Maximizing the Value of Biogas Through Consideration of Alternative Uses
- Matt Van Horne, Bryan Lisk, Micah Blate - Hazen and Sawyer
Biogas produced from anaerobic digestion has long been used for power generation and process heating. However, new biogas utilization technologies and evolving renewable energy markets (i.e. renewable fuels markets, renewable energy markets, low carbon fuels, etc..) are opening up new alternatives to conventional biogas utilization methods. This technology growth, combined with uncertain future energy markets/regulations, has significantly widened the range of economic outcomes and the long term feasibility for all biogas utilization technologies. Accounting for this range of future conditions can be a significant challenge for wastewater utilities when evaluating long-term biogas utilization strategies. Failure to account for the full range of future plant, regulatory, and market conditions can result in inaccurate assessments of long term benefits and risks.
Beyond the technical considerations for the various utilization approaches, there are a significant number of market and regulatory conditions that must be considered for each utilization alternative. To capture the full range of long term outcomes, an Energy Balance and Analysis Tool (EBAT) has been developed. EBAT models the energy projection benefit for a wide range utilization technologies under multiple long term future conditions including high and low market conditions, high and low plant growth, and impacts from co-digestion.
The EBAT model is used to model the range of projected future market and plant conditions and the results enable wastewater utilities to make more informed decisions on their long term biogas utilization strategies. Some of the currently available biogas utilization approaches include combined heat and power systems, biogas to vehicle fuel, and biogas to natural gas. The EBAT tool has helped utilities of various sizes determine the highest value digester gas utilization approach.
While recovery of digester gas can offer utilities several opportunities to cut energy costs or generate revenue, looking ahead, we now sit at the crossroads where recovery of cellulose, high value carbon, bioelectrochemical products, rare earth elements and plasmids represent the next generation of resource recovery.
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