Anaerobic digestion has the potential to reduce global GHG emissions with 10-13%

In June 2019, the world biogas association published a report on the Global Potential of Biogas. The report aims to highlight the potential of AD as a technology to generate renewable energy, abate GHG emissions and recover organic nutrients and carbon for use on soil. The report also sets out the potential of AD to help meet the climate change targets under the Paris Agreement. The key finding of this report is that AD has the potential to reduce GHG emissions by 3,290 to 4,360 Mt CO2 eq., which is equivalent to 10-13% of the world’s current greenhouse gas emissions. This is achieved trough the generation of renewable energy in the form of biogas from the anaerobic digestion of wastes and landfill gas, combined with emissions avoided through the management of organic wastes and avoided fossil fuel manufacture, crop burning and deforestation, using technology available and widely used today.

The above means that, despite the 50 million micro-digesters, 132,000 small, medium and large-scale digesters and 700 upgrading plants operating globally, according to the world biogas association, we are tapping into just 1.6 – 2.2% of the global potential of AD. The potential for the growth of biogas industry is therefore extraordinary and involves every country.

The potential to generate energy from currently available and sustainable grown/recovered major feedstocks (livestock manure, food waste, sewage, crop residues and energy crops) in the world is 10,100 to 14,000 TWh. This energy can meet 6-9 % of the world’s primary energy consumption or 23-32% of the world’s coal consumption. When used as electricity, it has the potential to meet 16-22% of the electricity consumed globally. If the energy is utilized as biomethane, it can substitute 993 to 1380 bcm of natural gas, equivalent to 26-37% of the current natural gas consumed globally.

To achieve this potential, policy and regulatory support is required because the ability to decarbonize energy production is dependent upon being able to operate at least on a level playing field with entrenched and existing operators. The multiple contributions of biogas (treating waste as well as producing energy and fertilizers) are often not accounted for as an additional value, which means operators do not receive compensations for these positive externalities.

The development of alternative waste treatment methods and the need for non-fossil fuel-based energy sources, have led to the growth of anerobic digestion (AD) industry which produces biogas. AD is a ready-to-use technology to decarbonize heat for our buildings and transport ourselves and our goods, while producing a natural fertilizer co-product that can recycle nutrients back to the soil.

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