Report: Green gas could help fuel 15 million homes by 2050

Biogas made from domestic waste could help to heat 15 million homes every year by 2050, enough to meet the annual gas demand for households across south east England, London and East Anglia.

That’s according to new research from gas distribution firm Cadent, which has examined the potential for biogas production to grow significantly over the next thirty years.

The report found that black bag domestic rubbish, alongside agricultural waste, energy crops, food waste and sewage, could generate up to 183 TWh of biomethane with the right support. Cadent is looking to work with the Government to explore biomethane as a possible route towards decarbonisation.

“The findings of this report show that with the right policies in place renewable gas could play a significant role in helping the UK meet its carbon reduction targets, particularly in heat and transport, which are lagging behind electricity,” Cadent director of network strategy David Parkin said.

“Alongside other green energy solutions, renewable gas offers us an affordable, sustainable route to heat our homes and fuel transport, while tackling climate change, and contributing towards more sustainable waste management and cleaner air.”

Greening the gas network

The report suggests that, in a best-case scenario, around two-thirds of renewable gas would come from energy crops and agricultural residues, while one third would derive from waste including domestic waste, food waste and sewage. Of that one third, the authors calculate that 83% will be produced by Bio-Substitute Natural Gas (BioSNG) and the remaining 17% would come from biomethane, produced by anaerobic digestion.

The study claims that biomethane will continue to make an important contribution to renewable gas generation, but suggests that BioSNG has far greater potential through its greater versatility in respect of the range of feedstocks which might be processed.

BioSNG production is a thermochemical process that utilises gasification and the methanation of the produced “syngas”. It can be transported through existing natural gas networks to be used in domestic, commercial and industrial heating and CHP applications.

The world’s first commercially operating BioSNG plant is set to open in Swindon next year, and is expected to be able to eventually produce 22 GWh of gas each year from 10,000 tonnes of household waste. 

Cadent claims that turning waste into gas could be an effective form of waste management as well as creating energy. In 2015, more than 15 million tonnes of waste were sent to landfill or exported to Europe. In the future this could be diverted to renewable gas production, the report insists.

Grass-fed mills

With the right support, the biogas industry could deliver 250MW of new generation capacity over the next two years, according to ADBA.  This would be enough to add 10% to a tight winter 2018 capacity margin and bring benefits to farming, recycling and the economy.

The wheels are already in motion to transform the sector; Britain now has almost 90 plants injecting green biomethane into the gas grid – nearly double the number in operation in 2015.

Last year, Ecotricity claimed that by 2035, almost all homes in Britain could be heated by green gas from grass. The renewable energy provider has developed its own innovative technology for a grass-fed green gas mill, set be the first facility of its kind in the UK.

George Ogleby

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