Is biogas a renewable source of energy?
Is biogas renewable?
The question of a fuel’s classification as ‘renewable’ can be a complex one, but the answer to that question is actually quite simple. Biogas, or more specifically biomethane, is a highly efficient and environmentally friendly fuel, and it is known to be far less polluting than other combustible fuels like coal. Biogas is made from organic waste, such as food waste, agricultural residues, and waste crops, and this allows us to make valuable use of the waste that we produce every year.
The process of biogas production releases methane, a powerful greenhouse gas with more global warming potential than carbon dioxide. However, this gas is captured from within a contained environment and is treated and cleaned before it is used as energy, making the production and use of biomethane a low-emission fuel option.
While the process of producing biogas requires a large amount of infrastructure, the technology is relatively simple and low maintenance. In order to produce biomethane from organic waste, the waste must be contained in a sealed environment. This has two important effects on production: it reduces oxygen levels so methanogenic bacteria can work faster, and it prevents unwanted biogas leaks from the site.
In landfills, this sealed environment is achieved by using thick membranes to line the site on all sides. This membrane also prevents the liquid component of the waste from leaching into the surrounding environment. This aspect is particularly important as this liquid effluent is known to be toxic and dangerous to human, animal and plant life. The gaseous byproduct is syphoned off to a collection area where it is stored, ready for treatment or transportation to another site.
The raw biogas from landfills contains mostly methane and carbon dioxide, but it also contains relatively high levels of contaminants and potentially dangerous compounds. As mentioned, it must be upgraded into biomethane via a purification process before use as a renewable energy source for commercial buildings, transportation, and residential settings. This fuel can even be used in place of fossil fuels for electricity generation in power stations.
Biomethane, fossil fuels, and environmental concerns
The biogas production process is a green alternative to fossil fuels and can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, it produces fewer particulate pollutants that are known to cause respiratory conditions, especially among those who already live with conditions such as asthma and bronchitis. Biomethane is an environmentally friendly solution that requires minimal capital investment, and when the question is posed ‘is biogas a renewable source of energy?’ the answer is that biogas is indeed renewable. In addition, biogas plants create green jobs. For example, in India, more than 10 million jobs were created through biogas plants and organic waste collection.
Biogas use through history
Anaerobic decomposition has been occurring for millions of years. It is the oldest form of natural gas production on the planet, and it is the most efficient source of fuel in terms of reliability, price, accessibility, and renewability. Although human use of biogas does not go back that far, the Assyrians and Persians used biogas as long ago as 2500 years in the past. The 20th century saw the development of biogas systems throughout the world, and it is gradually catching up with fossil fuels in terms of its share of the fuel system.
The main source of biogas is lignocellulosic material. These materials include crops and woody biomass, as well as domestic food waste. The process can be done with various technologies, including co-digestion or dry fermentation. Currently, the production of biogas from lignocellulosic material is a relatively small-scale business in the UK, but there are many examples of larger-scale production.
Despite its name, biogas is actually a natural gas substitute. If you don't want to switch to natural gas, you can upgrade your biogas to be equivalent to the fuel you're currently using. Then, it becomes biomethane. It can be used in similar ways to methane as a fuel. This is the ultimate benefit of this type of renewable energy. In a changing world, fuel security is becoming more important than ever, and the production and use of biogas is just one of the ways we can assure fuel access and availability where it is needed.