Biogas in the spotlight: WBA welcomes Davos stage for biogas support

The World Biogas Association (WBA) has welcomed the support given to anaerobic digestion (AD) and the biogas business at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland last week.

Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World was the theme of the gathering last week, which attracted plentiful headlines for the stage given to world leaders and eminent influencers as diverse as US President Trump and climate change activist Greta Thunberg.

The four-day meeting brings together leaders of global society to discuss pressing international issues and as the significant carbon footprint appears at odds with its scope, the gathering was made carbon neutral by investing in carbon offsetting projects.

While bigger names may have claimed all the headlines, Biogas for Greener Farms was one such beneficiary of the Forum’s investments and the WBA has welcomed the stage given to the project.

Charlotte Morton, Chief Executive of the WBA, said, “WBA welcomes the support that this year’s Davos meeting has given to the Biogas for Greener Farms project in Switzerland.”

“The project is an excellent example of how anaerobic digestion allows farmers to capture the harmful methane emissions from their manures, slurries and other organic wastes and recycle them into green energy and natural fertilisers, at the same time improving their crop yields and the commercial viability of their farming business overall.”

The micro-AD focused project is aimed at decarbonising manure management in Switzerland, and is saving over 8,500 tonnes of CO2 annually.

AD is a natural process whereby plant and animal materials (biomass) are broken down by micro-organisms in the absence of oxygen. Many different forms of biomass exist and can be used, from food waste to manure, and crops or crop residues in-between.

Biogas, biomethane and a green future

Biogas is burgeoning, globally. Its use is rapidly growing around the world and especially in Europe and a particular strand of this movement, biomethane, appears to be of growing interest to the industrial gas community.

Biogas – An industrial gas snapshot

  • It can vary by feedstock, but biogas generally comprises around 60% methane and 40% carbon dioxide (CO2), as well as traces of other contaminant gases
  • This enables biogas to be used for two means of energy generation; it can either be combusted to provide heat or electricity, or can be upgraded to biomethane through the removal of other gases
  • The purified product can be injected into the mains gas grid or used as a road fuel
  • To meet pipeline natural gas quality specifications and can be distributed and sold by injection into existing pipeline gas utility pipelines, biogas must be put through a process to separate the methane from the CO2 and hydrogen sulfate using biogas upgraders
  • Biogas and biomethane could present an opportunity to help diversify a traditionally fragile CO2 supply chain through this extraction of CO2

Morton continued, “The 50th Davos meeting called on corporations and governments to raise their ambitions for climate action. WBA calls on the global elite to wake up to the huge opportunity they have to capture the emissions from all the organic wastes we humans and our farm animals generate and recycle them through biogas to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by at least 12%, as well as creating millions of green jobs around the world and improving our food and energy security.”

“With action taken now, the biogas industry could deliver this reduction by 2030.”

At COP25 in Madrid in December 2019, the WBA presented its climate Declaration to the UNFCCC. This Declaration, signed by the largest global operators in our sector, committed the industry, subject to the right policies being in place, to investing in the construction of millions of biogas plants to deliver its 12% potential. The WBA is currently sending letters to environment ministers around the globe asking them to support the Declaration and introduce the policies needed.

Rob Cockerill - BW v1

View from Rob Cockerill, Global Managing Editor

At a time when there seems to be increasing backlash to the uncomfortable science of climate change and our effects on the planet, it is indeed welcoming to see projects such as these and the support given to them by the WEF stage in Davos.

There appears little doubt about the acceleration in the clean energies transition and the movement towards a more sustainable future, of which many energies and technologies will have a role to play, including the biogas business.

For the industrial gases industry, this could also be a firm opportunity to help shore up an inherently fragile carbon dioxide (CO2) business in the process.

Though it can vary by feedstock, biogas generally comprises around 60% methane and 40% carbon dioxide (CO2), as well as traces of other contaminant gases – CO2 that can be extracted and purified as a product in its own right.

Talk of ‘circular economies’ and the by-product of CO2 from various clean energy initiatives – from carbon capture schemes at heavy industrial emitters to CO2 extraction from hydrogen production processes – is a hot topic in the global CO2 business of 2020. Advanced Amine Technology, for example, is one solution developed for large capacity CO2extraction from flue gas and the cement industry; another is in hydrogen manufacturing units, where the growing demand for hydrogen energy presents an opportunity to leverage the CO2 extraction potential.

At a time when CO2 supply chains still walk a tightrope of supply and demand in some regions, it’s time to get behind biogas and other green technologies not just for their clear and real (positive) impact but in the name of supply chain diversification too.

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