Environmental evaluation and comparison of selected industrial scale biomethane production facilities across Europe
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The two main reasons for producing biomethane as renewable fuel are reduction of climate impacts and depletion of fossil resources. Biomethane is expected to be sustainable, but how sustainable is it actually? This article contributes to the clarification. Therefore, the environmental impacts of several biomethane facilities all over Europe were assessed. A special focus is put on the differences between the facilities as they follow different production routes.
The method used for evaluation is life cycle assessment (LCA) applied in a well-to-wheel approach. This enables to show the overall performance in terms of global warming potential (GWP), acidification potential (AP), eutrophication potential (EP), photochemical ozone creation potential (POCP) and PE fossil. The system boundary includes the entire chain from biogas production to upgrading, distribution and use. For evaluating the different production routes several years of measuring data, calculating and improving the LCA models in close cooperation with the plant operators were carried out.
Results and discussion
The evaluation of the production routes shows a high reduction potential compared to fossil fuels. Regarding the depletion of fossil resources, the amounts vary between the sites, but the reduction is at least 50 % and reaches almost 100 % reductions at some sites. The reduction of GWP is at least 65 %, because waste flows free of environmental burdens are used almost exclusively as substrate. Other dominant factors are power and heat demand, methane losses to the environment and the use of by-products, e.g. fertilizer.
Despite this caveat, the evaluated systems demonstrate the possible positive results of renewable fuel production if done properly.
KeywordsBiofuels Biogas Biogas plants Biogas upgrading Biomethane Energy LCA Transportation
This paper is based on work conducted in the EU project “Biogasmax-Biogas as vehicle fuel-Market Expansion to 2020 Air Quality” (Biogasmax 2010), co-financed by the European Commission under the contract number TREN/05/FP6EN/S07.53784/019795.
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