Against a backdrop of fossil gas import dependency, geopolitical energy insecurity, climate implications, and current high prices, the recently held European Biogas Association's (EBA) European Biogas Conference 2021 was a great success. Biomethane is ready to decarbonize EU transport, industry, and buildings today, and has the potential to meet 30-40 percent of Europe's gas demand by 2050 delegates were told.
Over 200 participants and more than 40 speakers gathered, in real life, in Brussels, Belgium to catch up on the latest developments of renewable gases in Europe. The two-day conference also marked the official launch of the new visual identity of the European Biogas Association (EBA), more in line with the current positioning of the sector at the core of Europe’s future energy system and with its commitment to shaping the circular bioeconomy.
The EU is at the forefront of the low carbon agenda setting the global pace and the ‘Fit for 55’ package has provided the regulatory context to move forward. Inspiring interventions and discussions tackled the availability, sustainability, and scalability of biogas and its upgraded form, biomethane (aka renewable natural gas – RNG), in Europe, and how these green gases are making the transition towards a climate-neutral Europe a reality.
The figures from the EBA Statistical Report, with the 2021 edition foreseen at the end of this month, are encouraging: there is a massive growth of biomethane from 2019 to 2020 and the future forecasts are equally promising, as highlighted by Harmen Dekker, EBA Director, during his keynote speech.
The combined production of biogas and biomethane could cover today 4.6 percent of the whole EU gas demand. This is already higher than the overall natural gas consumption in Belgium. By 2050, about 30-40 percent of the EU’s gas needs could be met by biogas/biomethane.
However, a “fostered collaboration and a supportive regulatory framework” will be crucial in ensuring the scale-up of the sector. One of the areas where biomethane can play an important role is transport. The forecasted production of bioLNG for 2024 (liquified biomethane) could fuel more than 25 000 long-haul heavy-duty trucks, decreasing emissions from those vehicles below zero levels.
In his address, Pierre Bascou, Director of ‘Sustainability and income support’, at the European Commission Directorate-General for Agriculture, stressed the multiple benefits and emission reduction potential that biogas production contributes to in agriculture.
It creates additional income streams for the farming community (…), it delivers heat and electricity in areas not directly connected to national distribution infrastructure, therefore enforcing EU energy security. It also contributes to the deployment of low-value-added products of the agriculture and food processing sectors, valorizing waste and replacing mineral fertilizers, (…) ensuring there’s no deterioration in soil fertility, Pierre Bascou said.
This edition has also put on the spotlight the use of sustainable and innovative feedstocks for biogas production, including the presentation of a brand new report on the use of sequential cropping or the potential of industrial wastewater. The adequate monitoring and prevention of methane leakages were also discussed in a dedicated session during the conference.
This is part of the need to continue fostering innovation and investing in new techniques to strengthen the efficiency and sustainability of the sector.
One of the new applications explored in that framework is the recovery of carbon dioxide (CO2) from biogas upgrading to biomethane.
The European Biogas Conference was also the occasion to recognize outstanding individuals and projects committed to the energy transition and the deployment of a truly circular economy.
The winners of the 1st edition of the EBA Awards were announced during the gala dinner: Prodeval (Biogas Cost Reductions Award), Cooperativa Speranza (Biogas Circularity Award), Marie Esteve (Women leading the way to climate-neutrality Award), Emilio Folli (Top Biogas Young Talent Award).
Harm Grobrügge, former EBA President who passed away only some weeks ago, was honored with the Biogas Booster award, which will from now on bear his name.