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30-40% of Europe’s gas consumption could be biomethane by 2050

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By 2050, 30-40% of Europe’s total gas consumption could be made up of sustainable biomethane, according to the European Biogas Association (EBA).

In its 11th Statistical Report, the EBA provides an in-depth analysis on biogas and its upgraded form, biomethane, and the best pathways to ensure full deployment in the coming years.

The report analyses the current availability of renewable gases in Europe, notably biogas and biomethane. Combined biogas and biomethane production in 2020 amounted to 191 TWh of energy, and this figure is expected to double in the next nine years. By 2050, production can be at least five-fold, reaching over 1,000 TWh, with some estimates even reaching 1,700 TWh.

Agriculture-based biogas plants make up the majority of the total production, which is now already more than the entire natural gas consumption of Belgium and represents 4.6% of the gas consumption of the EU.

In terms of job creation, the report shows that biogas and biomethane industries are already responsible for over 210 green jobs today. Both sectors combined can be expected to create around 420,000 jobs by 2030 and over one million jobs by 2050.

Over the last decade, the delivery of dispatchable power and heat from biogas has been very important, the EBA said, and its role will continue to some extent. However, the current trend places the emphasis squarely on sustainable biomethane production, and it is expected that this tendency will be amplified in the coming decade.

Biomethane is a versatile energy carrier, suitable for a range of sectors including transport, industry, power and heating. 2020 saw the biggest year-on-year increase in biomethane production so far, despite the pandemic, with an additional 6.4 TWh of biomethane produced in Europe. The EBA expects an even bigger increase in 2021, as a record number of new biomethane facilities started production 2020 and are due to become fully operational within the year.

Synergy between biogas, biomethane and other low-carbon solutions, such as green hydrogen, will be important going forward. In line with this, the EBA’s report highlights the need to develop a vision of how biomethane and hydrogen will integrate with each other in the future. Future infrastructure investments should aim to strengthen the distribution of renewable gases by considering the specific requirements of each gas, as well as their most suitable deployment.

The report also points out a clear tendency towards the increasing use of sustainable feedstocks for biogas and biomethane production. These include mostly industrial waste, municipal waste or agricultural residues. It is also expected that the remaining energy crops to produce biogas will be replaced by sustainable cropping, for example, with the introduction of sequential cropping systems which simultaneously allows for carbon farming and revitalisation of the soil.

In terms of use by sectors, the need to decarbonise all modes of transport will be especially relevant in the coming years and, therefore, the need for further renewable gas uptake in that sector. According to the EBA report, the sustainable European bio-LNG (liquefied biomethane) production capacity by 2024, considering only confirmed plants, amounts to 10.6 TWh annually. This projected 2024 production capacity could fuel almost 25,000 LNG trucks for the whole year.

“Today, the EU is 90% dependent on imported fossil gas,” said Harmen Dekker, the EBA’s director. “The EBA Statistical Report 2021 highlights best possible pathways to accelerate sustainable renewable gas deployment and ensure we are on track to meet climate neutrality by 2050, making use of all possible solutions within our reach.”