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French potato chip maker opts for German biomethane technology

Biogas technology provider Weltec Biopower GmbH has recently completed a biomethane plant for ALTHO, a French manufacturer of potato chips in St. Gérand, Brittany. The plant was planned and set up by the German manufacturer in collaboration with its French partner Weltec France. Some 200 Nm3 per hour of biomethane are generated from production waste and sludge from the company‘s own wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). This corresponds to the gas consumption of a town with a population of 5 000.

Germany-headed biogas technology provider Weltec Biopower has, in collaboration with its French partner Weltec France, recently completed a biomethane plant for ALTHO, a French manufacturer of potato chips in St. Gérand, Brittany. Some 200 Nm3 per hour of biomethane are generated from production waste and sludge from the company‘s own wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) and injected into the gas grid (photo courtesy Weltec Biopower).

For more than a year, France has promoted the establishment of biomethane plants. Now, an action package implemented by the government makes sure that the projects can be rolled out speedily and with minimum bureaucracy. The improved framework conditions have started showing up in the order books of experienced biogas specialists like Germany-headed Weltec Biopower.

The new biomethane production is in line with the corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy of ALTHO, which holds more than a third of the French market share with its chips brand “Bret‘s”.

Via the ALTHO subsidiary SOBER, which operates the biogas plant, we actively participate in recycling, producing a green energy source from waste. Additionally, we contribute to the reduction of greenhouse emissions and the energy dependence of the region, said Christophe Chrétien, Managing Director of the biogas plant of SOBER.

Biomethane and biofertiliser

The chips production yields around 22 000 tonnes of leftovers and sludge annually. Potato and starch leftovers, as well as other production waste, account for about half of the substrate; the rest is made up of the sludge from the washing process.

First, the solid and liquid substrates are mashed and shredded in the sturdy MULTIMix input system. After this pre-processing, the mixture is fed into the stainless-steel digester, which has a capacity of 4 436 m3.

A post-digester with the same capacity is the last step in the material cycle. The remaining digestate is sold to local farmers, who use it as high-quality fertiliser.

Upstream compression

The process that transforms the biogas into biomethane also stands out with its sustainability. To upgrade and condition the biogas, Weltec Biopower has integrated the membrane technology in a compact container solution.

In the container, the raw gas passes through special membranes that separate it from carbon dioxide, steam and other components. The three-stage separation, which has already been successfully employed in other Weltec plants, reduces the methane slip to less than 0.5 percent, said Alain Priser, who is responsible for Weltec‘s business in France.

Another major benefit is that thanks to the upstream compression, the methane has exactly the right pressure that it needs in order to be fed into the natural gas grid without any further compression.

To condition the biogas into biomethane, Weltec Biopower integrated membrane technology
as a compact container solution (photo courtesy Weltec Biopower).

The separation takes place at ambient temperature and without using any chemicals. In this way, 400 Nm3 per hour of raw biogas yields about 200 Nm3 per hour of biomethane into the grid.

Owing to the durable membranes, the plant availability is high, and the maintenance overhead is low. In St. Gérand, we ensure uninterrupted gas feed-in with our custom-developed LoMOS PLC, said Alain Priser.

Custom-tailored to mitigate operational issues

With this equipment, ALTHO is able to focus on its core business and make efficient use of accumulating leftovers. This fills an urgent need, as many French biogas operators struggle with technical problems.

According to Weltec, a survey conducted by the ATEE (Association technique énergie environnement) has revealed some sobering results: 94 percent of the plant operators had technical problems, and 65 percent did not see their efficiency expectations fulfilled. This was usually because the technology did not meet the requirements.

Our team has a wealth of experience in handling various substrates, and custom tailors the technology implemented in each plant. In this way, we ensure a stable, economical operation. Over the last 18 years, we have successfully installed and commissioned more than 300 biogas plants in 25 countries, said Alain Priser.

Priser added that the combination of “Made in Germany‘ with the cooperation with strong local partners ensures security and efficiency for Weltec’s customers – an optimum basis for the “further development of the portfolio of biogas plants in France and around the globe”.

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