Portugal: Evaluating the potential and the impact of biomethane

A recently released study addresses the need of promoting biomethane and encouraging a regulatory framework that would allow for its injection in the natural gas grid.

The study was produced by the National Laboratory of Energy and Geology, with the financial support of the Renewable Energies and Energy Efficiency section of the Portuguese Innovation and Support Fund. It counted as well with contributions from particulars, enterprises and public authorities, in order to draft the impact of introducing biomethane in Portugal.

The study considers two different scenarios from the illustrative guidelines provided by the Directive 2014/94/UE regarding the creation of a European infrastructure for alternative fuels: biomethane could either be injected in the natural gas grid or provided through a supplying network installed within local reach (providing locally-sourced biomethane).

In Portugal, biogas is usually produced from municipal solid waste and organic matter deposited in landfills. But the study highlights the possibility of taking advantage of other sources, especially residues from forests and certain industrial sectors such as paper and cork producers. Therefore, the annual volume of gas as fuel (biogas + syngas) that could be produced from biomass is estimated at approximately 900 million Nm3, which would correspond to around 9,722 GWh/year. These figures are expected to double its size after introducing anaerobic digestion in the gasification process, reaching a production of 1,700 million Nm3/year and 18,752 GWh/year.

Based on the analysis of existing and potential biogas production technologies and installations, the study concludes on the promising technical and economic possibilities of biogas in Portugal. Future considerations include introducing co-generation processes that could make use of other sources (such as secondary crops when available or shut down landfills) in order to produce both heat and electricity.

The study finally calls for a regulatory framework that could allow the promotion of biomethane in Portugal, along with a possible roadmap that includes the following:

– 2015: Identifying the national potential of biomethane, drafting specific regulation that would support the introduction on biomethane in the country, and setting the technical guidelines for its injection in the grid.

– 2016/2017: Implementing national registers of biomethane, the transposition of European regulation, monitoring the sustainability criteria applied to biomethane in transport, promoting low-ILUC energetic values and encouraging the public promotion of R&D projects related to gasification.

– 2018/2020: Implementing industrial gasification projects, developing incentives at a national and logistic level for biomethane, evaluating the impact of all these measures (on an annual basis, starting in 2016) in order to quantify the reduction of GHG emissions.

Source: “Avaliação do Potencial e Impacto do Biometano em Portugal, Estudo Técnico-Científico”, by LNEG