We can be produced and consumed anywhere

Publié le 3 November 2020

Lecture 3 min

Renewable gases, which have multiple uses and are easy to store, also stand out because of their ability to be produced and consumed anywhere in France: in the countryside, near urban areas and even in cities

Renewable gas can be produced anywhere that has a supply of waste, which we know is an almost inexhaustible resource!

The rise of anaerobic digestion

Today, there are 159 biogas plants injecting biomethane into existing networks. The future also looks promising with nearly 1,100 injection projects currently included in the capacity plan. These projects alone represent a potential cumulative production capacity of 24 TWh/year, i.e. the equivalent energy consumption of 1.9 million households.

 

Before a biomethane production site can be developed, it is first subject to a scoping study, and then a technical and economic feasibility study. The scoping study consists of confirming that the project is relevant. It also ensures that the project sponsor has the necessary expertise. Do they have a good command of all the aspects that they will have to deal with? The second analyses the project from different angles in order to verify its viability and that it complies with strict specifications, such as technical, economic, legal, administrative, environmental specifications etc. The study also takes into account the energy needs that the site can contribute to covering.

There are as many sites as there are materials available

The variety of inputs used in the anaerobic digestion process (organic materials from agriculture, industry, algae, food waste, municipal waste, gas from Non-Hazardous Waste Storage Facilities (NHWSF), etc.) determines the location of the production sites. They are located in numerous places for that reason. Sometimes they are on agricultural land, sometimes in the heart of a village or even on the outskirts of an urban area. Although these units are still unevenly distributed at regional level, they are found more or less everywhere in France: from Hauts-de-France, Occitanie and Grand-Est to Brittany, Pays de la Loire and Île-de-France.

Much more than just cow dung…

Rural sites are either majority-owned or fully-owned by a farmer or group of farmers. While farmers mainly produce biomethane from agricultural by-products from their farms, they also use other regional waste products provided by local industries or water treatment plants.

 

For sites integrated into municipal areas, or close to towns, they are often supported by project developers or industrial companies. A local authority, urban area or waste treatment association may also be the driving force behind the project. Although more urban, these anaerobic digestion sites may or may not also process agricultural materials or sewage sludge as well as biowaste or organic household waste.

A protected landscape

Whether the production unit is installed in a rural environment or on the outskirts of a town, its location is chosen to achieve optimal integration into the landscape. The size and space taken up by the site, how it is organised, the materials used and the colours, as well as the techniques for masking it as much as possible, for example using rural hedges, are all ways to encourage the neighbouring community to accept it.

There is more to renewable gases than anaerobic digestion

Pyrogasification is a high temperature thermochemical process (between 800° and 1500° C). It makes it possible to recover various types of residual waste such as dried sludge or non-recovered residues from the wood sector. Hydrothermal gasification is another high temperature, high pressure thermochemical process (250 to 300 bar). It converts liquid biomass with low levels of dry matter such as, sewage sludge, urban liquid organic waste or anaerobic digestion digestates. These two new related technologies are currently being tested in projects like “Plainénergie” in Ain.

 

The Plainénergie project is supported by the Plaine de l’Ain Community of Communes (CCPA), in connection with the Plaine de l’Ain Industrial Park (PIPA). It aims to design an experimental industrial facility for the treatment and energy conversion of a wide range of residual waste collected from the municipalities. Up to now, this waste has not been recovered, for example wood at the end of its life, plastic waste, bulky waste from landfills, other non-recyclable waste, etc.

Jupiter 1000 : the power of Power-to-Gas

The Jupiter 1000 project is the first industrial-scale model of Power-to-Gas in France. It was installed in Fos-sur-Mer (Bouches-du-Rhône), close to the gas and electricity networks and an industrial CO2 source. The process aims to convert the surplus electricity produced into hydrogen using two electrolysers, and also into synthetic methane via a methanation reactor and a structure for capturing CO2 from nearby industrial flue emissions. Gas produced in this way can be stored for later use. With renewable gases, the energy produced is no longer lost, it is converted.