Renewable gas market
Biogas: current situation and prospects
Biogas is a 100% renewable gas produced by methanation, a process in which microorganisms break down organic waste in the absence of oxygen (anaerobic digestion). When biogas is treated, it becomes biomethane and can thus be injected into the natural gas network. Biomethane obtained from biogas treatment has the same uses as natural gas, but its carbon content can be 5-10 times lower. Thus, it has an environmental advantage, making it a key lever for the energy transition.
After the commissioning of the first biomethane injection site in 2011, the fleet continued to grow. More than 300 units were created between 2017 and 2021. At the end of June 2022, France had a maximum annual injection capacity of about 7,800 GWh over 450. As for biomethane production (energy injected into the gas grid), this amounts to approximately 4,337 GWh in 2021. The Grand Est, Nouvelle-Aquitaine and Hauts-de-France regions alone represent half of production and installed capacity.
Today, the share of biomethane in the final gas consumption in France is very low (less than 1%). However, the Energy Transition for Green Growth Act of 2015 (LTECV) set an ambition to reach 10% of renewable gas in total gas consumption by 2030. According to this trajectory, Carbone 4 estimates the amount of biomethane. should be injected into the gas networks in two scenarios. The amount of biomethane injected by 2030 will be between 18 TWh and 36 TWh in the “medium” and “pro-techno” scenarios, respectively. In 2050, they reach between 125 TWh and 174 TWh. The required investment between 2021 and 2050 is between €37 billion and €49 billion. At the same time, the number of injection sites will also increase, reaching 8,000-11,000 sites in 2050, compared to just over 400 today. These areas must be connected to the natural gas distribution and transport networks, which means an investment of 37 billion to 40 billion euros over the same period.
In a short time, it is possible to follow the progress of the sector from the number of projects entered into the register at the end of each year and their maximum injection possibilities into the network. At the end of 2021, for example, 1,149 projects have been identified for an expected capacity of 25,376 GWh. The commissioning of these facilities is estimated to take place by 2025, and they will, for example, supply more than 110,000 BioNGV-powered buses or trucks and heat 4 million homes (GRDF 2021).
In addition to the environmental interest of biomethane, the sector also has an economic role. This indeed contributes to France’s energy sovereignty, as almost all of the natural gas consumed in the country today is imported, mainly from Norway (36%) and Russia (17%) (SDES 2021). Given the geopolitical context of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and its implications for natural gas supplies, this quest for independence has become crucial.
Regional distribution of reserved annual injection capacities at the end of 2021
Source: FNTP processing from data ODRE Open Data
Anaerobic digestion: technical and practical aspects
Anaerobic digestion takes place in several stages, from the collection and transportation of organic wastes, their breakdown in a digester to the production of biogas. The latter can be recovered to produce heat and electricity, or can be purified and then injected into gas networks in the form of biomethane. It is designed for a variety of purposes: heating, cooking, hot water, fuel production… but with less environmental impact than natural gas. Compared to other energy production sectors, the specificity of anaerobic digestion is the recovery of organic waste to produce renewable gas. It thus contributes to the ecological transition in two ways, by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the energy sector and by contributing to a circular economy approach.
Anaerobic digestion is the most advanced renewable gas production technology today with a reliable economic model. However, he is not alone. Other sectors are emerging, but they are not yet developed on a large scale. These are methanation, pyrogasification, hydrothermal gasification and “electric-gas” sectors.
Biomethane injection facilities are defined by the primary input used as well as the project manager. The materials used are diverse and come from different sectors: livestock waste, plant waste, sludge and co-products of the food industry, municipal waste, green waste, sewage sludge, etc. Four main sectors are involved in the development of the sector: the agricultural sector, the industrial sector, the municipal waste sector and the urban sludge sector (ADEME 2022). The installed base in France is dominated by the agricultural sector, which accounts for 85% of the area.
Distribution of injection sites by typology in 2022
Source: FNTP processing from data ODRE Open Data
The implementation of the biogas project takes place within three to five years. The process begins with the initial research phase, then design and legal and financial structure, then infrastructure construction and connection to the gas network (if applicable) and finally ends with commissioning and operation. object. The respective investment costs vary according to the type of installation, the amount of inputs, as well as the expected production/injection. The following information is provided for information only, it comes from GRDF, the main natural gas distributor in France, and is based on realistic calculation assumptions, but cannot replace expert opinion or a specific approach to each project. Among the various investment items, two particularly concern the trading of public works companies.
Connection to the distribution network (GRDF): 1 – 4% of the total investment
Roads and various network + structural works: 20 – 25% of the total investment.
Although renewable gas production has proven essential to France’s energy transition, methanation projects are often the subject of local opposition. More than a third of the French are not in favor of installing an anaerobic digester less than a kilometer from their home. The main reasons cited for this “nimby” phenomenon (Not in My Backyard) are odors, noise pollution, and risk of fire and explosion (ADEME 2021). Concern about the development of the sector is explained, among other things, by a lack of information. Thus, it is important to establish a territorial dialogue that emphasizes positive and negative external factors to allow projects to progress and integrate into the territory.
The role of public works companies
The public works sector is involved in the transformation of the gas system into a more sustainable model through the expansion of the biomethane production and injection sector. Companies operating in the sector are mainly involved in the construction of methanation plants and drilling rigs, but also during site preparation and when the injection plant needs to be connected to the natural gas network. Their skills are important because they are specific to public works professions and not to the biogas sector. Faced with the prospect of renewable gas production and the emergence of new sectors in the coming years, the production and injection of biomethane constitutes an attractive market for companies in the sector.
Related public works professions
The energy sector is crucial to putting France on a low-carbon trajectory. Natural gas is the third most consumed energy, despite its high impact in terms of emissions. Development of the renewable gas sector is essential to support the country’s energy transition. According to national energy goals, the amount of biomethane injected into the grid should be between 18 TWh and 36 TWh over the same horizon. In 2050, they will increase dramatically to between 125 TWh and 174 TWh. The required investment for the period 2021 – 2050 is estimated to be between 37-49 billion euros. At the same time, new injection sites must be installed to reach 8,000 to 11,000 sites in 2050. This development is accompanied by the need to connect these new areas to gas transportation and distribution networks. Between €37 and €40 billion. Thus, the production and injection of biomethane constitutes an attractive future market for the public works sector, as well as an important one to support France in its energy transition.
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