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Spanish biogas pioneers upgrade with Weltec's biomethane-to-grid

Germany-headed biogas producer and technology supplier Weltec Biopower GmbH (Weltec) has announced that it is building a biomethane-to-grid plant for the Spanish dairy cattle farm Torre Santamaría in Catalonia, Spain.

Weltec Biopower GmbH (Weltec) is upgrading an existing biogas plant and building a biomethane-to-grid plant for the Spanish dairy cattle farm Torre Santamaría in Catalonia, Spain (photo courtesy Weltec).

Since the first 250-kW biogas plant went live back in 2011, the Catalan family business has been able to cover its entire energy demand from its own residues. Catalonia’s second-largest dairy producer, the farm in Vallfogona de Balaguer was the first milk producer in Spain to use any residual materials for the production of energy.

The over EUR 4 million investment includes existing biogas plant and infrastructure refurbishment, and a new biogas upgrading to biomethane (aka renewable natural gas – RNG) plant.

Pioneering tradition

One of the reasons why Torre Santamaría is able to make the investment is that a long-term RNG purchase agreement has been secured via an energy service provider.

We view this AD plant as an environmental investment, as it allows us to cut our own greenhouse emissions almost to zero and generate additional income from biomethane, explained Juan Bautista Pons Torrades, Managing Director and owner of Torre Santamaría.

Besides its pioneer spirit in environmental topics, the cattle farm in the province of Lleida is also a trailblazer in other areas. For example, Torre Santamaría was one of the first to introduce lower lactose A2 milk.

Moreover, in 2019, the business was the first dairy cattle farm to be certified by the Lactalis Group in recognition of its animal welfare efforts. The dairy group purchases some 22 million litres of milk annually from Torre Santamaría selling it under various brands.

To produce this amount of milk, we keep 2 300 dairy cows and 2 100 calves on an operating area of 14.2 hectares, said Juan Bautista Pons Torrades.

Will utilize all residues

Every year, some 60 000 tonnes of input substrate is accumulated that can be used in biogas production. Cattle manure accounts for about 90 percent of the substrates. Bedding consisting of ground straw, as well as silage leftovers, are also fed into the digester.

Currently, Weltec is setting up two additional stainless-steel digesters for the digestion of all residues on the farm. Each of the digesters has a height of 6.30 m, a diameter of 26.87 m, and a capacity of 3 573 m3.

After processing the biogas generated in the digesters, Torre Santamaría will feed 300 Nm3 per hour of biomethane into the natural gas grid, said Mark Kornweibel, the Spanish sales partner of Weltec Biopower.

According to Kornweibel, the existing 250-kW cogeneration power plant will continue to be operated despite the transition to RNG production. The farm is thus able to cover its own demand for power, heat, and hot water.

Once the new plant is finished in summer 2021, Torre Santamaría will continue to satisfy its demand for energy from its own raw material, while maintaining a healthy balance between environment, social concerns, economic factors as well as security of food and energy supply.

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