Developing biomethane production in Spain

Last December, Spain confirmed the launch of its second biomethane plant. EBA has taken this opportunity to get some updates on the development and of this renewable gas in Spain by interviewing David Fernández, Deputy Director of New Business Drive – NEDGIA Grupo Naturgy and Vice-president of Spanish Biogas Association AEBIG, both members of the EBA. David is a Senior Industrial Engineer and has also two degrees in Management. He began his professional career in the energy sector by developing different responsibilities related to the distribution of electricity. He joined the Gas Natural Fenosa Group (now: Naturgy Energy Group) in the gas and power commercialization activity. Subsequently he has been responsible for several areas related to gas and power distribution activity.

Last December, Spain put into operation its second biomethane plant within the ECO-GATE project. Can you give our readers some details about this project?

ECO-GATE is a European consortium co-financed by the European Union through the CEF program, composed of 38 companies from 4 countries (Spain, Portugal, France and Germany), which is led by Nedgia, the gas distribution company of the Naturgy Group. It aims to develop the market for conventional and renewable natural gas for the mobility sector along the Atlantic Corridor and its interconnection with the Rhine-Danube Corridor, as well as along the Spanish Mediterranean Corridor. Within the scope of ECO-GATE, the biomethane plant in Butarque has been put into operation and will inject into the distribution network the biomethane generated from the waste of the Canal Isabel II wastewater treatment plant.

This project is of great importance because:

  • It will inject into the gas distribution network for the first time in Spain
  • It will develop the system of certificates of guarantee of origin for biomethane in our country

What is the current state of play on the development of biomethane in Spain?

In Spain, the support of the Administration is necessary for the development of the biomethane market. It requires a stable regulatory framework, with incentives for renewable gas development projects and long-term forecasting to attract investment and thus encourage both supply and demand proliferation. Spain will have to follow this path and work hard to make this a reality.

Madrid was the scenario of the recent COP 25 to discuss climate targets and reduce the environmental footprint. What could be the contribution of biomethane production in reducing the environmental footprint in Spain?

Biomethanet is necessary to achieve the environmental objectives proposed by Europe in 2030: it is renewable (the objective: 32% of the energy must be of renewable origin) with neutral CO2 emissions (target: 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions). It is also the energy vector that contributes most to the circular economy: your waste generates energy for all kinds of uses: domestic, industrial and transport; in line with the European Commission’s Communication on “The role of waste-to-energy. Besides, it supports rural development and employment (and population) fixing in agricultural and livestock environments; a priority issue in Spain to which the newly appointed Government has dedicated a Vice-presidency in the Government. In addition, biomethane improves the environmental management of organic waste, such as livestock waste, slurry, manure, chicken manure, etc., sewage sludge or the organic fraction of MSW.

What are the expectations for the development of biomethane in 2020?

2020 will be an important year for the biomethane sector in Spain and we expect to lay the foundations for growth by:

  • Developing the model for certificates of origin of biomethane in Spain, is in the process of being recognized by the European Renewable Gas Registry (ERGaR) and we hope that it will also be recognized by the Ministry for Ecological Transition.
  • Implementing a National Energy and Climate Plan that is aware of the importance of renewable gases.
  • Developing specific incentive measures in place from the IDAE and other national and regional agencies. Measures commensurate with renewable energy with greater potential for decarbonisation (on the primary sector and transport), waste management and the circular economy, and job creation in rural areas.

With all this in place, a number of new biomethane projects are expected to be launched. The first are likely to be plants on existing small and medium-sized biogas installations.

What challenges do you see in this outlook?

What seems more complex is to begin to unlock the great potential of biogas in Spain: the agro-industrial, linked to slurry, manure, sludge and waste from the food industry. Coordinated work is needed from administrations (agriculture, environment, rural development, energy), willingness to act on the part of waste producers and a framework of incentives (and penalties for those who pollute) that is not yet ready. Without this, major developments cannot be expected, as the entire weight of the environmental treatment of waste cannot rest on the energy value of biogas.

However, the growing awareness of the environmental impact of certain activities in the primary sector, the awareness of climate change and the depopulation of rural areas, make the take-off of agro-industrial biogas necessary in the long term.

2020 will be a year of announcements, of approval of regulatory measures for biogas and renewable gas, and of the processing of many new projects that will crystallize later as the generally complex procedures progress.

In our navigation, we are not yet on mainland, but we can already see it!

More information about ECO-GATE