Availability, scalability and sustainability of biomethane

Nov 23, 2021 | News

With a low climate index, given that it is derived from organic agricultural, industrial, and household waste, biomethane is one of the cleanest energy carriers today. In recent years, the biogas and biomethane sector has grown substantially. In addition, the forecasts of the availability of biomethane, in the form of bio-CNG and bio-LNG, in the road transport sector are promising. Furthermore, the availability and scalability of biomethane guarantee that the energy source can contribute to an increasingly decarbonized transport sector over the upcoming years. With this article, the Zürich 5 Coalition hopes to provide more information on the availability, scalability and sustainability of biomethane in the road transport sector.

The biomethane sector is ready to scale up

By the end of 2019, Europe had 18,943 biogas plants with a combined biogas production of 15.8 billion cubic meters (bcm). The year 2019 also saw the biggest increase in biomethane plants amounting to 725 biomethane plants in Europe and combined production of 2.4 bcm.[1] Several landmark publications on the biogas and biomethane sectors in Europe already provide the scientific evidence of the availability and sustainability of biomethane. There is a consensus that by 2030, the biogas and biomethane sectors combined can almost double their production and by 2050, production can more than quadruple.[2] More specifically for the road transport sector, by 2030, about 30-40% of EU gas-powered vehicles in the EU could run on biomethane.[3]

The Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive has allowed for almost 4,000 CNG and 400 LNG-filling stations in Europe.[4] This gas infrastructure, built for regular CNG and LNG, can also be used to transport bio-CNG and bio-LNG. The Zürich 5 Coalition is fully committed to serving 100% biomethane on the existing (and future) infrastructure in the Member States it operates in, thus making fueling cars with biomethane possible everywhere.

Waste as an alternative for feedstocks

When biomethane is produced exclusively from waste, it closes open biological cycles and is, therefore, a solution to multiple long-term environmental challenges. Human activities will always generate waste , and we need to maximize the monetary and environmental value from this waste, which is why biomethane is an available, effecient, and  sustainable solution. The companies in the Zürich 5 coalition use, for example, co-digest sewage sludge, manure or straw to produce biomethane. A concrete example of the use of waste includes the use of wine pomace for biofuel on a large vineyard in Emilia Romagna by the company Caviro Extra[5]. The company produces biomethane which can be used for bio-CNG cars to travel up to 200 million km and it is building the largest bio-LNG plant in Italy.

Biomethane meets the EU’s sustainability criteria

Both the current and the proposed Renewable Energy Directives (RED) list the approved materials to produce advanced biofuels and biogas in Annex IXA. The Zürich 5 Coalition is proud that its members’ products, using waste as a resource, comply with the categorization of the most sustainable advanced biogas. However, the proposed RED III predominantly facilitates the uptake of Renewable Fuels of Non-Biological Origin (RFNBOs), ignoring the potential of advanced biofuels such as biomethane. The Coalition therefore strongly urges the EU institutions to increase their efforts to stimulate the uptake of biomethane, as it is a complementary and scalable solution that can effectively facilitate a sustainable transition since it is derived from waste sources.

Therefore, the Zürich 5 Coalition aims to support the EU in achieving its goals under the European Green Deal in reducing transport emissions and aims to stimulate a favorable regulatory framework for the uptake of biomethane in the transport sector. The deployment of renewable energy, including biomethane, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is urgent. The biomethane sector is ready to boost the deployment of renewable gas in the transport sector because biomethane is an available and sustainable solution. Different studies confirm a minimum realistic biomethane potential that could be unlocked in the near future.

Read more about the benefits of biomethane here and download our position paper here.

Interested in all the existing European biogas technologies? The Digital global Biogas Cooperation provided an overview with all existing technologies and examples.

More info: On 30 November, the European Biogas Association (EBA) will launch during a webinar its 2021 Statistical Report. During the webinar, the EBA will explore the latest developments and future trends of the sector based on fresh data from 2021.

[1] EBA Annual Report 2020, European Biogas Association (2020)

[2] EBA statistical Report, European Biogas Association (2020)

[3] In the Fast Lane with Biomethane in Transport, European Biogas Association and NGVA Europe (2020)

[4] CNG/LNG refueling stations, European Alternative Fuels Observatory (2020)

[5] Caviro extra, Italy