Berenschot surveys scaling-up potential of green gas

Published on 6 June 2018

The signing of the Paris Agreement and the decrease in the production of natural gas in the Province of Groningen reinforce the demand for alternatives to natural gas. This is why Berenschot, under contract to the Dutch Energy Management Agency (EBN), surveyed the potential for scaling up the production of green gas and what is required to make this possible. The findings were published at the end of May in the position paper 'Strategic Hubs for Scaling Up Green Gas in the Netherlands'.

At the present time the production of biogas is primarily decentralised: on-site by farmers, by the food industry and by sewerage and wastewater purification plants. To replace natural gas over the short term requires key steps to be implemented in scaling up and professionalising biogas production. The paper suggests that given the current production of 0.1 billion cubic metres per year, the potential of green gas in the Netherlands is not yet being exploited to its full capacity. The creation of strategic hubs – with the newest technologies and professional exploitation for the production, reprocessing and processing of biogas, biomass and digestate, and where possible CO2 consumption – increases the scaling up opportunities.

There are a number of reasons why the production of green gas is slow to get off the ground. It is difficult to access the available biomass, current production is small-scale and is not yet sufficiently economically profitable. Centralising production is complex due to the logistics challenges and furthermore is dependent on the availability of gas infrastructure. However, the emergence of several promising technologies, such as supercritical water gasification could provide the right technical and economic incentives for establishing green gas production on a large scale.

Working with strategic hubs requires a number of preconditions to be fulfilled, however. For example, concerning the location of the required hubs, the strict logistics requirements and the economic incentives needed to make the supply of biomass to the hub attractive. Above all, the creation of an operator and coordinator role to steer centralised production in the right direction appears to be essential.