Biomethane: Promise and Potential

Biomethane can drive sustainable development in many parts of the world due to its attractive properties as a clean fuel. The carbon footprint of biomethane is one of the smallest among the known energy sources. The emission factor of conventional diesel (around 90 gCO2eq/MJ) is almost 200 percent (or thrice) more than that of biomethane (30 gCO2eq/MJ). Biomethane is less corrosive, has higher calorific value and easier to handle than biogas. Biomethane, either liquified or compressed, can be transported relatively easily and can be stored for a long period of time which is not possible in case of biogas.

Ease in storage and transportation

Liquid biomethane (LBM) is transported in the same manner as LNG, that is, via insulated tanker trucks designed for transportation of cryogenic liquids. Biomethane can be stored as compressed biomethane (CBM) to save space. The gas is stored in steel cylinders such as those typically used for storage of other commercial gases.

Rapid growth of biomethane industry

The global biogas industry is growing at a rapid rate of around 10 percent annum, mainly driven by increasing traction in industrial waste-derived biogas sector and public acceptance of biogas as a clean fuel. Biomethane is witnessing increasing demand worldwide, especially in European countries, as it is one of the most cost-effective and eco-friendly alternatives to diesel for heavy good vehicles (HGVs).

Suitability of biomethane

Biomethane is most suitable for vehicles having engines that are based on natural gas (CNG or LNG). Once biogas is cleaned and upgraded to biomethane, it is (chemically) virtually the same as natural gas. Because biomethane has a lower energy density than natural gas, due to the high CO2 content, in some circumstances, changes to natural gas-based vehicle’s fuel injection system are required to use the biomethane effectively.

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