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First installation of EnviTec biomethane to bio-CNG filling station in China

Environmental awareness is growing in China and with it the market for compressed natural gas (CNG). Bio-CNG for eco-friendly drivers is now already offered at several filling stations in the eastern Chinese port city of Yantai. One of these is now taking deliveries of biomethane from two 1 000 Nm³ per hour EnviThan biogas upgrading plants manufactured by Germany-based biogas technology providers EnviTec Biogas AG.

A containerised EnviThan biogas upgrading plant (photo courtesy EnviTec Biogas).

A containerised EnviThan biogas upgrading plant (photo courtesy EnviTec Biogas).

– Our customer, Shandong Minhe Biological Sci-tech Co. Ltd, supplies the raw gas from the existing biogas plant, explained Stefan Laumann, Head of Gas Upgrading at EnviTec’s plant construction division.

Based in Penglai, Shandong province, the company is one of the world’s largest poultry producers – its biogas plants are run exclusively on poultry litter.To be able to use gas as a fuel, the first step is using EnviThan technology to upgrade it to high-purity biomethane, whose quality is equivalent to that of fossil natural gas.

A recently installed CNG plant compresses the biomethane from around 13.5 bar to 200 bar in CNG tube trailers. The first trailer for delivery to Yantai, a trip of around 90 minutes by road, was filled on March 12.

Equipped with Evonik Industries SEPURAN Green membranes, the EnviThan biogas upgrading plant run by Shandong Minhe Biological Sci-tech is also the largest plant featuring this membrane technology in the Chinese market.

– The biomethane created in this step is then compressed under very high pressure to create commercial biogas fuel. At Yantai, CNG is mostly used by cars and taxis Laumann explained.

An energy rethink needed in the German transport sector

– Our customers in China have been quick to grasp the advantages of bio-CNG as a carbon-neutral fuel. Back home, however, climate policy goals will not be achieved without Germany’s energy transformation also being applied to the transport sector. While Germany also acknowledges the advantages of bio-CNG as a carbon-neutral fuel, progress in developing the necessary infrastructure has been sluggish to date, said Jürgen Tenbrink, CTO at EnviTec Biogas AG.

Yet the Natural Gas Mobility initiative launched by the German Energy Agency (Dena) is cautiously optimistic that expansion of the CNG market will now finally be possible. At the moment, natural gas and biomethane account for just 0.35 percent of domestic fuel sales in Germany.

The initiative estimates that market development would become self-sustained from a share of around four percent. In a recent statement, dena notes that the lack of an ambitious, technology-neutral policy for promoting alternative fuels and drive systems means that this target is still unlikely to be met before 2026.

The recent amendment to German energy and electricity tax legislation is however welcomed by EnviTec.

– The tax relief for CNG vehicles, which was due to expire in 2018, has now been extended to 2026. This is clearly a pro-CNG and contra-LPG move – since the tax relief for LPG cars will expire as previously announced on 31 December 2018, said Jürgen Tenbrink.

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