from biogas are already being produced on a yearly basis.
In 2013, energy generation from anaerobic digesters on livestock farms was approximately 840 million kWh equivalent. That's from the US alone, and the US isn't even a leading player in biogas production. In fact, GHG reductions in 2013 from livestock anaerobic digester projects, just in the US, were equivalent to the consumption of 284 million gallons of gasoline. That's enough to fill nearly 33,500 gas tanker trucks! via epa.gov
Thus, one more of the benefits of biogas is it's facilitating role toward a significant reduction of fossil fuel dependency. It is a renewable energy source that substitutes the use of fossil fuels, resulting in carbon dioxide (CO2) emission reductions.
Can I Use Biogas Technology in my Home?
Yes. In fact, home biogas creation and use seem to be taking off. As it can be used in similar ways as natural gas in gas stoves, lamps or as fuel for engines, home biogas generation makes sense.
The second of the many benefits of home biogas is digestate. Digestate from home biogas plants can be used straight from the digester. In such cases, it is called whole digestate. Whole digestate can be spread on the domestic gardens to fertilize suburbia, and the flowers will look more delightful than ever! (But first, do make sure it is done without the risk of spreading infection, or causing toxin (e.g. heavy metals) build-up in soils.)
The Biogas Challenge Ahead
Support the movement toward biogas production and anaerobic digestion. It makes sense to do that.
Of all the important renewable energy technologies which can really make a difference to our global future, biogas and the anaerobic digestion process which creates it is the least well-known.
It isn't the easiest of technologies for the media to write about. The concept of using waste, such as dung, and sludges, is distasteful to many editors. Who can blame them! Some readers no doubt would prefer not to have to ever think about such down-to-earth subjects.
The challenge is, therefore, for people such as you, our readers to appreciate the benefits of biogas and the anaerobic digestion process, and to join us in publicizing this amazing technology which can do so many uniquely useful things.
Useful things which, in many ways, are also vitally important things.
More Benefits of Biogas from Around the Web
Biogas is a renewable, as well as a clean, source of energy. Gas generated through biodigestion is non-polluting; it actually reduces greenhouse emissions (i.e. No combustion takes place in the process, meaning there is zero emission of greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere; therefore, using gas from waste as a form of energy is actually a great way to combat global warming.
Unsurprisingly, concern for the environment is a major reason why the use of biogas has become more widespread. Biogas plants significantly curb the greenhouse effect: the plants lower methane emissions by capturing this harmful gas and using it as fuel. Biogas generation helps cut reliance on the use of fossil fuels, such as oil and coal.
Another biogas advantage is that, unlike other types of renewable energies, the process is natural, not requiring energy for the generation process. In addition, the raw materials used in the production of biogas are renewable, as trees and crops will continue to grow. Manure, food scraps, and crop residue are raw materials that will always be available, which makes it a highly sustainable option. via hb.com
Security to the Agricultural/ Food Sector
Anaerobic digestion of livestock manure and organic food residuals provides security to the agricultural/ food sector.
As a source of renewable energy, biogas has unique characteristics and offers many energy end uses. The environmental benefits of biogas are numerous. via planet-biogas.ca
“It's Green Energy”
Biogas is a green energy source in form of electricity and heat for the local grid. Considerable environmental advantages – less emission of the greenhouse gasses methane, CO2 and nitrous oxide. Environmentally friendly recirculation of organic waste from industry and households.
Fewer odour inconveniences when spreading slurry on the fields – fermented slurry smells considerably less than normal slurry and the smell decreases faster.
Plants absorb fermented slurry better, increasing the yield on the fields. Protection of subsoil water -improved nitrogen exploitation reduces leaching and thereby drinking water contamination. Reduced costs for artificial fertilizer. via bigadan.com
Biogas Allows You to Cook Easily and Quickly:
Cooking on biogas is faster and easier than cooking on charcoal or firewood. Biogas stoves do not take time to heat up, so as soon as you’ve turned on the stove you can start cooking!
Improve your home:
Biogas is a modern source of energy for cooking and lighting. It is quick, easy and clean. Cooking on gas keeps your kitchen clean and tidy, and protects your family from the dangers of indoor air pollution.
Reduce your household waste:
Biogas systems convert organic household waste or manure into gas for cooking and lighting. This waste can be leftovers (rice, ugali), vegetables (tomatoes, cabbage), peels of potatoes and fruit, etc. Instead of throwing this away or leaving them (which will attract insects and pests), you can use it to produce energy! Biogas helps you to manage your waste and contributes to improved hygiene.
Produce your own organic fertilizer:
The biogas slurry that comes out of biogas systems is rich in nutrients and can be applied directly to plants and vegetables to help them grow. Biogas slurry replaces chemical fertilizers. This saves money and is better for the environment. via simgas.com
The US EPA (Environmental Protection Authority) Lists the Following further Benefits of Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas
Destroys disease-causing bacteria
Anaerobic digesters can destroy more than 90% of disease-causing bacteria that might otherwise enter surface waters and pose a risk to human and animal health.
Odours from anaerobically digested manures are significantly reduced compared with odours from typical storage and land application.
Diversifies Agricultural Business Revenues
Looking for ways to diversify revenue is critical to the long-term financial viability of many farms. While manure has always traditionally been a resource on the farm as a fertilizer, alternative products can be produced creating new income-generating opportunities. Maximizing the value of manure increases farmers' resiliency to the uncertainty of commodity product markets.
Brings in Money from Tipping Fees
“Tipping fees” received for the management of non-farm organic waste streams. This not only boosts direct revenues but provides additional biogas for energy production. Organic nutrients from the liquid and solid by-products of digested manure. These can be used both on-farm or sold to other local or regional agriculture and horticulture sources.
May Allow Replacement of Animal Bedding Materials Which Can be Better Used Elsewhere
Animal bedding or peat moss replacement from digested solids. Biogas is produced from the breakdown of the manure. Biogas is a source of renewable energy for electricity, heat, and fuel for on-site use or sale to the local grid.
Reduces Dependence on Finite Non-Renewable Resources
Products created from manure lessen our dependence on finite resources such as phosphorous, petroleum and peat moss.
Provides Opportunities for Rural Economic Growth
As farmers look to innovative ways to economically and environmentally manage their manure, there are opportunities for rural economic growth.
Local expertise in contracting, site work, concrete, plumbing, electrical, permitting, and engineering during planning and construction. Skilled labour to keep the system running at optimal levels once operational. Businesses are built around nutrients, manure solids, and energy markets. Cooperative business models can share the risk and reward across farms and private investors.
Agro-tourism: advanced manure management has served as a springboard for people to visit farms, where they learn more about environmental improvements and where their food comes from.
Fair Oaks Farms in Northwest Indiana doubles as an agricultural science centre as well as an opportunity for the public to see where their food comes from. The farm's attractions include tours of their dairy and swine operations as well as a restaurant. The farm is planning to expand with an on-site hotel to accommodate more than 600,000 annual visitors.
Provides Healthy Soil and Water
Healthy soil and water are important to farmers, their families and the community. The vast majority of farms in America are family-owned and active conservation practices, aided by the use of anaerobic digestion (biogas plants), can continue to pass this legacy from one generation to the next.
Biogas plants improve soil health by converting the nutrients in manure to a more accessible form for plants to use. Help protect the local water resources by reducing nutrient run-off and destroying pathogens.
Provides Energy Independence by Meeting Farm Energy Needs
Many early farms and other agricultural operations, such as mills, were often energy independent, getting their power from wind or water sources. Manure provides an opportunity for farm energy independence. Biogas from manure is composed of more than 50% methane, the primary component of renewable natural gas.
Meet on-farm energy needs. Biogas can be used to generate electricity for lighting barns or houses, heat for warming barns and on-site greenhouses, energy for cooling milk, and fuel for running on-site vehicles. It allows the farmer to operate ‘”off the grid” and reduces reliance on utilities. Provide energy to the local grid.
Helps Local Utility Companies Meet Growing Energy Demand
This can help the local utility meet growing energy demand with locally sourced renewable energy. Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by capturing the methane gas that may otherwise have been lost to the atmosphere and by displacing fossil fuel energy use.
Provides Vehicle Fuel and Reduces Vehicle Exhaust Emissions
Converting digester biogas to vehicle fuel allows some dairy farms to fuel fleets on compressed natural gas versus diesel fuel, saving money while cutting emissions. via epa.gov – nd from watrec.com
Enables CO2-reduction Credits to be Earned
A remarkable amount of CO2-reduction credits can be earned in the cases where not only the production of renewable energy but also the recovery of methane gas from wastes is considered when evaluating the total impact of the project on global warming.
Produces “Better than Synthetic” Fertilizers
A biogas plant produces fertilizers that are hygienically safe and their nutritive values are better than synthetic fertilizers.
Treating the end-products further is not limited to nutrient products; also biogas can be upgraded for example to fuel for vehicles. As the biogas plant is a closed system and treated materials are not in contact with the atmosphere the typical negative impacts to the neighbourhood are minimized on a totally different scale than with other waste management systems. via watrec.com
[Published: 16 January 2019. Updated: September 2022.]