Researchers outline plan for subsidy-free biogas

Scientists from Ghent University in Belgium have found that burning biogas is the least cost-effective way to use the product. Instead, they propose using biogas as the raw material for the production of chemicals. This approach, according to the researchers, has advantages for businesses, governments and the environment.

"Combustion has always been the easy solution to convert raw material into energy", says Professor Korneel Rabaey. "But only a third of the energy in biogas can be turned into electricity. The other two thirds gets lost as residual heat."

"Subsidies will always be necessary to maintain this process, especially now that electricity from solar and wind energy has become much cheaper".

By upgrading biogas into biomethane pure enough to be injected into the grid, companies can convert the gas into carbon monoxide (CO). CO is one of the raw materials used by the chemical industry.

"Using this method, companies can lower their CO2 footprint because they replace a part of their fossil gas by bio-natural gas", says Rabaey.

"With an eye toward a lower CO2 emission in 2030, we can cover the global demand for methanol four times using bio-natural gas from the EU. In reality this will be a mixture of different products”. The professor estimates that over half of the world’s emissions from industrial CO production could be cut by using methane upgraded from biogas.

"Eventually this will lead to processing biomass without the need of any subsidies and to producing chemicals with a lower ecological footprint”.

The team’s study, ‘Upgrading the value of anaerobic digestion via chemical production from grid injected biomethane’ was published in Energy & Environmental Science.


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