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Pipeline Quality Gas and 3 Biomethane Gas to Grid Benefits

Pipeline Quality Gas (i. e. natural gas pipeline quality gas made from biogas) and the acceptance of biogas upgrading technology which purifies raw biogas to pipeline quality is the greatest success story of the anaerobic digestion industry of the last 10 years.

Acceptance of their “pipeline quality gas” (i.e biomethane) by the natural gas network companies enables AD plant operators to inject biomethane “gas to grid” around the world.

Biomethane gas is rapidly growing in popularity as a sustainable form of energy, with many countries that don't already allow grid injection looking to incorporate it into their energy grids very soon.

Pipeline Quality Gas is an Ideal Heavy Goods Vehicle Road Transport Fuel

Road transport fleet operators are the largest industry sector to sign-up contracts for biomethane to run their trucks. Many have signed up with biogas plant operating companies, meaning they can draw their fleet fuel supply from the natural gas main on their premises, and incur no additional costs for delivery of their fuel to their depots.

Creating pipeline-quality gas at anaerobic digestion plants is the most important part of this process, as it ensures the clean and safe delivery of biomethane gas to consumers. This article will explore the importance of pipeline-quality gas and how it can benefit the grid through the use of biomethane gas.

We will discuss the advantages of biomethane gas, such as its clean energy production and its potential to reduce emissions, as well as its ability to provide grid stability and security.

Benefits of Upgrading to Pipeline Quality Gas

Once biomethane gas to the grid is accomplished, the biogas plant operator gains not only from a higher price for the energy than from electricity. But, also due to the following factors:

  • the value of biomethane as natural gas is not subject to government subsidies which may be changed or removed
  • the energy is sold on the market for the highest return available and normally at a premium price, due to its status as a renewable fuel
  • the demand for renewable natural gas is so large that it can be considered insatiable by the biogas industry. Whatever can be produced will find a buyer. There is little or no chance that the biogas industry can meet the booming demand for its renewable natural gas.

The UK natural gas grid utilities were at the start, back in 2012, sceptical about the consistency of the gas quality achievable from current upgrading technology. But with an admittedly high degree of scrutiny, compliance with grid company requirements is being achieved to their satisfaction.

Biomethane and Poo Power to Cut Severn Trent's Carbon Emissions

August 2019: Dragan Savic, a Professor of Hydroinformatics at Exeter University, said that given the UK had more than 9,000 sewage treatment works, “poo-power” when used to create Pipeline Quality Gas could hold substantial environmental benefits.

“Greenhouse-gas emissions reductions could be significant as the methane normally generated at sewage works is 25 times more harmful to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide,” he said. “By capturing methane and pumping it into the National Grid water companies could turn from greenhouse-gas emitters into renewable-energy generators.” …

pipeline quality biogas
Image shows some of the equipment used for pipeline-quality gas injection.

Mr Farris predicts, over the next 20 years, Severn Trent's gas-to-grid scheme could cut its carbon emissions by 300,000 tons – the weight of more than 50,000 adult African elephants. The volume of biomethane produced will also be greater than the firm's gas needs, allowing it to be classified as “self-sustainable”. via www.independent.co.uk

Biomethane is a renewable gas produced from biodegradable matter such as food waste, sewage or energy crops. When injected into the gas grid, biomethane provides a Pipeline Quality Gas which is a sustainable, flexible and economic solution that, according to experts, could significantly contribute to the UK's heat demand by 2050.

Through the RHI scheme (which is no longer available in the UK), which provided a renewable premium for biomethane injected into the grid. The UK government helped to create this as a new renewable market driving down costs through competition and the establishment of UK supply chains.

In June 2012 biomethane plants were comparatively rare. We reported the following news about plans to upgrade some of Québec's municipal wastewater sludge to Pipeline Quality Gas:

Autumn 2018 Update: The ability of the operators of Biogas Plants to produce suitably high-quality biomethane which can then be allowed to be injected into the gas mains, has now been proven, and the opportunity for “natural gas mains” to be injected with biomethane is now a well-proven technology.

As the article excerpt below shows, Québec's municipal wastewater sludge Anaerobic Digestion Plant will be another producer of pipeline-quality biogas. This will provide for efficient use of this valuable renewable energy. Please use the link below the article to visit the original website for the full article:

Pipeline Quality Gas from Anaerobic Digestion Goes Ahead in Québec

Anaerobic Digestion System to Provide Pipeline Quality Gas

Article Originally posted in June 2012:

“In 2008, 31% of Québec's municipal wastewater sludge ended up in landfills. By 2020, Quebec wants to divert all residual materials from landfills in order to recycle, produce energy or dispose of the waste, in that order.

Image showing a global carbon emissions chart, - benefits of biogas essential
global carbon emissions chart February 2018 from NCE article “Call to Action”.

To reach this goal, Québec recently adopted a series of policies and programs as part of the government's sustainable development strategy. The Green Infrastructure Fund of Québec earmarked Cnd $650 million for municipalities to divert organic materials away from landfills. This new approach promotes the emergence of a green economy based on the environment and quality of life for its citizens through a zero-waste policy.

The City of Saint-Hyacinthe received some of this “green money” to expand its existing wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) and produce pipeline quality biomethane. Saint-Hyacinthe currently has three digesters (1,600 m³ ea.) with a capacity of 36 tons of solids per day (13,000 dried tons/year). Seventy-three thousand tons per year of sewage sludge are pumped towards the digestion tanks from the primary and secondary sedimentation tanks which are heated from 10°C to 37°C. With the new funding, the city now can start Phase II of the upgrade: construction of two hydrolysis (1,200 m³ each) and three more digesters (1,800 m³ each) with Montreal based renewable energy company Bio-Methatech.

Currently, the city uses the WWTP's biogas to dry the sludge that comes out of the digesters. This reduces the overall waste by 85 percent and results in a clean, light, granular, Class A biosolid that is safe and beneficial for agricultural, horticultural, municipal and domestic use.

UK Food Waste AD Company Biogen acquires Tamar Energy
An aerial view of Tamar’s Basingstoke plant which has capacity to process up to 40,000 tonnes of food waste per annum.

“Before the treatment facility was in place, the city hauled 13,500 tons of treated sewage every year to a landfill where tipping fees averaged an expensive $90 a ton. Plus, the 100 kilometer round trip burned a lot of fuel,” said Pierre Mathieu, Head of the Division of Waste Water Treatment in the town of Saint-Hyacinthe.

In Phase II, instead of just using the digesters, the WWTP will first route the biosolids through the hydrolyzers to break down the cell structure and organic material. Operators will also add cheese whey and other organic waste to boost the production of biogas from the anaerobic digestion process.

To further boost biogas production and make the flow of gas more consistent, the WWTP chose a sidewall entry mixer to properly mix each digester and maintain a good distribution of temperature, pH levels and micro-organisms. A single SUMA Giantmix FR4 mixer will generate a circular flow in the tank to promote maximum digestion and a flow pattern which allows heavier solids to settle to the bottom of the digester. At the bottom, the digester tank has a special drain where heavy solids are removed without shutting down biogas production.

pipeline quality biogas

The mixer also has two unique features which allow a visual assessment of the agitators' condition and will cut fibrous components that tend to adhere to propeller blade edges. For a visual assessment, operators can use the external oil inspection glass to detect seal breaks, oil contamination and shaft bending in the equipment. A cutting blade located behind the propeller is especially effective in cutting away troublesome fibrous materials.

“When you add organics to wastewater you boost your biogas production but create new, unknown variables,” said Christie Allen, International Business Development Manager at SUMA GmbH. “Plant type, length and size of fiber will change the viscosity based on which organics are added each season. It's important to monitor the equipment and monitor the dry matter content of the substrate. As maintenance personnel learn the impact of these materials on the digester, they can simply adjust the agitator speed of the mixer to optimize their pipeline- quality gas biogas production.” via waterworld.com

About 70% of English water company WWTW sludge is treated by anaerobic digestion nowadays 2019). However, upgrading is not yet, as far as we are aware, taking up the upgrading option for their biogas into pipeline-quality gas, however, there must be big potential throughout the UK for the use of their biogas for injection into the natural gas distribution system, instead of electricity generation.

[Originally published in 2012. Updated in 2019 and January 2023.]

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    • Miami Metalurgist
    • February 14, 2022

    There are so many stories to be found in the engineering that goes into making our world work, and I enjoy watching it.

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