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The benefits and the usage

Biomethane is a completely renewable, flexible and efficient energy source. Biomethane is programmable, thanks to the existing transportation and storage facilities, unlike other renewable energy sources. For these reasons, biomethane is perfectly integrated and complementary to solar and wind power sources, which are themselves rigid and non-programmable sources.

Biomethane is obtained through the purification process of biogas, through anaerobic digestion of biomass and organic waste, being 100% renewable.

Biomethane, produced and purified in the plants with the most recent technologies, shows high quality standards with purity threshold over 95%. Biomethane is chemically a complete substitute to natural gas (i.e. CH4) and thus, can be introduced into gas transport and distribution networks. As a renewable source, biomethane is used for electricity production and heating purposes (domestic and industrial users) and as a fuel for motor vehicles.

 

In detail, the benefits of biomethane are:

 

1) Circularity: the biomethane can be produced from agricultural biomass (dedicated crops, by-products and agricultural waste and animal waste), agro-industrial (processing waste from the food processing chain) and the Organic Fraction Municipal Solid Waste (OFMSW). Once the anaerobic digestion process is completed, processing remains are used as natural fertilizer to refurbish the necessary organic and nutritive substances of land in a circular economy perspective;

 

2) Efficiency and Programmability: the production of biomethane is rigid and not programmable, however the presence of widespread gas infrastructures, as well as storage facilities, not requiring further investments, ensures that rigid production be managed and programmed at reduced costs, especially in comparison to set up programmable wind or solar renewable sources;  

 

3) Sustainability: biomethane, despite being chemically a gas, is considered neutral considering the impact of emissions and totally renewable, being produced through the deterioration of waste and organic material. Furthermore, for biomethane originated from agricultural biomass, the carbon dioxide emissions produced along the lifecycle are equal to the quantity absorbed by the harvest during the growth phase, neutralizing the process from an environmental point of view. The process can even become "negative" from an emission point of view, when the carbon dioxide, produced and separated in the biogas purification phase, is used for industrial and / or food purposes. Furthermore, the production of biomethane does not compete with food production, while encouraging the use of particular "second harvest" energy cultures and preserving the agricultural equilibrium of existing economy;  

 

4) Local economy value creation: biomethane can revamp local economies, by creating new job positions, increasing tax income for local communities, optimizing the disposal needs of processing waste and OFMSWas well as, through special agricultural techniques, counteracting the desertification effects, while preserving nutritional elements of the land.  

 

5) Minimization of decarbonisation costs: biomethane is a key driver to achieve decarbonisation target at national and European level, not requiring further infrastructural investments and valorising organic waste disposal. Renewable gas could generate savings in Europe of 140 billion euros for year by 2050, compared to a scenario excluding biomethane, according to the most recent Ecofys report, sponsored by the Gas for Climate association, of which SNAM is associated. Furthermore, within the scope of sustainable biofuels, biomethane could be a cost-effective alternative to achieve the decarbonisation targets for automotive sector, considering the costs generated along the entire life cycle of the vehicle, from production to use to final disposal. The integration of biomethane within the CNG chain (already widespread in Italy) and LNG, thanks to the presence of widespread transportation and natural gas distribution infrastructures, contributes not only to achieve decarbonisation target but to improve air quality within urban contexts being favoured by the minimal percentages of particulates and nitrogen monoxide.

The usage

 

Being a clean and renewable energy source, biomethane could be used for production of electric energy, for heating purposes or as a fuel for vehicles. The latter is considered the optimal application given the scarcity of renewable energy sources for transportation purposes.

As a renewable energy, the 2nd March 2018 Ministerial Decree was issued to promote the use of biomethane in transportation.

The emissions of natural gas vehicles are lower than those from vehicles using traditional fuels: a methane alimentation compared to a petrol alimentation generates savings of around 97% for PM, 75% for nitrogen oxides and 30% for carbon dioxide. If biomethane is used, emissions are further reduced: for example, for carbon dioxide, the reduction is around 90% [1].

 

[1] Analysis based on the following assumptions: (i) vehicle with gas fuel, (ii) 16.000 km/year, (iii) 14 years of utilization, (iv) petrol cost equal to 1,53 €/l while fuel cost equal to 0,97 €/l; source: ADAC Ecotest, EMPA

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21 March 2019 - 18:59 CET