Injecting biogas


Technology and regulation have to be adjusted for the upcoming of biogas

Biogas plant in the Netherlands Biogas plant in the Netherlands

Biogas, a renewable gas produced out of organic matters, will be increasingly injected into the gas grid. The Netherlands has already started to use it for the production of electricity and, in a lower proportion, for heating and transportation. Producers use landfill, industrial and domestic organic, and sewage sludge waste as feedstock. 

Producers have, indeed, built several plants. From 130 plants in operation in 2010, the number underwent a twofold increase to 209 a year later, according to Anna Butenko, a consultant at DNV KEMA, at the conference Back to the Future of Gas, in Groningen, on 20 November 2012. This situation contributed to the multiplication of technical options available.

Technological options to accomodate biogas

Ms Butenko listed several options available to “accommodate biogas in the grid.” One example, biogas producer can cooperate to transport, through pipelines, the biogas they provide to an upgrading facility. In this technical solution, production remains decentralized, but upgrading fall under a centralized operator. From this point, the quantity and the quality of biogas can be controlled to meet the standards of the distribution system operators.

Whatever what producers and distributors will choose, the Netherlands will have to solve serious systemic problem. “Given the Dutch target for biomethane of 6.66 TWh in 2020, it would be a major challenge to accommodate this volume in the grid,” said Ms Butenko. Producers, as a result, will have to pay most of the costs related to the injection of biogas into the grid, while grid operators will have few interests in changing their physical assets to accommodate these new suppliers.

Technology changes faster than law

Daisy Tempelman, a doctoral researcher at the University of Groningen, said at the same conference that she anticipates problems with the adaptation of laws and regulations with the rapid generation of gas technologies. The European Commission has come up with directives “on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources” (2009/28/EC) and “concerning common rules for the internal market in natural gas” (2009/73/EC). Yet, this new set of rules does not take into consideration biogas. Ms Tempelman argues that regulation could not keep abreast of the technological developments.

Biogas underwent a considerable expansion in the Netherlands as well as in Europe. The Dutch Gas Act specifies the magnitude of the regulation pertaining to the injection of biogas into the grid. Producers of biogas have to comply with quality standard and are take charge of the cost incurred by pipelines extension from their production plant to the grid. The Dutch Competition Authority regulates gas prices. The Netherlands has, according to Directive 2009/28/EC, a 14% target share of renewable energy consumption to acheive by 2020.

By Jean-François Auger