Position Paper – Sustainable Natural Gas production through gasification
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Position paper – Sustainable Natural Gas production through gasification
Sustainable natural gas (SNG) is methane produced from biogenic feedstocks, also referred to as biomethane. These feedstocks are for instance forest residues, agro residues or waste streams containing plastics (MSW). With Russia’s aggression against the Ukraine, the dependency on fossil natural gas is reconsidered. The EU is steering away from natural gas and recently announced their REPowerEU plan, which aims on reducing the use of natural gas as well as replacing it with SNG. Furthermore, SNG is recognized as an important molecule in the transition of fossil natural gas, in a way to de-fossilize existing industries. As a molecule it has many advantageous:
- It can be distributed using the extensive existing natural gas infrastructure, making use of existing downstream applications.
- It can be produced without creating earthquakes (related to gas extraction in urban area’s)
- It allows countries to become less dependent on imports in their energy supply and also less dependent on less reliable regimes.
- A commodity market is in place for SNG
- SNG can be used to de-fossilize hard-to-abate sectors (old inner cities, high temperature heat, etc)
- SNG has a broad applicability (household heating, cooking, transport, industry)
SNG can be produced via digestion or gasification. There are claims that through digestion 35 billion cubic metres (bcm) can be made available by 2030, however with two strong non-competing technology pathways available it should be stressed not to focus on only digestion. Besides, through gasification other feedstocks become available for the production of SNG, speeding up the transition as well as increasing the energy security. As a reference to the European goals, the following numbers on gas production are the starting point for the EU:
- Currently 3 bcm of biomethane is produced through digestion
- Additionally 17 bcm of biogas is produced and part of this could be upgraded to biomethane
- Target for 2030 is 35 bcm of biomethane (SNG)
These numbers show that it is crucial that SNG production through gasification will enter the market as well. In a recent report of the Gas for Climate initiative the potential of SNG in the EU towards 2050 produced via gasification is 60 bcm. For 2030 they estimate a potential of 3 bcm. The main reason for the lag in deployment of gasification is that there has been no commercial roll-out of the technology yet, which is halting the deployment.
IEA Bioenergy Task33 (Gasification of Biomass and Waste) has organized a stakeholder event to jointly analyse why the gasification technology deployment has not taken off yet. Large scale demonstrations such as the GoBiGas plant in Sweden and the Gaya project in France have shown the technical feasibility of different gasification pathways to SNG. The main question remaining is:
If not a technical barrier, then which barriers are holding back deployment of gasification based biomethane?
Concept of Bio-CCS (Sanchez et al., 2015, courtesy of Nature