What distinguishes a successful industry? Especially when viewed over a long period of time, it has to develop further, adapt quickly to changing conditions and ideally also create new trends. This creed naturally also applies to the gaseous bioenergy sector, which as a renewable form of energy makes its contribution to the energy transition. Bio natural gas occupies a particularly interesting position here and is a promising evolutionary step for the further development of bioenergy. This is especially true in the context of EEG amendment 2012, from which the energy product bio natural gas emerges strengthened.
Biogas production infrastructure in Germany
Gaseous bioenergy in Germany has continuously developed in recent decades and has spread from southern Germany to all of Germany. Lower Saxony and Bavaria are leaders in terms of the number of plants and the total installed capacity and each provide around 550 MW (as of 2011) of plant capacity.
Rural, decentralized biogas plants (southern Germany) and large industrial plants (eastern Germany) now shape the biogas landscape in Germany.
The offer a good overview of the current state of development of the biogas industry in Germany Overviews of the biogas association.
Fusion of the biogas and biofuels sector thanks to bio natural gas
The biogas industry is currently striving to emancipate from its exclusively decentralized use and to expand its own range of applications. The special thing is that decentralized and energy-efficient production does not have to be abandoned. How is that possible? With the help of bio natural gas.
What is bio natural gas?
The energetically most important component of the gas mixture "biogas" is methane, which is on average around 60% contained in the raw biogas. Methane is also the main component of natural gas, of which around 100 billion standard cubic meters are distributed to consumers in Germany via the natural gas network.
The purification of biogas to natural gas quality creates BioERDGAS, or biomethane, which is also fed into the natural gas network and can be transported through it. The federal government's goal is to feed in 10 billion m annually3 Bio natural gas into the German natural gas network by 2030. The targeted feed quantity for biomethane thus corresponds to one tenth of today's natural gas consumption.
You can find a good overview of current biomethane feed-in projects in Germany and Europe at Biogas partner website the DENA.
Benefits of bio natural gas
What are the advantages of bio natural gas / biomethane? The special thing about bio natural gas is that it can take gaseous bioenergy to a new level and, figuratively speaking, give it wings.
First, the spatial use of biogas is significantly expanded through the sale as bio natural gas in the natural gas network. Apart from the costs for gas processing plants and connecting lines, from the biogas plant to the natural gas network, no complex investments are required to access a Germany-wide (!) Sales area. Since the bio natural gas feed is long-term and can be funded over a period of 20 years according to the EEG, the investments can be written off over the long term.
Second, the “chemical purity” of bio natural gas (methane) opens up new applications that did not yet exist for heterogeneous biogas (mix of methane, CO2, water vapor, nitrogen, etc.). In the future, bio natural gas can be converted into energy-efficient electricity in every natural gas-powered combined heat and power plant. In addition, bio natural gas can also be used as a biofuel in natural gas powered vehicles. The following sections present two practical projects on the innovative uses of biomethane that have recently been implemented.
The quality control of the bio natural gas fed in is currently carried out by the registration in Biogas register of DENA guaranteed which was started exactly a year ago to the day. According to DENA, the currently registered users already represent 60% of the German biomethane market.
Natural gas network thanks green bio natural gas paint
If I imagined the natural gas network as a person and I was the agent or spokesman for this extremely successful person in the energy business, I would probably introduce bio natural gas intake as follows.
“My client, the natural gas network, has decided to make an even more active contribution to climate protection in the future. As of now, it will consume more regional products and pay attention to a higher proportion of bio natural gas in the daily menu. With this green coat of paint, it would also like to give something back and thank the many people from the different regions of Germany who have supported his ascent for decades. ”
An important innovation for bioenergy is the use of the natural gas network as a sales partner. Thanks to the possibility of feeding it into the natural gas network, biomethane can be used to operate combined heat and power plants (CHP) that are not in the immediate vicinity of the biogas plant in which the raw biogas was obtained.
The further expansion of the electricity and gas networks is essential for the further integration of renewable energies in Germany (see article).
Bio natural gas CHP supply Berlin with electricity and heat
Thanks to the conversion of biogas into bio natural gas, the use of gaseous bioenergy is no longer restricted to rural regions, but it can also be used increasingly in large cities in the future.
Which infrastructural adjustments are still necessary for this?
The special thing is that all classic natural gas CHP units can be operated with biomethane! If the successful feeding of bio natural gas has taken place, then today's infrastructure is already suitable for a comprehensive use of bio natural gas. While pure biogas CHP units have been specially developed for the combustion of heterogeneous biogas, bio natural gas can be burned in any gas-burning combined heat and power plant that is available on the market.
Only the operator of the combined heat and power plant and, of course, the existing range of bio natural gas decide on the share that biomethane will take on in future in the generation of electricity and heat.
On behalf of the Berliner Immobilienmanagement (BIM), the Berlin energy agency realized a bio-natural gas-fired CHP in a fire station in Berlin-Charlottenburg at the beginning of the year.
The largest of a total of 4 combined heat and power plants built has an output of 240 kWel and 365 kWth. Through this measure in the CHP model city Berlin will save 100 tons of CO annually2 reached. The construction of the combined heat and power plant is part of the complete renovation of the 10 m, which costs 21.000 million euros2 large fire station administration building. Since the first biogas plant in Berlin is still under construction, the natural gas obtained from Gasag is produced by biogas plants in the Berlin area.
Further information on the CHP project can be found in one BIM press release.
The Berlin bio natural gas project described was named “Contracting of the Month” in the September 1st issue of Energie & Management magazine.
Stadtwerke München uses 100% bio natural gas as second generation biofuel
Stadtwerke München is taking another innovative way to fully exploit the flexibility of bio natural gas.
The Munich-based company uses the verbiogas produced by Verbio AG. This biogas converted into bio natural gas is an energy product that uses 90% less CO as fuel2 releases as fossil gasoline.
Verbiogas achieves the excellent climate balance for a currently available fuel due to the exclusive use of waste products from bioethanol production (slurry) and straw. Thanks to the use of organic raw materials that cannot be used as food, the bio natural gas produced in this way is one of the first "2nd generation biofuels" worldwide, which are manufactured on a large scale. You can find one on Verbio AG's innovative concept here another article.
The Verbiogas is offered by the Munich municipal utility, in line with the other energy products, as "M-Ökogas". Since the end of August, M-Ökogas has even been offered at petrol stations in the Munich district with 100% purity (previously 50%).
From now on, all natural gas vehicles can also fill up with 100% biofuel in the Bavarian capital and make a very active contribution to climate protection with a CO2 reduction of 90%. Compared to a petrol engine, the price of bio natural gas is only 76 cents / liter! The different energy content of the two fuels is already taken into account in this calculation.
Bio natural gas has thus arrived in practice as a pure biofuel and should not become a shop keeper thanks to its enormous price advantage.
Obstacles to the feed-in of bio natural gas must be overcome
Bio natural gas has the potential to directly link the previously largely separate sectors of gaseous and liquid bioenergy. In the future it will probably be possible to combine the production of biogas and biofuels much more than before.
In a first step, Verbio AG has already succeeded in this, which also produces biogas as a by-product by fermenting the stillage produced in the production of bioethanol (see previous section). Thanks to the processing to bio natural gas, the biogas produced is now also becoming a biofuel.
For these and other possible uses of bio natural gas, its feed-in still needs to be pushed forward. The main obstacles are (see article) to overcome.
Compared to the annual consumption of fossil natural gas (100 billion m3) seems the biomethane feed-in target (10 billion m3) by the federal government for 2030 relatively low. Nevertheless, this 10% green and regional painting of the natural gas network must first succeed.
The currently very low natural gas price is considered to be an important reason for the problems with bio natural gas feed-in. In some cases there has even been talk of a gas flood in Europe. The border crossing price for natural gas was around 2010 cents / kWh in 2, while the production costs for biomethane were in the vicinity of 6 cents / kWh (according to the Federal Network Agency).
So there is still a long way to go for bio natural gas, which has been pursued with determination in recent years and has been given a further boost by the 2012 EEG amendment.