Biomethane is driving your vehicle on your waste! (Part 1)

In this article, we will go over what biomethane is and why it is one of the future transport solutions that will decrease emissions considerably in Europe.

So what is it?

Simply put, biomethane is the process of turning your waste into a local green fuel to power natural gas vehicles.

The fact that we are able to convert waste into fuel is great but there is also another thing that makes biomethane even more useful and versatile at the same time. What is that thing?

It is that biomethane can come into two forms for vehicles. One is its compressed form – once we compress it we can use it for passenger cars and buses. Alternatively, it can be used in a liquified form for use trucks and coaches. The reason why this is important is that is can be utilized right where it’s needed the most. You will hear more and more in the future about bioCNG and bioLNG!

So how is it produced?

Biomethane is produced by converting organic material into biogas. This is called anaerobic digestion or composition. It’s the same process that happens to our food when we leave it on the shelf past its due date. Left food would go bad, right? Well, it would most certainly be inedible but the same bacterias that start to develop, most of the time are working hard to convert organic material and, in the process, release biogas.

Engineers learned how to easily capture this biogas and clean it from unwanted materials such as carbon dioxide and sulfur. Great, right? Here’s another exciting thing that happens during this time – what is not converted into biogas, called the digestate, can be used as a natural, organic booster for our soil. That’s because it is rich in nitrates, invaluable for fertilizers.

So, coming back to how we can use it for mobility – producing biogas or biomethane offers the opportunity to convert unwanted waste into fuel for vehicles but also green fertilizers.

Which waste can we use to produce biomethane?

The available waste for composition comes down to municipal or organic waste, crops and manure.

Producing biomethane from organic matter is used on a large scale through Europe and if all this production was used it could power the entire fleet of natural gas vehicles in Europe. This represents a simple way to foster the development of the circular economy model, where local wastes are converted in local resources supporting the local economy in a sustainable and socially responsible manner.

The other option to produce biomethane is from woodier biomass such as wood and straw. Here, the biomass is converted into biogas by heating it up without using oxygen. This process produces a synthetic gas which needs to be cleaned further processed into biomethane.

Nowadays, in Europe, we see more and more renewable electricity produced. The only issue is that this is intermittently produced. What does that mean? Producing renewable electricity from solar energy is generally possible when there is enough sunlight. What about renewables from wind? The same concept – it depends on the wind blowing. Neither the sun nor the wind, care about when we need energy. This is what makes relying on them as a fundamental energy source difficult when we no longer talk about some small consumption in our house but actually serving the needs of whole cities, industries or many cars on the road.

In the second part of this article, we discuss the question of storage and the solution that biomethane could offer.

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