In Germany – the main market for biomethane production and consumption – 88% of biomethane produced in 2017 was used at CHP for combined power and heat production, 5% for heat supply and only about 5% for transport (Fig. 1). The use of biomethane in the chemical industry and for export to other European countries plays a minor role in Germany (2%), but has a high potential for development.
Fig. 1 – The use of biomethane in Germany in 2017, in GWh, and % of the total amount
Source: Dena, Berlin, July 2018
Biomethane can be used in all engines operating on natural gas. The market presents a lot of modern gas engines for cars, heavy vehicles, ships and trains that can work on biomethane. Most car manufacturers offer models that operate on compressed methane. There is also the possibility to refit a petrol engine to gas-powered engine. Approximately 10% of biomethane produced in Europe is used as a motor fuel, especially in countries such as Sweden, Germany, Finland, Switzerland, Iceland (Table 1).
Table 1 – Countries with a high share of biomethane in transport (2015)
Source: EBA Statistical Report 2016Thus, different approaches to the development of markets for the production and consumption of biomethane are being implemented in European countries.
The feasibility of producing and using biomethane in Ukraine is as follows:
1. Possibilities of increasing the natural gas analog production, replacement of imported natural gas, reducing the degree of energy dependence.
2. Creation of an alternative to fossil fuels for transport fuel, replacement of imported petroleum products – gasoline and diesel fuel.
3. Recovery of a stable renewable energy source with the possibility of its accumulation in gas networks.
The production of biomethane from biogas involves additional costs for the separation of methane and carbon dioxide. Therefore, the unit of energy in biomethane is more expensive than in biogas. On the other hand, biogas can be used for the production of electricity and heat, while for biomethane new opportunities are opened which, in the conditions of Ukraine, includes:
- Production of electricity and heat from biomethane using a gas transmission network. This option allows generating electricity and heat in close proximity to the consumer and thus increase the efficiency of using fuel through efficient heat energy use, at least in urban district heating systems. At present, biogas in Ukraine is used with efficiency not exceeding 50%.
- Storage of biomethane in the natural gas network for the production of electricity at peak load. This option allows the use of biomethane during periods of maximum load on the grid and thus reduces the need for regulation of electric power, which in Ukraine is mainly provided by coal-fired power plants. The use of biomethane for this purpose can to some extent compensate for the shortcomings of renewable energy sources with a limited ability to regulate rapidly – solar and wind energy.
- The use of biomethane as a motor fuel for municipal transport and agriculture. This option allows replacing fossil motor fuels – gasoline and diesel. This is an excellent opportunity for agricultural producers to get fuel from waste and secondary products of their own production. Using biomethane as a fuel for public transport can significantly improve air pollution in large cities. The use of biomethane by passenger cars is also possible (European example – Italy).
- Replacement of natural gas with biomethane. Biomethane can be used for any purpose as a natural gas substitute. In this way, it is possible to replace imported natural gas and liquid petroleum products, as well as to fulfill Ukraine’s commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions within the framework of the Paris Agreement.
- Export of biomethane to the EU using the National Register of Biomethane Production and Consumption. The main problem of the development of biomethane production in Ukraine is the low price of natural gas compared to the cost of production of biomethane (including sold as motor fuel). Using the capabilities of the Ukrainian gas transportation system connected with the European gas system and, in the long term, virtual exports of biomethane to the European market can increase the economic attractiveness of biomethane production in Ukraine.