Bio-LNG to Overtake Traditional LNG?
LNG is one the cleanest burning fossil fuel available. LNG is odorless, colorless, non-corrosive and non-toxic. Therefore, LNG does not pollute land or water resources as much as other fuels of the same origin, for example, diesel. Even though it is less harmful than other fuels in use, LNG is still a fossil fuel.
Because of the EU aim to have 10% of the transport fuel of every EU country come from renewable sources such as biofuels by 2020, there are fierce competitors for LNG rising. One of them is Bio-LNG.
What is Bio-LNG?
The chemical composition of Bio-LNG is almost purely methane CH4, with small traces of CO2, H2S and H2O. Basically, Bio-LNG has the same chemical formula as LNG, except without the higher hydrocarbons present in the latter gas. It is also called liquefied bio-methane (LMB).
Bio-LNG is a 100% biofuel since it is derived from renewable resources such as biogas. It can be produced at any place where anaerobic digestion occurs, meaning that all organic waste can rot and can produce biogas. The perfect source for Bio-LNG is biogas from animal manure and sewage sludge or green waste. Before biogas can be liquefied to Bio-LNG, CO2, H2S and other compounds that have to be removed because raw biogas has 30 – 45% of these contents. Then this biogas is upgraded to high-quality biomethane and the gas is liquefied to -162 degrees Celsius. Once liquefied, the volume of the gas has reduced at least 600 times. Therefore, large amounts can be distributed easily.
How does Bio-LNG compete with traditional LNG?
Bio-LNG is an alternative fuel that can be seen as one of the main competitors of LNG. It will even be reviewed as such on a panel discussion at the 3rd International LNG Summit on 25-26th April, 2018 in Hamburg.
As a renewable energy source, Bio-LNG has a competitive advantage over traditional liquified natural gas. LNG offers 20%-25% reduction in CO2, about 80%-85% reduction in NOx and 100% reduction in SOx and fine particulates. Meanwhile, Bio-LNG emits negligible NOx or particulate matters when burnt and reduces CO2 by 90%. Bio-LNG can even be carbon negative, meaning that zero emissions is no longer a pipe dream, but could become a reality.
Bio–LNG can be produced domestically saving transport costs and carbon emissions. Such option can be considered in regions with sufficient biomass availability, whether from waste or agricultural biomass. Because of its high energy density, Bio-LNG is suitable for being transported on the road via trucks, same as for LNG.
On the other hand, there is no significant Bio-LNG production capacity available at the moment as it is still an evolving technology. The production infrastructure is still limited, but since Bio-LNG could be applied in exactly the same way as LNG, it can benefit from the growing LNG infrastructure. However, to switch from LNG to Bio-LNG, investments and technological developments are necessary to produce the required amount of biogas. Since now Bio-LNG is significantly more expensive to produce than LNG, and therefore typically requires subsidies to be competitive. Not to mention, more investments are needed to the fuel supply chain in order to introduce this fuel for the production capacity to be sufficient and for Bio-LNG to become a successor to LNG.
Even though Bio-LNG could be used as a stand-alone fuel, at the moment the best option to reach the most sustainable fuel is to mix it with fossil-based LNG to increase quality, which can be important if minimum LNG methane requirements are changed in the future. This solution would make these gases not competitors but rather allies.