State of the art of biogas and biomethane in Europe

Over the past 20 years, there has been a significant improvement in the design and construction of anaerobic digestion plants, thanks to a deep understanding of the basic concepts and key process parameters. The spread of this technology on the European market reached a total of 17.240 biogas plants at the end of 2014 (according to the EBA Report 2015). As shown in Figure 1, the largest number of biogas plants is concentrated in Germany, followed by Italy and the United Kingdom.

To date, the most widely used biomass in European biogas plants is agricultural (68%), followed by sewage (16%) and landfill gas (11%). In recent years, it has been observed an increase of biogas plants for the treatment of sewage sludge and organic waste.

 

Figure 1. Number of biogas plants in Europe in 2013 and 2014 (EBA Report 2015)

 

According to the same report, the total installed capacity of biogas plants in Europe amounted to 8.293 MWel in 2014, with a total electricity generated of 63.653,7 GWh and a total heat produced of 29.964 GWh. This production of electricity corresponds to the annual consumption of 14,6 million users in the EU. The heat produced is sent to district heating networks or is used locally for internal processes and facilities. Table 1 includes the main data related to biogas production in 2014 in the European countries (data for Italy are related to 2015 and are taken from Chapter 1 of the deliverable D2.2, written by CIB – Consorzio Italiano Biogas e Gassificazione).

 

Table 1. Biogas production in Europe in 2014 (EBA Report 2015)

Country Biogas production (GWh/year) Installed Capacity (MWel) Generated Electricity (GWh) Generated Heat (GWh)
Austria 1 570 81.0 660.0 230.0
Belgium 2 189 178.2 889.3 160.7*
Bulgaria 1 13.6 0.5 n/a
Croatia 193 17.9 77.7 31.4
Cyprus 139 10.0 52.0 11.6
Czech Republic 6 642 358.7 2 566.7 134.9
Denmark 1 289 n/a 401.0 388.4
Estonia 84 10.5 42.9 50
Finland 933 n/a 158.7 454.6
France 5 079 297.2 1 521.0 195.4
Germany 61 500 3 859.0 39 950.0 13 380.0
Greece 1 007 45.3 216.4 30.0
Hungary 1 225 61.4 443.3 103.6
Ireland 561 33.5 186.2 n/a
Italy** 23 392 1 169.6 9 356.8 14 035.2
Latvia 756 61.6 333.6 165.1
Lithuania 180 21.1 32.7 26.7
Luxembourg 149 n/a 55.3 12.8
The Netherlands 3 521 219.0 1 043.0 43.0
Poland 1 044 209.3 689.7 104.7
Portugal 759 n/a 248.0 n/a
Romania 349 8.9 25.8 38.4
Serbia n/a 7.9 18.7 n/a
Slovakia 774 101.7 204.0 33.7
Slovenia 403 27.2 141.0 n/a
Spain 3 320 21.3 908.0 n/a
Sweden 1 784 n/a 57.0 434.0
Switzerland 776 54.0 292.2 n/a
UK 17 791 1 440.0 7 149.0 n/a

* Flanders only

** Data are related to 2015 (elaborated by CIB on the basis of the 2015 annual report of GSE – Gestore dei Servizi Energetici)

 

Electricity and heat are produced mainly in cogeneration plants; a picture of the distribution of these systems in Europe is shown in Figure 2.

 

Figure 2. Number of cogeneration plants in Europe in 2014 (EBA Report 2015)

 

Biogas generated can also be used for the production of biomethane. Biomethane is defined by ISO 16559:2014 as methane produced from biomass, with properties close to those of natural gas. Biomethane is commonly used to substitute natural gas (SNG) to be injected into the grid or to produce compressed natural gas (CNG), used as fuel for natural gas vehicles. Furthermore, biomethane can be used also for power and heat generation in combined thermoelectric power plants or for heat generation in heating systems. In Europe, Germany and Sweden are currently considered as the main producers of biomethane. In fact, out of a total of 367 biomethane plants, the number of plants in Germany is around 178 and in Sweden 59 (EBA Report 2015). As can be seen in Table 2, these numbers are far higher than those of any other European country.

 

Table 2. Biomethane development in Europe in 2014 (EBA Report 2015)

Country Number of biogas plants Number of biomethane plants Raw biogas upgrading capacity (Nm3/h)
Austria 436 14 5 160
Denmark 155 6 8 650
Finland 83 9 2 731
France 736 8 2 600
Germany 10 786 178 204 082
Hungary 70 2 625
Italy** 1 555 5 1 000
Luxembourg 30 3 850
The Netherlands 252 21 16 720
Spain 39 1 4 000
Sweden 279 59 38 858
Switzerland 633 24 6 310
UK 813 37 18 957

** Data are related to 2015 (elaborated by CIB on the basis of the 2015 annual report of GSE – Gestore dei Servizi Energetici)

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