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AD expands biogas benefits, says Swedish study


September 27, 2010
By Bellona Foundation

September 22, 2010 – A
policy paper entitled Proposal for a multidisciplinary approach to biogas
published by the Swedish government has found that the economic and
environmental benefits of using biogas can be notably expanded depending on its
production method.

September 22, 2010 – A
policy paper – entitled Proposal for a multidisciplinary approach to biogas
– published by the Swedish government has found that the economic and
environmental benefits of using biogas can be notably expanded depending on its
production method.

The paper explores the
benefits derived from the production of biogas through anaerobic digestion of
waste as a means to double the amount of biogas produced whilst reducing
environmental damage, primarily by cutting methane emissions.

Biogas is methane produced
by the biological breakdown of organic matter in the absence of oxygen. Biogas
originates from biogenic material and is a type of biofuel. Anaerobic digestion
refers to a series of processes during which microorganisms break down
biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen.

The study – commissioned
by the Swedish Energy Agency and the Board of Agriculture and Environmental
Protection Agency
for the Swedish government – is the result of a government
initiative to increase the use of biogas in Sweden in the short and long term.

The production of biogas
through anaerobic digestion of waste should, according to the paper, provide a
valuable opportunity to stop the cycle of plant nutrients and thus provide a
significant economic benefit in addition to the produced biogas.

The economic benefit
derives from the fact that the value of biogas generated through anaerobic
digestion could more than double from the current estimate of 1.5 terawatt hours
to 3-4TWh.

The environmental and
climate benefits, on the other hand, lies in that this method would cut methane
emissions, use sewage sludge and manure, and use food waste from restaurants
and industry.

The paper recommends a
subsidy of 0.2 euro per kilowatt hour (KWh) is proposed for biogas produced
from manure to help it become economically competitive.

“We want to increase the
production of biogas that provides the greatest benefit; that is, from sewage
sludge, food waste, restaurants and other food waste and manure. Biogas as fuel
should be a priority for heavy vehicles in urban areas where the environmental
impact is greatest," said Eva Smith, deputy director general of the
Environmental Protection Agency.

Although this is good news
for the biogas industry, much remains to be done to develop the potential of
fuels such as biogas.

“A lot has already been
done, but a lot remains to be done until biogas can become an integral part of
the future of agriculture," said Christel Gustafsson, head of the Swedish
Board of Agriculture
.

Bellona welcomes this
report and is especially supportive of the fact that energy, agricultural and
environmental government bodies cooperate to design this biogas strategy.

Bellona has been working
towards increasing cooperation and dialogue between the different sectors
involved in biogas production in Norway. It is high time that the Norwegian
authorities takes a similar intersectoral approach to find ways to increase
biogas production for transport also in Norway,” says Tone Knudsen, biofuels
expert from the Bellona Foundation.

”Moreover, biogas
production leads to production of what is known as ”biorest-product.” Looking
for good ways to use the biorest, such as for manure purposes or as soil
improvement, should also be part of any biogas strategy,” Knudsen concludes.


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