5 sustainable ways to utilize biogas and achieve carbon neutrality
This article delineates how to apply biogas in applications that is safe, economic and also contribute to carbon neutrality. The applications include 1) Apply in boiler; 2) Produce hot and cold water; 3) Generate electricity; 4) Produce CBG (Compressed Biomethane Gas); and 5) Produce bio-methanol.
1) Replace fossil fuel in boilers
Application of biogas to substitute traditional fossil fuel in the boilers have been achieved in Thailand for the last 3 decades. It is so simple and cost effective, since you only need to retrofit the burners in the boilers to replace fossil fuel e.g. bunker oil or LPG with biogas. The investment cost is very little and return period is usually within 2-3 years. In this era when energy price is sky-rocket high, this option is the most attractive and economic.
2) Produce hot and cold water
Nowadays there is a new adsorption chiller technology that can directly use biogas and produce hot and cold water. This process is highly effective and suitable for the industry which requires hot and cold water in the production process. The investment is also not too high.
3) Generate electricity
Generation of electricity from biogas requires 2 systems which include 1) hydrogen sulfide (H2S) removal and 2) Biogas Generator Set (Genset). It is highly critical to remove H2S to below the limit of the Genset (usually 200 ppmV) to provide smooth operation of the Genset. Otherwise, H2S will adversely affect the quality of the lubricant which impair the overall performance of the Genset.
Biogas genset is a specially designed internal combustion machine to operate only on biogas. The market leader in this field is the European countries who have a very long history of electricity generation from biogas such as Germany, Austria, etc. This option is widely accepted and popular among European countries and Thailand, since it can generate electricity 24 hours. It is highly attractive when the owner has the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), since the owner can have constant revenue stream.
In 2022, Thailand Feed-in-Tariff (FiT) is much lower than 10 years ago. The rate is less than 50% of the current peak electricity price. Hence, PPA to the grid is no longer an attractive or even viable option. Most owners prefer to do private PPA where they sell electricity to their own facility during the peak period. This is highly favorable when the electricity price will hit a new record high in 2023 in Thailand.
4) Produce Compressed Biomethane Gas (CBG) to fill in vehicle
Biogas has a similar composition to natural gas where most of the content is methane (CH4). However, biogas has a lower methane content of around 55-70%, while natural gas has methane content between 90-97%. There are various technology to upgrade biogas to biomethane and compress it. Most of them are based on removal of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the biogas such as membrane, pressure swing adsorption (PSA), amine scrubber, or water scrubber. The result is called CBG (Compressed Biomethane Gas) or Bio-CNG (Compressed Natural Gas).
The most popular technology is the membrane technology since it has a relatively low CAPEX and very low operation and maintenance costs. Papop can supply membrane technology with a partner to produce CBG in Thailand.
CBG is not yet widely popular in Thailand due to the low sales price. CBG price in Thailand needs to follow NGV price which is regulated by the government. This does not reflect its true value in the global market. In some countries, NGV or bio-CNG is highly promoted as an alternative to gasoline. For example, bio-CNG price in India could be up to 0.9 USD while it is only 0.37 USD in Thailand. Furthermore, bio-CNG is allowed to inject directly into the gas grid in Germany. Conversely, this is not possible in Thailand. One of the reasons that bio-CNG market is not booming in Thailand could be due to the monopoly of gas market by the large state and government control on the gas price.
Investment on CBG production is much higher than generation of electricity and replace fuel in boiler. The return of investment for CBG plant depends very much on the sale price. However, it is still an attractive solution when there is an abundant of biogas coupled with high sale price.
5) Production of bio-methanol
This is really a hot topic since 2 years ago, since bio-methanol is required by various global companies who want to remove their carbon footprint and achieve Net zero emission. Bio-methanol is a kind of green methanol that can be produced from Biomethane. Methanol can be applied in several applications such as replacing gasoline or using the raw material for plastic and chemical production. Investment on bio-methanol plant requires a suitable economy of scale, since this kind of process requires high technology with high value.
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