WELTEC BIOPOWER’s €11m biomethane plant goes live in France

WELTEC BIOPOWER’s €11 million biomethane plant in Normandy, France, has gone live.

The German energy plant manufacturer rolled out the project with Agripower France, a local firm that comprises 40 operations across the agricultural value chain.

The plant, near the town of Vire, has created three permanent jobs and processes around 70,000 tons of substrates to produce biogas, which is then processed to biomethane.

The raw material mix used in the plant is gathered from a 7-kilometre radius of the plant, consisting of inexpensive waste and other by-products from the agriculture and food industry.

Two-thirds of the 200 tons of input substances needed daily consist of animal waste such as cattle and pig manure and liquid slurry. Whey, sludge, and abattoir waste from food operations and a pet food manufacturer belonging to Agrigaz account for another 20%. The rest is made up of maize, grass, whole plant silage, straw, and grass silage.

Every hour, 270 standard m3 of green biomethane are fed into the public gas grid for use as an energy source or as an alternative fuel throughout France.

“With this amount, some 5,300 tons of CO2e can be saved every year,” said Alain Priser of Weltec Biopower, France. “Used as a natural gas equivalent, the biomethane could cover as much as 20% of the gas demand of Vire (population: 18,500).

“In the mobility sector, this quantity would be sufficient for driving a climate-neutral distance of 35 million km by car, or circling the equator 890 times every year.”

Solid input substances are introduced to the system with the help of two moving floor feeders and a vertical screw feeder. Some of the substrates are shredded in two MULTIMix units to ensure optimum digestion. The liquid substrates are first buffered in seven upstream tanks. Following the hygienisation of some input substances, the substrates are transported to three stainless-steel digesters.

Two storage units are used to store the digestate for use as high-quality fertiliser by Agrigaz’s farmers. Yves Lebaudy, managing director of Agrigaz Vire, said: “Our farmers thus also benefit from this by-product in that they save chemical fertiliser. Ultimately, this too is a key to reducing greenhouse gases.”

The plant is supplied with exhaust heat from a pet food manufacturer only 500m away, whose production process delivers enough heat for the hygienisation procedure of the plant. To achieve this, Agrigaz has connected the two locations with a hot water pipe.

Using heat pumps, part of the energy from the exhaust heat can be recovered and used to produce heat at a higher temperature level. Thanks to this thermodynamic system consisting of 24 heat pumps with a capacity of 50 kW each, all substrates except for the re-growing raw materials can be treated for one hour at 70oC in three hygienisation tanks of 15 m3 each. By contrast, the digesters do not need to be heated very much, as the hygienised input substances already have the temperature level required for the digestion process.

“We are proud of our innovative project, which enjoys the backing of our farmers, politicians, entrepreneurs, and residents alike,” said Lebaudy.

“Especially, the inhabitants of Vire are eager to participate. They can deposit their waste in a new recycling centre with waste handover docks. In this way, they are able to actively support the operation of the biomethane plant with their own raw material, thereby contributing to the success of the project as a whole.”

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