EBA counters report claiming EU’s 35bcm biomethane target is “unrealistic”

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The European Biogas Association (EBA) has released an open letter, addressing a report released by Feedback EU, which said the EU's plan to ramp up biomethane production to 35 billion cubic metres (bcm) by 2030 from its current level of 3.5 bcm is "both unrealistic and unsustainable".
The EBA said that Feedback EU's report, entitled Biomethane: setting a target that is fit for food and the climate, recognises a niche role for biomethane in the future.
"However, multiple fact-based and scientific studies show significantly higher sustainable potential for biomethane than what your report mentions, as it does not yet consider biogases production from feedstocks such as industrial wastewaters, sequential cropping, biomass from marginal and contaminated lands[1] and synthetic methane production," said the letter, which is signed by EBA CEO Harmen Dekker and EBA secretary general Giulia Cancian.
"The reference to the JRC study[2] mentioned in your report is misleading, as this report calculates a total sustainable biogases potential of 40 bcm by 2030[3], of which 16 bcm is attributed to biogas-CHPs and 24 bcm to upgrading facilities. The report allocates substrates to different technologies as a simplification of practice: whereas biogas from manure is attributed to biogas cogeneration plants in the JRC study, in practice it is also used in plants that feed biomethane into the gas grid," it added.
The EBA acknowledged Feedback EU's interest in its reports and expressed regret that no dialogue had been sought, and that no questions were addressed to the authors of its reports.
"To address these concerns more comprehensively, we invite your coalition and all interested civil society groups to engage in open dialogue with experts in the field. We will be more than happy to facilitate this exchange," it added.
It went on to propose a visit to one or more biomethane plants, to offer an opportunity to witness firsthand the agronomic practices that facilitate the transition to more sustainable agriculture, the methane emissions abatement in biowaste management or the current techniques to address methane slip.
"Our intention is not only to address your concerns but also to build a collaborative relationship that fosters ongoing communication and knowledge exchange. Together, we can work towards a common understanding and identify the variety of solutions that align with our shared objectives of promoting sustainability and mitigating climate change," said the EBA.
Feedback EU's response
Feedback EU responded to the EBA in an open letter published on 28 November.
"Regarding the biomethane potential calculated by JRC, we refer to paragraph on p.280 of the Assessment report[4], which states that 'For the most sustainable scenario [...], by 2030, [...] potentials equal 428 TWh/y of biogas, including 259 TWh/y of biomethane'," it said.
"Using the EBA’s conversion factor of 10.61kWh/m3 this means a total biomethane potential of 24bcm (259 Twh). The remaining 169TW/y of biogas calculated by JRC assessment would be used for electricity and heat production and cannot be considered to replace natural gas in the form of biomethane as envisaged in RePowerEU."
The letter said Feedback EU's analysis shows this is likely to still be too high from a sustainability perspective, especially due to a lack of scientific consensus on livestock production and climate change, as well as issues around sequential cropping and agricultural residue feedstock availability.
"However, specific targets should be set by an interdisciplinary group of independent scientists, including food system experts as set out in our policy recommendations," it added.
We are interested in hearing the industry’s response to our detailed analysis of the latest available scientific literature on sequential cropping including issues around assumed yields and methane leakage, which are set out in section 4.2 starting on p.32 of our report.
"Likewise, we would be interested in hearing the industry's response to our detailed analysis of food waste and industrial wastewater feedstocks set out in chapter 5 starting on p. 48 of our report."
Feedback EU said it shares the EBA's interest in an open dialogue to encourage ongoing communication and the exchange of knowledge.
"To that effect, we are currently consolidating a group of experts from interested civil society groups to form the basis of an independent target-setting process for biomethane production in the EU," it said.
"We would be happy to involve the European biogas sector in that process and will get back to you accordingly, also for a specific discussion on points raised above."
"We have already planned a webinar on 6th December to present the findings of our report and are delighted of this opportunity to reiterate the invitation already made via the European Commission to members of Task Force 3 of the Biomethane Industry Partnership which as you know are working on Assessing sustainable potential for innovative biomass sources to produce biomethane but whose names unfortunately are not publicly available."

[1] As put forward in the REPowerEU Biomethane Action Plan
[2] Assistance to assessing options improving market conditions for biomethane and gas market rules. (2021)
[3] And 101 by 2050
[4] European Commission. Assistance to assessing options improving market conditions for bio-methane and gas market rules – Final report. Directorate- General for Energy, Joint Research Centre, Bossmann, T., Cornaggia, L., Vautrin, A. et al. (2021).


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