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Agrigaz Vire biomethane-to-grid plant in Normandy goes live

In November 2020, a biomethane-to-grid plant from the German energy plant manufacturer Weltec Biopower GmbH went live in Papillonnière near the town of Vire in Normandy, France. The EUR 11 million project, which was rolled out by Weltec and its project partner Agripower France, is operated by Agrigaz Vire, a local agricultural company that consists of 40 operations along the agricultural value chain.

In November 2020, a biomethane-to-grid plant from the German energy plant manufacturer Weltec Biopower GmbH went live in Papillonnière near the town of Vire in Normandy, France. The EUR 11 million project, which was rolled out by Weltec and its project partner Agripower France, is operated by local company Agrigaz Vire (photo courtesy Weltec Biopower).

The new plant has created three permanent jobs and digests a yearly amount of about 70 000 tonnes of substrates to biogas, which is then processed to biomethane. The regional, sustainable nature of the biomethane project is underlined by the fact that the operations belong to the agricultural company and the substrates come from the region.

Local substrates

The raw material mix that comes from a radius of approximately seven km largely consists of inexpensive waste and other by-products from agriculture and the food industry.

Two-thirds of the 200 tonnes per day of input substrates consists of animal waste such as cattle and pig manure and liquid slurry. Whey, sludge, and abattoir waste from food operations and from a pet food manufacturer belonging to Agrigaz account for another 20 percent.

The balance is made up of maize, grass, whole plant silage, straw, and grass silage.

The use of biomethane plays a key role in reducing greenhouse gases: Every hour, 270 Nm³ of the green biomethane is fed into the public gas grid for use as an energy source or as alternative fuel throughout France.

With this amount, some 5 300 tonnes of CO2e can be saved every year. Used as a natural gas equivalent, the biomethane could cover as much as 20 percent of the gas demand of Vire (population: 18 500). In the mobility sector, this quantity would be sufficient for driving a climate-neutral distance of 35 million km by car or circling the equator 890 times every year, explained Alain Priser, who is in charge of WEltec Biopower’s business in France.

The solid input substances are introduced to the system with the help of two moving floor feeders (140 m³ and 98 m³) and a vertical screw feeder (30 m³). Additionally, some of these substrates are shredded in two MULTIMix units and mixed to ensure optimum digestion.

The liquid substrates are first buffered in seven upstream tanks. Following the hygienisation of some input substances, the substrates are transported to three 4 436-m³ stainless-steel digesters.

Two storage units are used solely for the purpose of storing the digestate for use as high-quality fertiliser by the agricultural company’s farmers.

Our farmers thus also benefit from this by-product in that they save on the use of chemical fertilisers. Ultimately, this too is a key to reducing greenhouse gases, underlined Yves Lebaudy, Managing Director of Agrigaz Vire.

Uses third-party residual heat

A rather exceptional heat concept is used in Vire. The biomethane plant is supplied with the exhaust heat from a pet food manufacturer located at a distance of only 500 m, whose production process delivers enough heat for the hygienisation procedure of the biogas plant.

For this purpose, Agrigaz Vire has connected the two locations with a hot water pipe. Through the use of heat pumps, part of the energy from the exhaust heat can be recovered and used to produce heat at a higher temperature level.

Thanks to this thermodynamic system consisting of 24 heat pumps with a capacity of 50 kW each, all substrates except for the regrowing raw materials can be treated for one hour at 70°C in three hygienisation tanks of 15 m³ each.

In addition, the digesters do not need to be heated very much, as the hygienised input substances already have the temperature level required for the digestion process.

Public acceptance

The sustainable circular cycle has resulted in a high level of acceptance by the entire local population.

We are proud of our innovative joint project, which enjoys the backing of our farmers, politicians, entrepreneurs and residents alike, said Yves Lebaudy.

Especially the inhabitants of Vire are eager to participate. They can deposit their organic waste in a new recycling centre with waste handover docks. In this way, they are able to actively support the operation of the biomethane plant with their own raw material, thereby contributing to the success of the project as a whole.

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