Gasrec Guides: Biomethane

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What is it?

Biomethane is methane which is the same gas you use in your home to power your hob, oven and central heating.Β The difference is the fact it comes from 100% renewable and sustainable sources as opposed to fossil fuel gas.

What are the sources?

Biomethane is harnessed from various forms of waste, such as domestic and industrial food waste, slurry and waste feed crop.

These waste materials are broken down in an anaerobic digester. When organic materials degrade in anaerobic conditions they release methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Rather than let the methane go to waste we capture it, clean it, and add it to our network or the national gas grid so that our customers can get the benefits of lower emissions.

What are the benefits of using biomethane as a fuel?

Because it’s a much simpler fuel, biomethane is much cleaner than fuels like diesel. When it combusts in an engine it produces just carbon dioxide, water and energy. on the other hand, when diesel combusts, it produces other materials like sulphur dioxide and particulate matter.

Biomethane - lower carbon emissions, lower NOx, lower particulates

But it still produces carbon dioxide?

Just like diesel, biomethane is still a hydrocarbon and still produces carbon dioxide. However, methane has a lower carbon producing density, meaning we can get more energy out of it per unit of CO2. Our data points to a typical 95% carbon emission reduction versus diesel.

Are there any other benefits of using biomethane?

In many agricultural situations, such as dairy farms, unprocessed waste causes odour and water pollution. Repurposing this waste can clean up farms and reduce the impact of farming on local communities. Ultimately the waste becomes a biofuel that can be used to as power, heating or for transport.

How is it used?

Biomethane can be compressed or liquified just like naturally-occurring methane and used in gas trucks.

Isn’t methane a very potent greenhouse gas?

Yes, but Gasrec has a no-venting policy meaning the release of methane to atmosphere is prohibited. Therefore at no stage in the supply chain will we release methane toΒ atmosphere.Β  Rather than venting, which causes GHG emissions, we put it back into our gas storage facility and redistribute it for use in truck fleets.

Why is biomethane important going forward?

Biomethane is likely to play a vital part in the fuel mix over the next few decades as governments and businesses seek to decarbonise fleets to slow global warming. Biomethane can be a carbon-neutral fuel meaning by using it businesses can reduce their fleets’ carbon emissions to zero.

The air quality of many UK cities is also at dangerous levels. As biomethane (and normal methane) are such clean fuels they’re perfect for use in urban and suburban environments. Already moves have been made to tighten regulations on diesel vehicles, such as Clean Air Zones, Low Emission Zones and charging zones like London’s congestion charging zone, and regulations are only expected to get tigher on diesel engines.

Can’t we just use electric trucks to achieve the same benefits?

Some people like to think so. However, the technology is unproven at best, and some even say impossible.Β Electric is great for smaller vehicles which require relatively small batteries. However, battery technology is not yet advanced enough to power an HGV over 1000km. Whatever the case it has serious doubters.

In addition, the green credentials of electric vehicles depend on the source of the electricity. If the electricity used in electric vehicles is generated from burning fossil fuels this has an equally bad effect on emissions as diesel.

We wrote about electric trucks in detail here.

Biogas is important because of its huge potential to decarbonise, and because of its potential to be implemented and upscaled right now – something that can’t be said of electric or hydrogen fuel cell trucks – and used effectively for the next decade at least before those technologies reach the market.

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