Renewable Biogas: Next RFS Darling or Marginal Fuel?
by Mackinnon Lawrence (Biofuels Digest/Pike Research) …The Toilet Bike, though, brings to light questions around the broader potential for biogas as a renewable transportation fuel, an application that has been gaining increased attention in recent years. Still, biogas fuel’s broader market potential is still relatively undefined and mostly overshadowed by shale gas.
…In Pike Research’s recent Renewable Biogas report, we estimated that 1.6 trillion cubic feet (cf3) of raw biogas would be produced annually by commercial bio-digesters and captured from landfills worldwide by 2022. That represents a doubling of current capacity, which is mostly concentrated around 7,000+ digesters in Germany and around 575 landfills across the United States. Capacity expansion is expected across a number of industrial applications — landfills, agricultural waste, wastewater treatment facilities, and various industrial applications. The bulk of this production is currently dedicated to power and heat applications.
A byproduct of anaerobic digestion (AD) —in which bacteria break down organic matter in an oxygen-starved environment — biogas is typically composed of about 50% methane. Raw biogas must be upgraded or purified to concentrate the methane component for transportation fuel applications, an expensive process that’s only justifiable under narrow economic circumstances. The resulting gas goes by many names, but most commonly: biomethane or renewable natural gas (RNG).
…In the United States, RNG use is concentrated in captive fleets like city buses and dump trucks that return to a base refueling station regularly. This hub approach allows the refueling infrastructure to be concentrated, reducing investment costs in the process.
…Under the RFS2 in the United States, bioLNG and bioCNG eligibility for Type-A RIN credits could potentially improve the economics of RNG production.
…NGV growth is hemmed in by a number of forces including: limited refueling infrastructure, higher costs, and uncertain fuel price dynamics. READ MORE