By 2050, 30 to 40% of Europe’s total gas consumption could be made up of sustainable biomethane, according to the 11th edition of the Statistical Report launched by the European Biogas Association (EBA). The report provides an in-depth analysis on the state of the art and the potential of biogas and its upgraded form, biomethane, and the best pathways to ensure full deployment in the coming years as part of the future energy mix.
The EBA report analyses the current availability of renewable gases in Europe, notably biogas and biomethane. Combined biogas and biomethane production in 2020 amounted to 191 TWh or 18.0 bcm of energy and this figure is expected to double in the next 9 years. By 2050, production can be at least fivefold reaching over 1,000 TWh, with some estimates going up to 1,700 TWh. Agriculture-based biogas and biomethane plants make up the lion’s share of the total production, which is now already more than the entire natural gas consumption of Belgium and represents 4.6% of the gas consumption of the European Union. In terms of job creation, the report shows that biogas and biomethane industries are already responsible for over 210,000 green jobs today. Both sectors combined can be expected to create a total of approximately 420,000 jobs by 2030 and over one million by 2050. The report highlights the needed collaboration as well between the biomethane and the other potential major renewable gases, such as green hydrogen in future years.
Over the last decade, the delivery of dispatchable power and heat from biogas has been very important and its role will continue to some extent. However, the current trend places the emphasis squarely on sustainable biomethane production, and it is expected that this tendency will be amplified in the coming decade: biomethane is a versatile energy carrier, suitable for a range of sectors, including transport, industry, power and heating. 2020 saw the biggest year on year increase in biomethane production so far in spite of the pandemic, with an additional 6.4 TWh or 0.6 bcm of biomethane produced in Europe. An even bigger increase is to be expected in 2021, as a record number of new biomethane plants started production in 2020 and are due to become fully operational within 2021.
The remaining future gas demand can be met by other renewable and low-carbon solutions such as green hydrogen. The development of synergies between green gases will be key to meeting future gas market demands. In line with this, the report highlights the need to develop a vision of how biomethane and hydrogen will integrate with each other in the future. Future infrastructure investments should aim to strengthen the distribution of renewable gases by considering the specific requirements of each gas as well as their most suitable deployment.
The report points out as well a clear tendency towards the increasing use of sustainable feedstocks for biogas and biomethane production. These include mostly industrial waste, municipal waste or agricultural residues. It is also expected that the remaining energy crops to produce biogas will be replaced by sustainable cropping, for example with the introduction of sequential cropping systems which at the same time allows for carbon farming and revitalization of the soil.
The contribution to sustainability is one of the benefits of biogas and biomethane production for the society, but there are many others. As the EBA report points out, a solid calculation of the economic value of the wider benefits of biogas and biomethane is needed, so that the revenue channels for producers can be diversified. The translation of these societal benefits into market signals would allow biogas and biomethane production to compete on fairer terms with other types of energy supply while at the same time further stimulating production plants to achieve the highest levels of societal benefit.
“Today, the EU is 90% dependent on imported fossil gas. The EBA Statistical Report 2021 highlights best possible pathways to accelerate sustainable renewable gas deployment and ensure we are on track to meet climate-neutrality by 2050, making use of all possible solutions within our reach,” said EBA Director Harmen Dekker.