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Biogases: sustainable and ever-growing energy carriers

Biogases: sustainable and ever-growing energy carriers
Evolution of biomethane (aka renewable natural gas - RNG) plants in Europe 2008-2021 (graphic courtesy EBA).

Achieving the EU's ambitious target of 55 percent carbon dioxide emission reductions by 2030 will require fundamental changes to the energy sector. It is of paramount importance to promote energy system integration and renewable energy carriers such as biogases. These are enablers of significant emission reductions, helping to close the circular economy loop and improve EU energy security a new joint Bioenergy Europe and European Biogas Association report finds.

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The 2023 Statistical Report Biogas published by Bioenergy Europe in collaboration with the European Biogas Association (EBA), dives into the recent trends in the consumption and production of biogas and biomethane (aka renewable natural gas – RNG) in Europe.

The accompanying Policy Brief presents the most relevant legislative recommendations for promoting the biogas sector as a key player in the EU’s energy transition.

The report notes that biogas is a versatile, renewable fuel that can be used to decarbonize heating and electricity. When upgraded to biomethane (RNG), it can also be injected into the existing gas grid or used as a renewable fuel in transport.

Anaerobic digestion (AD) technologies provide a solution to waste management and reduce methane emissions from manure, landfilling, and wastewater management. The utilization of digestate, the post-digestion residual, in soil reduces the dependency on synthetic fertilizers and improves soil quality.

Continued strong growth

In 2021, the European biogas market continued its growth path, with biomethane growing 20 percent year-on-year and reaching 15 075 ktoe in terms of gross inland energy consumption of combined biogas and biomethane.

Biogas consumption 2021 by end use (graphic courtesy EBA).

Despite significant differences among EU27 countries, this corresponds to an average share of 10 percent of total bioenergy gross inland consumption. Though in 2021 the main share of biogas went towards electricity generation, considering current growth patterns and policies, upgrading to biomethane will become the norm in the future.

Indeed, the report highlights that RNG production has never been higher than in 2021, even if concentrated in the biomethane sector: most of the newly installed AD plants upgraded from biogas to biomethane, with a total of 18.4 billion cubic metres (bcm) of biogases being produced.

Call for coherent policy and mandatory target

While the deployment of new RNG operations continues, the report stresses that coherent policies which ensure the renewability of all sustainable bioenergy solutions and which create a proper framework for solid biomass, biogas, and RNG are necessary in order to reach the REPowerEU biomethane target of 35 bcm.

To achieve this goal, the authors suggest that a mandatory target in the Gas Decarbonisation Regulation would send the right signal to investors.

It is important to highlight the role of all biomass technologies in achieving a low-carbon economy. To this end, EU policymakers must ensure an adequate framework and avoid closing the door on decarbonization opportunities, said Jean-Marc Jossart, Secretary General of Bioenergy Europe.

Giulia Laura Cancian, Secretary General of the European Biogas Association, also stresses that “more than ever, to strengthen EU energy security and achieve climate mitigation objectives, policies should offer a clear and coherent pathway to scaling up biogases. As a first step, the EU should reverse the production vs. end uses paradox”.

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