Specifications for silicon-containing compounds in biogas

What are the effects of silicon-containing compounds in biogas on the performance and safety of domestic appliances?

Howard Levinsky (Photo: EDGaR/Jan Buwalda)


Biogases can contain components that differ significantly from the traditionally distributed natural gases. Components that deserve special attention are siloxanes and other silicon-containing compounds, which are found mainly in fermentation gases. Upon combustion, the siloxanes are converted into silica which is known to deposit in gas turbines and engines.

The gradual deposition of silica in the heat exchangers of domestic equipment can cause progressive deterioration in appliance performance, such as reduced heat transfer, increased carbon dioxide emissions and spillage of combustion products into the surroundings. For the acceptance of sustainable gases, the performance of domestic equipment must be preserved during the lifetime of the equipment. Additionally, given the importance of biogases in the sustainable energy supply, specifications must be based on the soundest technical knowledge possible.

This project provided an unambiguous technical basis for specifications for silicon-containing compounds in biogases, intended to guarantee no deterioration in the performance of domestic equipment during its lifetime. The technical basis for specification is based on the chemical en physical properties of the gases, and not on extensive empirical testing. Thus, the methodology provides a physically correct basis for specification of siloxanes and also save the time, effort and money involved in large-scale appliance testing. This information has been used to study the practical consequences for domestic appliances.


  • Understanding of the silica growth and deposition process in natural gas fired domestic equipment
  • Theoretical model to estimate the growth of silica fractal aggregates in flames and to analyze particle deposition on surfaces in heating equipment
  • Determination of the effects of silicon deposition on the performance of some domestic appliances


  • An unambiguous unit for the specification of siloxane concentration in gas, in relation with security and integrity
  • Establishing the limits of siloxane content in biogas to be admitted in the gas network

ThemeFrom monogas to multigas
Leader: Karen van Bloemendaal (DNV KEMA, on behalf of Gasunie))
Partners: Gasunie (research performed by DNV KEMA), Kiwa, Enexis, Liander, Stedin
Budget: 1.6 million euro
Duration: July 2011 / January 2015


Michiel van Dam (Enexis)
V.M. van Essen (DNV GL)
Sander Gersen (DNV GL)
M. Geurds (Liander)
Howard B. Levinsky (DNV GL)
Albert van der Molen (Stedin)
Pieter Visser (DNV GL)
P.J.M.M. van Wesenbeeck (GasTransport)

Journal article

Gersen, S., A.V. Mokhov, H. Dameveil, H. Levinsky. “Ignition properties of n-butane and iso-butane in a rapid compression machine.” Combustion and Flame 157, 2 (2010): 240–245.

Gersen, S., A.V. Mokhov, J.H. Darmeveil, H.B. Levinsky, P. Glarborg. “Ignition-promoting effect of NO2 on methane, ethane and methane/ethane mixtures in a rapid compression machine.” Proceedings of the Combustion Institute 33, 1 (2010): 433–440.

Gersen, S., H. Dameveil, H. Levinsky. “The effects of CO addition on the autoignition of H2, CH4 and CH4/H2 fuels at high pressure in an RCM.” Combustion and Flame 159, 12 (2012): 3472–3475.

Smirnov, B. M., M. Dutka, V. M. van Essen, S. Gersen, P. Visser, D. Vainchtein, J. Th. M. De Hosson, H. B. Levinsky and A. V. Mokhov. “Growth of fractal structures in flames with silicon admixture.” European Physics Letters 98, 6 (2012): letter 66005. 


Visser, P. Silica Particle Formation and Deposition in Gas-Fired Appliances. MSc. thesis, University of Groningen, 2012.


Levinsky, H.B., S. Gersen, M.H. Rothink and G.H.J. van Dijk. “Progress towards a method for ranking gases for knock resistance using ignition delay times.” Proceedings of the European Combustion Meeting (2009).

Conference papers

Essen, Martijn van, Pieter Visser, Sander Gersen, Howard Levinsky, David Vainchtein, Mikhail Dutka, Anatoli Mokhov. “Regarding specifications for siloxanes in biomethane for domestic equipment.” Fifth Research Day of the Energy Delta Gas Research, Nunspeet, April 2013.

Essen, Marijn van, Sander Gersen, Pieter Visser, Robert Klein-Douwel, David Vainchtein, J.Th.M. De Hosson, Anatoli Mokhov and Howard Levinsky. "An experimental study of silica particle growth in premixed laminar flames." COMBURA 2011, Ede, October 2011.  

Levinsky, Howard, Sander Gersen, Martijn van Essen and Pieter Visser. "New results on the formation of silica from Siloxane-containing gases in domestic appliances." American Gas Association Operations Conference 2012, San Francisco, May 2012.

Mokhov, Anatoli V. “Nucleation and growth of fractal structures in flames.” 17th Research Workshop Nucleation Theory and Applications, Dubna (Russia), April 2013. 

Mokhov, A.V. "Silica formation from siloxanes in biogases: novelty or nuisance" International Gas Research Conference, Seoul, October 2011.


Visser, Pieter, Martijn van Essen, Sander Gersen, Howard Levinsky. “Development of a predictive method to analyze the effect of sustainable gases on soot: soot measurements in rich-premixed/diffusion flames using laser induced incandescence.” Sixth Research Day of the Energy Delta Gas Research, Nunspeet, April 2014.

Visser, Pieter, Martijn van Essen, Sander Gersen, Howard Levinsky. “Development of a predictive method to analyze the effect of sustainable gases on soot.” Fifth Research Day of the Energy Delta Gas Research, Nunspeet, April 2013.