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Thursday January 19 2023

What are the advantages of biogas?

The production of biogas using anaerobic digesters is becoming increasingly important across the world, with many nations making sweeping commitments to rapidly scale-up biogas production.

Much of this is being driven by the need to deliver energy security and cut the need for imports from foreign nations. This has been thrown into the spotlight following the political turmoil and strict sanctions imposed following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

However, biogas and biomethane offer a range of benefits beyond energy security and, in addition to creating an environmentally friendly source of fuel, heat and power, can help to tackle waste while also presenting a solid investment for a range of industries.

But, what are the key benefits of biogas production and what are the advantages of anaerobic digestion for your business?

Biogas as a renewable energy source

First and foremost, biogas produced with anaerobic digesters is a renewable energy source. Anaerobic digestion plants take animal and human waste, crop waste and/or energy crops, organic industrial waste and F&B organic waste and break these down into gases that can be turned into power.

As there is a constant supply of feedstock for the anaerobic digesters, this also means they provide a continuous and reliable source of energy unlike wind or solar that is dependent on the weather conditions and produce power intermittently.

Using biogas to tackle climate change

Biogas production also helps businesses and governments to cut greenhouse gas emissions and meet their commitments to tackling climate change.

Because anaerobic digesters produce biogas without oxygen, this means they can create energy with zero emissions.

While the process does produce some carbon dioxide, it is considerably less than the amount produced by fossil fuels and anaerobic digester plants are net zero when it comes to carbon. This is because the amount of carbon dioxide produced is equal to the amount needed for the plants to grow that are then fed into the digester, balancing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Turning food waste into biogas

One of the key benefits of biogas production is that it disposes of organic waste and prevents it from being sent to landfills. In the UK, the Government has said it will ban all food waste from being sent top landfill from 2024 and this means councils and businesses need to find a new solution for dealing with this waste.

By utilising anaerobic digesters, this food waste can be dealt with in an environmentally sound manner and gas and energy will be produced as a by-product.

By turning waste into biogas, it also prevents issues like foul smells and toxic liquids when waste is left to rot.

Growing the green economy

As we’ve said, most nations are working hard to build a network of anaerobic digestion plants to boost biogas production and this is helping to grow the green economy.

This sector requires skilled workers to not only help construct and then operate the anaerobic digesters but skilled jobs throughout the supply chain, from parts manufacturer through to waste collection and production of the feedstock.

Typically, anaerobic digesters are located in rural locations and this helps to generate much-needed skilled jobs in rural communities.

Using anaerobic digestate as a fertiliser

The process of anaerobic digestion leaves behind an enriched digestate, or organic manure, which can be used on fields and can help to cut the use of costly fertilisers.

Many fertilisers have soared in price over the past year and this digestate is a valuable, nutrient-rich and cost-effective alternative for helping to improve crop yields.

As an added bonus, this digestate also dramatically reduces the impact of leaching into watercourses after it is applied to the field, a significant problem that is associated with commonly used nitrogen based fertilisers.

How biogas helps to cut pollution

Pollution, and particularly pollution of watercourses and the water table, is a hot topic. Biogas production can play a key role in cutting the risk of pollution and helping to protect the world’s freshwater supply.

One of the biggest challenges in tackling pollution is diverting waste from landfill. Waste left to decompose in landfill sites will break down into a range of toxic materials. These liquids can often then soak through the ground and ultimately contaminate the water table.

In some instances, these toxic materials can even be washed away into watercourses polluting our rivers and streams.

By diverting waste from landfill and using it as a feedstock in anaerobic digesters, this ensures the waste is broken down in a safe and managed way and turned into biogas or a rich digestate.

Biogas as a fuel

In addition to the environmental benefits of biogas listed above, the production of biogas can also play a significant role in removing our dependence on fossil fuels.

Pretty much every Government and business have made pledges to dramatically cut their environmental footprint in the years to come and a key tenet of that is reducing the use of fossil fuels to generate the power and heat we need.

Biogas is a valuable, carbon-zero alternative to fossil fuels helping to feed gas directly into the grid when upgraded to biomethane, being used in combined heat and power systems to generate electricity and used as a fuel to power the next generation of vehicles, with significant environmental benefits in fuelling heavy vehicle transport (bio-CNG and bio-LNG).

Biogas in a circular economy

All of these advantages of biogas feed into the goal of circular economy – a system that produces minimal waste and has limited impact on our environment.

Biogas is a prime example of how circular economy can work as it takes in waste or energy crops, produces a valuable gas, and then the waste left behind (or the digestate) can then be used to grow more food or energy crops.

The cycle then repeats, with a constant and predictable supply of gas being the key outcome.

All of these benefits help to demonstrate the biogas presents a solid investment and will undoubtedly continue to play an important role in the future of the world’s energy mix.

If you would like to learn more about how biogas can benefit your business or organisation, please get in touch with the Birch Solutions team on enquiries@birchsolutions.co.uk and we’ll be happy to answer your questions.