While many experts in the energy industry are conversant with biogas as a source of energy, many people are not. Biogas is the gaseous product that results from the decomposition of organic matter in digesters or landfills. The methane that results from this process can be interchanged with conventional natural gas.
Like many people, you might be wondering whether biogas is truly a renewable energy solution or a greener fuel. This post will discuss the basics of biogas, its current use, and whether it’s a green energy source. Continue reading for more insight.
What is Biogas?
Biogas is produced when biodegradable organic matter or biomass undergoes anaerobic digestion. Put simply, bacteria present in the biomass or added causes it to ferment without oxygen through biochemical reactions. This is an anaerobic process.
Biogas contains 60%-80% methane, 20%-40% carbon dioxide, as well as traces of nitrogen, hydrogen sulfide, and other impurities.
Biogas undergoes purification to eliminate impurities and moisture before using it as an alternative energy source like compressed natural gas. This cleaning process is upgrading biogas to 98% methane; a product referred to as biomethane.
Although Biomethane is identical to conventional fossil fuel natural gas, it is a clean and efficient alternative energy source as well and with similar uses and benefits.
Major Sources of Biogas
Some of the biogas sources are agricultural sources like energy crops and manure, landfills, industrial waste treatment facilities, and municipal wastewater treatment plants.
Livestock Operations Sources: You can produce biogas from animal manure. This waste is collected and put in an anaerobic digester where it is stabilized, and methane production is optimized. The gas is processed further to produce natural gas vehicles’ fuel.
Countries like the US have many anaerobic digester systems stationed in commercial livestock farms to process biogas used in electricity generation or to produce transportation fuel.
Wastewater Treatment Sources: These wastewater treatment plants produce biogas when solid matter undergoes digestion. The energy produced during this process can amount to 12% of the entire national electricity demand. Studies are going on to establish whether renewable energy gas can be used in the production of vehicle fuel as well.
Additional Sources of Biogas: The gas can be produced from industrial, commercial, and institutional entities organic wastes like supermarkets, educational facilities, restaurants, hospitals, manufacturing, and wholesalers’ facilities.
It can also be produced from lignocellulosic material like woody biomass, crop residues, and dedicated energy crops through technologies such as co-digestion, thermochemical conversions, and dry fermentation.
Previously, the wastewater treatment facilities used anaerobic digestion for waste volume and pathogen reduction as well as stabilization before disposing it or applying it on the land. Most of the time, biogas produced in this process was simply flared.
In modern times, biogas is a significant alternative energy source that is has been used to produce electricity after meeting several regulatory concerns.
One of the advantages of producing biogas is that it reduces greenhouse gas emissions since the release of methane is controlled while producing renewable and green energy.
Another benefit is that there is a reduction of waste, thus eliminating the need to store and dispose of.
Is Biogas a Greener Fuel?
Biogas is slowly being accepted globally as a greener fuel. Biogas is a more sustainable option compared to virgin natural gas that is collected after drilling the earth.
In the United States, nearly 80% of the natural gas is extracted through a process known as fracking. During this process, sand, chemicals, and water are pushed deep into the ground to help break up rock formations that cause landscapes and ecosystems damage.
However, the biogas produced from digesters and landfills is similar to natural gas and does not result in environmental destruction from the fracking process. Actually, biogas utilizes readily available materials that would otherwise become waste.
Additionally, the removal of the huge food waste and animal manure supply from the environment reduces nitrogen pollution as well as runoff into water resources.
Producing biogas from landfills wastes and manure lagoons prevents the emission and escape of methane. The use of methane to produce fuel mitigates its impact on the climate. Converting it to CO2 is better because it is a lesser potent than a greenhouse gas.
Processing biogas using the right technologies instead of using mined natural gas as fuel for ground, transportation, energy production, or commercial and residential buildings is sustainable. Nations should also depend on zero-carbon sources such as solar and wind to generate electricity. They should electrify several end uses like buildings and ground transport as much as possible to prevent the present over-reliance on mined natural gas.
Biogas is a Renewable Natural Gas in What Ways?
Biogas is a renewable energy source because humans and animals keep on producing waste. However, there are many initiatives geared towards reducing waste products, such as recycling and reuse. Still, this process is spontaneous, ongoing, continuous, and very sensible to biological function.
Instead of increasing the production of waste in order to convert it into biogas, the focus should be on capturing and using the available methane in the production of fuel but not allowing it to escape into the atmosphere because this will have a climate impact. Further CO2 emitted from biogas combustion should be captured and stored.
On the other hand, the natural gas that is produced by the decomposition of organic matter exposed to intense heat and pressure nearly 150 million years ago is non-renewable. Its production through extraction, treatment, and distribution that pollutes the atmosphere.
In summary, biogas is an alternative to natural gas and is more a sustainable solution compared to traditional natural gas.
Thus people should consider biogas in their journey to complete decarbonization of the energy supply. The use of biogas is likely to grow as nations, utilities, and other organizations continue to work together to fulfill this challenging goal.
One of the challenges in using biogas as an alternative to natural gas is the fight to reduce waste production.