Biogas and biomethane supply chains emit twice as much methane as expected

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A new analysis by Imperial found that biogas and biomethane, while more climate-friendly, emit more than twice as much methane as previously thought.

Although biogas and biomethane remain more climate-friendly than non-renewable alternatives, researchers are calling for better leak monitoring and remediation to ensure that biogas and biomethane continue to meet their environmental characteristics.

Biomethane and biogas are produced by the decomposition of organic matter, including food, animal waste, energy cropsgrass or sewage sludge, making them renewable alternatives to natural gas, coal and oil. However, researchers at Imperial College London have identified potential pitfalls in energy supply chains for these more climate-friendly gases, concluding that more needs to be done to reduce methane leakage.

Methane captures about 27 times more heat in the atmosphere carbon dioxide (CO2) and is responsible for at least a quarter of global warming, according to the AR6 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Imperial’s new study, published today in One Earth magazine found that supply chains for biomethane and biogas emit more than twice as much I was told according to a previous assessment by the International Energy Agency (IEA). He also revealed that 62 percent of these leaks were concentrated in a small number of facilities and pieces of equipment in the chain, which they call “super-emitters”, although methane was found to be released at each stage.

Researchers say urgent care is needed to fix methane leaks and knowing exactly where most of them occur will help Manufacturing enterprises to do it.

The lead author of the study, Dr. Semra Bakaloglu of the Imperial Department of Chemical Engineering and the Sustainable Gas Institute said: “Biomethane and biogas are great candidates for renewable and clean energy sources, but they can also emit methane. we need to act urgently to reduce their emissions.

“We want to encourage the continued use of biogas and biomethane as a renewable resource by taking the necessary action to address methane emissions. “

Researchers note that compared to the oil and gas industry, the biomethane industry suffers from poorly designed and managed production facilities, as well as a lack of investment in modernization, operation and monitoring. As oil and gas supply chains have been run mainly by large companies with huge resources for decades, they have been able to invest more in leak detection and repair.

What is biomethane and biogas?

In response to the climate crisis, many countries are replacing high-carbon energy sources, such as natural gas, coal and oil, with biomethane and biogas.

Although they are made from a mixture of CO2 and methane, biomethane and biogas emit less of the two gases, making them greener energy alternatives.

However, these substitute fuels still emit methane in their supply chains, such as in processing plants and from long pipelines. This new analysis gives us a deeper understanding of where, when and how much methane is released from biomethane and biogas supplies.

Emission analysis

The researchers analyzed 51 previously published studies on mobile methane measurements and field data taken from emission sources in the biomethane and biogas supply chain. They analyzed the data and calculated total methane emissions using a statistical model called Monte Carlo. This allowed them to consider all measurements of total supply chain emissions at each stage of the chain, which they then compared with off-site emissions reported from site-wide measurements in previously published studies.

They found that supply chains emit up to 343 g of CO2-equivalent methane per megajoule higher calorific value, which may be 18.5 megatons of methane per year. IEA estimates say emissions are just 9.1 megatons in 2021.

While total methane emissions from biogas and biomethane are lower than those from oil and natural gas, the amount of methane released from their supply chains is much higher than total gas production than oil and gas.

The data are reported in “CO2 equivalents “- a unit of measure used to compare emissions from the oil and gas supply chain without interfering with downstream operations. This unit also allows us to compare the global warming potential of different greenhouse gas emissions from various studies.

Researchers have identified the reasons for the tightness of supply chains as periodic emission patterns, making them more difficult to trace; insufficient use of technological equipment; and inadequate operations and maintenance strategies. Because super-emitters are unlikely to remain constant over time, researchers say continuous monitoring is needed to detect periodic emission patterns or unforeseen leaks from supply chains.

Dr Bakaloglu said: “Urgent attention is needed to prevent biogas emissions from biogas, which negate the overall benefits of using biogas, including continuous monitoring of biogas supply chains. We believe that with proper detection, measurement and repair techniques, all emissions can be avoided. better regulations, continuous emission measurements and close cooperation with biogas power plant operators to tackle methane emissions and achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement. “

“Given the increase in biomethane due to national decarbonisation strategies, urgent efforts are needed to ensure that the biomethane supply chain not only tackles methane emissions but also the resilience of biomethane.

Co-author Dr. Jasmine Cooper, also from the Department of Chemical Engineering, said: “Solving the major design and investment problems in the biofuels and methane industry would be a good starting point to stop these leaks and prevent more.”

Researchers are now focusing on super-emitters in supply chains to better understand how to reduce them with the best available technology.


How biomethane can help turn gas into a renewable energy source


More info:
Semra Bakaloglu, Methane emissions from biomethane and biogas supply chains are underestimated, One Earth (2022). DOI: 10.1016 / j.oneear.2022.05.012. www.cell.com/one-earth/fulltex… 2590-3322 (22) 00267-6

Quote: Biogas and biomethane supply chains emit twice as much methane as originally thought (2022, June 17), extracted on June 18, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-06-biogas -biomethane-chains-leak-methane.html

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