Modern societies and economies produce increasing amounts of organic waste that can be used to produce clean sources of energy, with multiple potential benefits for sustainable development.

That according to a recent report from the International Energy Agency which says that biogas and biomethane are different products with different applications, but both originate from a range of organic feedstocks whose potential is underutilised. 

Outlook for biogas and biomethane: Prospects for organic growth provides estimates of the sustainable potential for biogas and biomethane supply, based on an assessment of feedstock availability and production globally to form an outlook for biogas and biomethane supply and demand up to 2040. 

The report suggests that the production and use of biogas and biomethane embodies the idea of a circular economy, bring benefits from reduced emissions, improved waste management and greater resource efficiency.

A detailed, bottom-up study of the worldwide availability of sustainable feedstocks for biogas and biomethane, was also conducted for the report, which shows the technical potential to produce biogas and biomethane is “huge and largely untapped”. 

The study shows that biogas and biomethane production in 2018 was approximately 35 million tonnes of oil equivalent, only a fraction of the estimated overall potential. According to the study, full utilisation of the sustainable potential could cover some 20% of the world’s gas demand.

The outlook for biogas and biomethane also suggests that every part of the world has significant scope to produce biogas and/or biomethane, and the availability of sustainable feedstocks for those purposes are set to grow by 40% over the period to 2040.

According to the report, the largest opportunities lie across the Asia Pacific region, where natural gas consumption and imports have been growing rapidly in recent years. There are significant possibilities across North and South America, Europe and Africa.

The report also looks at the potential for biogas for generating power to meet heating or cooking demand. According to the report, in developing countries, biogas reduces reliance on solid biomass as a cooking fuel, improving health and economic outcomes.

As well as in domestic uses, biomethane can also be used to reduce emissions in sectors such as heavy industry and freight transportation, the study suggests. Biomethane in the sustainable development scenario avoid approximately 1,000 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in 2040. 

The full report can be found here.