Research from Aalborg University shows that by 2030 biogas production in Europe can potentially quadruple. If this potential is met, it will mean that at least 20 percent of the transport sector will run on green fuel for slightly more than 10 years. This applies to buses and heavy transport trucks, substantially reducing CO2 emissions and eliminating many diesel particles from urban traffic.
- While the transition to renewable energy is going well when it comes to the combined heat and power and the energy areas, the transport sector lags behind. That could change if we manage to exploit the substantial potential for increasing biogas production by 2030.
So says one of Europe's leading biogas experts, Jens Bo Holm-Nielsen, Head of the Department of Energy Technology at Aalborg University Esbjerg.
The forecast is based on research done by Jens Bo Holm-Nielsen and his colleagues over the past three years that includes a detailed mapping of the entire European usage area for agriculture (GIS mapping). The mapping shows that there are enormous amounts of manure, straw and grass available, which together provide the basis for sustainable biogas production – without compromising food production.
- We are only talking about using waste and by-products in the production so that we can always ensure a sustainable approach, says Jens Bo Holm-Nielsen and adds: It is not sustainable if we use the crops or foods that could be used as feed for animals or as food for people – this could be, for example, the entire maize crop.
He points out that in Germany we see widespread use of maize in biogas production, but that this is an indication of skewed development when it comes to sustainability. However, this development can be rectified by using the AAU researchers' results, just as has been done in Denmark in recent years.
RENEWABLE ENERGY THAT CAN BE STORED
Although both solar and wind energy continue to be challenged by limited options for storing large amounts of energy, the outlook is better for biogas. Upgraded biogas – or biomethane/bio natural gas – can be stored in the natural gas grid and only used when needed. Today, several bus lines in the major cities are already running on bio natural gas – line 5C in Copenhagen is the best example. But in the future this could apply to far more buses and trucks.
- The transport sector is opening its eyes to the possibilities that biomethane provides as it shows the way to make the sector much more climate-friendly than it is today. If the sector takes full advantage of the potential, we will see at least 20 percent of the sector running on green fuels in 2030, says Jens Bo Holm-Nielsen.
SUCCESS REQUIRES INTERACTION OF MULTIPLE ACTORS
Achieving the full benefits of the potential for biogas production requires that several parameters come together. Among other things, it requires positive interaction between producers, industry and politicians.
- We have seen how quickly things have happened since 2012. We have achieved great results in the biogas area precisely because the different partners have been working in the same direction. We need to maintain this going forward if we are to ensure a more green transport sector, says Jens Bo Holm-Nielsen.
This means that the industry needs to maintain a focus on reducing costs both on the raw materials used in facilities and on the technology. And the process is well underway according to Jens Bo Holm-Nielsen, who has seen good examples of a similar exercise in the offshore wind industry.
- The biogas industry is very willing to partner with universities on research and innovation in order to achieve more robust and low cost production, he says, adding: And that is where we researchers come into the picture.
On the political side, there has been the goal that half of the manure in Denmark should be used for biogas, and this can become a reality over the next 10 years if the political focus on this resource is maintained.
CONTROLLED PROCESS BEHIND BIOGAS PRODUCTION
A greener transport sector and a storable form of energy are the obvious gains by going biogas. But we will also see a number of other effects deriving from biogas production. For the farmer who supplies manure to a biogas facility, it means he gets degassed slurry back to his soil that contains more and better plant nutrients than it did before the trip through the reactor. For the surrounding area, it will mean that there will be fewer odors and, finally, strict control of what returns to the field making for increased food safety.
- It is absolutely crucial that we know the sources that supply biogas facilities. We cannot be polluting agricultural land. It must go back into the food chain and create value there, says Jens Bo Holm-Nielsen.
Jens Bo Holm-Nielsen, Associate Professor, Section Head, Department of Energy Technology, Aalborg University Esbjerg, Mobile +45 2166 2511, Email: email@example.com
Sanne Holm Nielsen, Press Contact, AAU, Tel.: +45 9940 3517, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org