Pros & Cons Of Biogas (Advantages & Disadvantages)

In the guide below, we list and discuss the potential pros and cons of biogas.

 

Summary – Potential Pros & Cons Of Biogas

Firstly, What Is Biogas?

In this guide, we provide more information about what biogas is.

 

Potential Pros

Some Countries Already Use A Significant Amount Of Biogas

Can Be Used As A Gas Energy Source In Rural & Remote Areas

Can Have Multiple Uses

Gas Can Be Captured In Multiple Ways

Raw Biogas Can Be Refined & Converted Into Other Gas Products

Might Help Manage Some Waste Issues, & Also Utilize Waste For Energy

Might Be Considered As Renewable

Might Be Eco Friendly Or Sustainable In Some Ways

There May Be Various Economic & Social Benefits To Biogas Generation

Biogas Plants May Not Require Major Maintenance Or Incur Other Major Costs Over Their Lifespan

Might Be Good For Diversifying A Country’s Energy & Fuel Supply, & Gain More Energy Independence

Might Provide Baseload Power In Place Of Coal Or Natural Gas

Might Be Good Potential For Biogas Industry Growth In Some Countries

 

Potential Cons

Not As Established As Some Other Energy Sources

Some Reports Question The Economic Viability Of Biogas

May Need Additional Support & Funding To Continue To Develop In Some Countries

Biogas May Be Dangerous, Unsafe Or Toxic In Some Ways

May Have Practical Issues Or Operational Issues To Consider

Biogas May Have Some Environmental Issues

 

Potential Pros Of Biogas

Some Countries Already Use A Significant Amount Of Biogas

For example, nationalgrid.com notes how China is a world leader in the use of biogas, with millions of households using biogas

The UK and US also have hundreds or thousands or biogas plants currently in operation 

 

Can Be Used As A Gas Energy Source In Rural & Remote Areas

This is currently the case in China where rural areas and villages have biogas plants that supply biogas

 

Can Have Multiple Uses

Biogas has a few uses:

Raw biogas with little to no processing can be used for heating or to power boilers, and can also be used for electricity production

However, raw biogas can also be refined into biomethane (also called renewable natural gas, or RNG), and be injected into existing natural gas infrastructure (used in a similar way to methane to replace a certain portion of natural gas for activities like heating and cooking)

RNG can also be converted into CNG or LNG and used as vehicle fuel.

Additionally, separate to the biogas produced at biogas plants, digestate is the material left after organic waste digestion, and it might be sold or used as a soil amendment.

 

Gas Can Be Captured In Multiple Ways

The most common controlled way to produce and capture biogas at an industrial (or commerical) level is at biogas plants in anaerobic digesters.

However, LFG (landfill gas) can also be captured in the from of methane at landfill sites where organic waste releases this methane. This gas might have different abilities for use though.

 

Raw Biogas Can Be Refined & Converted Into Other Gas Products

Raw biogas is the most pure form of biogas.

Raw biogas can also be refined into biomethane (RNG)

Biomethane can also be converted into CNG or LNG

 

Might Help Manage Some Waste Issues, & Also Utilize Waste For Energy

Different types of organic waste can be utilized to produce biogas

Not only can this in some instances address some waste issues like waste pollution (particularly water pollution), but waste can be used for energy instead of being dumped with no utility.

One waste problem that might be addressed in some way is using food waste as organic waste for biogas.

nationalgrid.com notes that Xmas food waste in particular could be used for biogas energy.

 

Might Be Considered As Renewable

Organic waste and biomass is considered more renewable than fossil fuel resources as an energy source or feedstock

 

Might Be Eco Friendly Or Sustainable In Some Ways

Such as:

– Limiting waste pollution (and the resulting water pollution, leaching of nutrients and pathogens, and other potential effects of waste getting into the environment)

– Limiting methane release into the atmosphere from the break down of organic waste

– Reducing greenhouse gas emissions when used as a fuel compared to the use of petroleum gasoline

– Recycling nutrients from food supply (via digestate), which might reduce the need for petrochemicals and mined fertilizers in some instances

 

eesi.org outlines some potential greenhouse gas reduction savings when using biogas in their report

 

There May Be Various Economic & Social Benefits To Biogas Generation

Such as the creation of jobs, the generation of revenue, and the provision of income from the operation of biogas systems

 

eesi.org also notes (paraphrased):

– How using waste for biogas production might help reduce some waste management and waste pollution remediation costs

– How using wast for biogas may help reduce the amount of nutrients or chemicals leaching or running off into the environment, which might help keep drinking water supplies cleaner

 

Biogas Plants May Not Require Major Maintenance Or Incur Other Major Costs Over Their Lifespan

wikipedia.org mentions that ‘A high quality biogas plant needs minimum maintenance costs and can produce gas for at least 15–20 years without major problems and re-investments’

However, some other reports have different conclusions about the economics of biogas plants

 

Might Be Good For Diversifying A Country’s Energy & Fuel Supply, & Gaining More Energy Independence

Biogas is another energy source that can diversify the existing energy sources in place

It may also help decrease some of the dependence a country may have on a certain % of foreign gas or coal supply

 

Might Provide Baseload Power In Place Of Coal Or Natural Gas

At least one report from eesi.org indicates this might be the case, and they qualify this statement in their report

 

Might Be Good Potential For Biogas Industry Growth In Some Countries

nationalgrid.com indicates this may be the case with the US, identifying that the potential could be as high as hundreds of trillions of kilowatt hours of electricity being able to be produced per year

 

iea.org also indicates that upgrading biogas to biomethane could be a major source of potential future growth for the biogas industry

 

eesi.org notes that ‘…  the United States currently only has 2,200 operating biogas systems, representing less than 20 percent of the total potential’

 

Potential Cons Of Biogas

Not As Established As Some Other Energy Sources

Traditional energy sources like coal and natural gas tend to be more established than biogas in many countries

 

iea.org notes that ‘The development of biogas has been uneven across the world, as it depends not only on the availability of feedstocks but also on policies that encourage its production and use’

 

Some Reports Question The Economic Viability Of Biogas

At least one report from energypedia.info indicates that the economic viability of biogas might be questionable in various ways.

For example (as a paraphrased summary):

– Biogas has to compete with other energy sources like fossil fuels on cost, and it may not be as competitive in some instances. In California, biomethane might sometimes be more expensive than natural gas

– Statements on the economic feasibility of biogas may be contradictory or inconsistent

– Biogas power plants may not be commercially viable or profitable in some nations without technical and financial support. Some developing nations may be an example of this

 

Overall, the economics of biogas production for electricity and heat might vary between projects, and might be impacted by the variables of each project.

 

May Need Additional Support & Funding To Continue To Develop In Some Countries

eesi.org indicates that consistent policy support, reliable funding, and strong standards to encourage investment and innovation are needed for the future of the biogas industry and to reach it’s potential

 

May Have Practical Issues Or Operational Issues To Consider

Biogas plants and biogas production have a range of potential practical issues or operational issues to consider

Cracks in biodigesters, leaks from gas pipes, dealing with impurities in the mix, requiring specific conditions for digestion, some waste being harder to break down than others, are all examples of potential practical or operational issues with biogas production

Some reports also indicate that in States like California, there may not be enough biomethane production to meet total gas supply.

 

Biogas May Be Dangerous, Unsafe Or Toxic In Some Ways

liebertpub.com notes that ‘Biogas is flammable, highly toxic, and potentially explosive’ 

eia.gov notes that landfill gas with a high methane content in particular might be dangerous to people and the environment in some ways

 

Biogas May Have Some Environmental & Sustainability Issues

In addition to the potential safety issue of biogas for humans, liebertpub.com also notes that: ‘Harmful compounds and air contaminants are introduced into the environment during biogas production and use through both combustion processes and diffusive emissions’

Additionally, biogas and biomethane may not be as eco friendly or renewable as some reports claims when looking at various sustainability indicators – which we’ve outlined here.

So, biogas might not be without it’s potential environmental issues to consider

 

 

Sources

1. https://www.nationalgrid.com/stories/energy-explained/what-is-biogas

2. https://energypedia.info/wiki/Economic_Aspects_of_Biogas

3. https://www.eesi.org/papers/view/fact-sheet-biogasconverting-waste-to-energy

4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biogas#Benefits_of_manure_derived_biogas

5. https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/biomass/landfill-gas-and-biogas.php

6. https://www.iea.org/reports/outlook-for-biogas-and-biomethane-prospects-for-organic-growth/an-introduction-to-biogas-and-biomethane

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