Renewable substitute for fossil natural gas
Biomethane, or green gas, is a 100% renewable energy source obtained by purifying the biogas produced by the decomposition of organic matter (plants, agricultural and agro-industrial waste, household waste, sewage plant sludge, etc.) which has been stored in a landfill site.
Its chemical composition and properties are identical to those of natural gas, so it can be injected directly into distribution networks as a fuel, and used to power vehicles in the form of Bio-CNG.
Biomethane has a lower carbon intensity than natural gas in terms of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Much of the carbon emitted during its combustion was actually absorbed by living organisms and was already in the atmosphere when they appeared, in what is known as the short-term carbon cycle. Conversely, the use of fossil fuels (oil, coal and natural gas) releases carbon into the atmosphere that has accumulated over millions of years in the depths of our planet.
Also known as renewable natural gas (RNG), it contributes to the development of the circular economy: it is produced locally, from organic waste, and consumed by homes and businesses in the region for heating, domestic hot water, cooking and transport. It can be easily stored and transported using the existing gas infrastructure.
As a pillar of the energy transition, it contributes to local energy independence and replaces fossil fuels for transport and heating, which account for the bulk of our energy needs and the largest share of our greenhouse gas emissions.
Excellent environmental performance
The production and consumption of biomethane emit just 23.4 g CO2-eq / kWh NCV1, ten times less than natural gas, which is extracted from underground and imported.
When used as a fuel, biomethane makes it possible to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by up to 90%, compared with fossil natural gas, petrol or diesel.
1 The net calorific value (NCV) corresponds to the quantity of heat released during combustion per unit of volume or mass, without taking into account the energy supplied by the steam produced based on French data.
When an ecological imperative becomes an economic opportunity
Waste management generates 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
One of the main causes is methane (CH4) emissions released into the atmosphere, produced by the decomposition of organic matter at landfill sites. This powerful greenhouse gas has a global warming potential 86 times greater than that of CO2 over 20 years, and, according to the IMF, is responsible for around 30% of the rise in global temperatures since the beginning of the industrial era (1850-1900).
According to the World Bank, humanity produces nearly two billion tonnes of solid municipal waste every year (organic matter and other domestic waste, waste from offices, businesses and building sites).
In proportion to the increase in the global population in the future, this volume of waste is expected to grow by a further 70% by 2050.
A huge reservoir of renewable energy
Reducing methane emissions resulting from human activity is essential to keep the rise in temperatures below 2°C compared with pre-industrial levels, in line with the Paris Agreement.
In a growing number of countries, operators of landfill sites are obliged through regulations and their own environmental requirements, to recover the biogas emitted by the spontaneous and natural combustion of organic matter, and wherever possible, to upgrade it to be used as a source of energy (heat, electricity or gas).
Among the existing solutions for recovering biogas, one is particularly effective from an energy and environmental point of view: converting it into biomethane, a renewable substitute for fossil natural gas.
The principle: after purification, the biogas recovered at a landfill site (initially made up of a mixture of different gases, most of which are methane) can be injected into the urban gas network to supply homes and businesses in the form of biomethane.
Already adopted by a significant number of the world’s leading waste management companies, this innovative biogas recovery solution has a dual impact in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating global warming:
- It effectively reduces diffuse methane emissions released into the atmosphere
- It replaces fossil fuels, most of which are imported, with locally produced renewable energy
Biomethane: the energy of the future
More and more countries around the world are introducing proactive policies to encourage the production of biomethane, enabling the sector to develop at a fast pace.
The European Union, for example, has doubled its biomethane production targets, through the REPowerEU programme, aiming for an annual volume of 35 billion cubic metres by 2030. By 2050, the EU is striving for biomethane production of 900 TWh compared with 40 TWh in 2022.
The EU and the United States alone account for almost 90% of this increase: the United States, the world’s largest producer since 2019, has seen significant growth of 20% to reach two billion cubic metres in 2022 (i.e. almost 30% of global production), while the European Union has seen an increase in biomethane production of 15% to reach almost four billion cubic metres in 2022.
In France, biomethane production has risen by around 65% compared with 2021, to 0.65 billion cubic metres, making it the second-largest producer of biomethane in Europe.
In a study published in July 2022, on the outlook for biomethane production in EU Member States, the Gas for Climate consortium estimates that the countries with the highest production potential in 2050 are: France (22 billion m3 per year) and Germany (22 billion m3 per year), Spain (20 billion m3 per year) and Italy (14 billion m3 per year).
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