Biogas Gaining Steam Worldwide

October 31, 2014 By Karen Henry

methane installation-energy manageHousehold and industrial operations around the world are extracting biogas from crop waste, manure, kitchen scraps and sewage. According to the Energy Biosciences Institute at the University of California, Berkeley, biogas is poised to become “big” as countries develop long-term renewable energy strategies.

Biogas use has seen growth in countries in which governments are seeking new clean energy sources and a reliable domestic gas supply. A New York Times article highlights how biogas use is evolving in countries like Germany and China, as well as how it is beginning to pick up steam in the United States.

There are almost 8,000 biogas plants in Germany that provide 4.6 percent of the country’s electricity. Although Germany has pulled back on biogas development, it is still a world biogas leader, encouraging use of the fuel as part of its national effort to shift to renewable energy. The country is also looking to reduce its dependence on natural gas from Russia. Since 2000, the government has offered guaranteed payments to facilities feeding clean power, from biogas and other sources, into the grid.

China, another major biogas user, has also refocused its plans for the fuel. China relies on biogas for about 10 percent of its total natural gas use. It began promoting backyard biogas production for rural families in the 1930s. Today, more than 42 million Chinese households have sealed digester tanks that produce biogas. As rural Chinese residents increasingly migrate to cities, China has cut back its efforts to add more home-based digesters, instead focusing on bringing biogas production to industrial-scale cattle, pig and chicken farms.

The United States is also exploring the use of biogas, though natural gas prices have made it difficult for the fuel to be cost-competitive. In Brooklyn, for example, the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant mixes food waste with sludge to generate biogas, and said it plans to starts purifying the fuel so it can be pumped into New York’s natural gas grid. In addition, the US Environmental Protection Agency said that more than 600 American landfills capture methane and use it to produce energy. Dairy farms are also a major potential US biogas contributor.

In August, the Obama Administration released the Biogas Opportunities Roadmap, which supports the Climate Action Plan – Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions.

Photo via Shutterstock.

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