This article is part of a five-part series to be delivered by gasworld this week in the lead-up to World Environment Day 2021, taking place on Saturday 5th June.

Biomethane is seen by many as a vitally important part of our energy future, with various quarters keen to urge its long-term deployment. It’s part of a wider spectrum of renewable energies like biogas that are increasingly coming to the fore as the world strives for a more diversified and sustainable energy mix.

The trend towards higher natural gas prices, coupled with the demand for renewable energy, has recently created strong demand for both biomethane and biogas – and a number of industrial gas related companies are already involved in this embryonic space, particularly where the recovery and subsequent re-purposing of associated carbon dioxide (CO2) is concerned.

As was mentioned in yesterday’s article, which focused on hydrogen, just last year a study was published to show the required investments needed to scale-up biomethane and hydrogen to assist the transition towards the lowest cost climate neutral system by 2050.

Gas Decarbonisation Pathway 2020-2050, published by the Gas for Climate consortium, suggests that addition EU climate and energy policies are needed to position Europe on the road to net zero by 2050.

It’s central and aspirations Accelerated Decarbonisation Pathway examines which investments and innovations have to take place in order to achieve a 2030 greenhouse gas reduction target -55%, and climate neutrality by 2050.

According to the study, the European Green Deal can facilitate such developments by:

  1. Fostering cross-border trade and transport of hydrogen and biomethane and clarifying market rules for green and blue hydrogen, including hydrogen for transport.
  2. Stimulating the production of biomethane and hydrogen by binding mandate for 10% gas from renewable sources by 2030.
  3. Incentivising demand for hydrogen and biomethane by strengthening and broadening the EU Emission Trading System combined with targeted and time-bound Contracts for Difference.
  4. Adapting the EU regulatory framework to make gas infrastructure future proof in an integrated energy system.

Read more: Study: Scaling up biomethane and hydrogen for decarbonisation

Focusing on Europe, it has been clear that demand for biomethane and biogas is growing, and companies are reacting fast to such demand. In June last year, it was confirmed in the European Biomethane Map 2020 that there had been a 51% increase of biomethane plants in Europe – by which figure showed the plants grew from 483 in 2018 to 729 in 2020.

Read more: 51% increase of biomethane plants in Europe

Supporting that growth, at gasworld’s Virtual Europe Industrial Gases summit in April, we heard that the European Biogas Association hopes to have 45GW of installed biomethane capacity across Europe by 2030, according to Harmen Dekker, Director of the Association.

Speaking at the one-day event, Dekker said that there are currently more than 18,000 biogas plants in Europe and this number is continuing to grow.

As well as the European Biogas Association, which is clearly a major play in the industry, you also have the likes of Air Liquide which has committed a lot of time and money to biomethane developments – in fact, in November last year, the industrial gas giant started construction on its first two biomethane production units in Italy.

Read more: Construction underway on two Air Liquide biomethane production units

Located in Truccazzano, Milan and Fontanella, Bergamo, the facilities will have a total production capacity of 3,200 tonnes per year – equivalent to about 50GW hours per year. From a circular economy perspective, the two units will also be complemented by one filling station for the supply of bio-LNG and bio-CNG to local transport companies. Open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, the station will be able to refuel up to 100 trucks per day.

Another biomethane-based milestone was achieved by the company just months later when Air Liquide teamed up with UK-based supermarket chain Asda, a wholly owned subsidiary of Walmart, to install and operate six biomethane distribution stations to refuel trucks on its sites.

Operational as of the first quarter of 2021, the new stations for Asda help power more than 300 new BioNVG trucks that Asda will commission this year as part of an effort to reduce the environmental footprint of its transport activities.

Read more: Air Liquide to build biomethane stations for Asda

But it’s not just trucks that the world can look to decarbonise with biomethane. It was revealed last year that the fuel could deliver 30% of the UK’s 2030 carbon budget in hardest to decarbonise sectors, provide green heat to 6.4 million homes and create 30,000 jobs by 2030, according to a report by the Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA) titled Biomethane: The pathway to 2030.

According to the report, sponsored by Air Liquide, Privilege Finance and SNG, when fully deployed, the biomethane industry could deliver a 6% reduction in the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. 

The report also shows that the biomethane industry could create tens of thousands of jobs, boost energy and food production security, attract investment into the green economy and enhance Britain’s competitiveness on the international sustainable technology market.

Read more: Biomethane to help decarbonise the UK

gasworld’s five-part series to celebrate World Environment Day continues tomorrow, when CCS and CCUS will be in focus. Keep an eye out!