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IEA report: Renewable gas ‐ Deployment, markets and sustainable trade

A collaboration between different IEA Bioenergy Tasks has produced three reports on renewable gases.

The reports provide overviews on prospects, opportunities and challenges for biogas, biomethane and other renewable gases.


Report 1 – Biomethane – factors for a successful sector development


Some key messages from this report are as follows:

Technology: Biomethane production based on anaerobic digestion (AD) is a proven technology with a variety of substrates. Progress has been made in the reliability and efficiency of the upgrading technologies and the market share of membrane separation technology is increasing.

Substrates: Most countries in the study (Canada, China, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Estonia, Austria, Switzerland, India, USA, UK, Japan) incentivise the use of manure and waste materials. The use of energy crops is not that common anymore, due to costs, sustainability issues and land use and the trend is moving away from energy crops. Using waste and residues as feedstocks avoids the land-use issues associated with energy crops and can capture methane that would be released by their decomposition. Energy crops also require more fertiliser (typically produced from fossil fuels).

Cost structure: Biogas plants have a limited potential for cost reductions, due to the fact that they are highly individual and have many components and contractors. Today, biomethane is mainly used in CHP plants with high heat production and flexible electricity supply, particularly for sites that have low potentials, given that upgrading and injection into the gas grid are still too expensive.

Support mechanisms: There are numerous systems and approaches to incentivise the production or the utilization of biomethane. An obligatory quota for the renewable share of the market, for example, can force the development of the market. CO2 pricing can make biomethane more competitive. Major driver for the success of a support scheme is how it helps the project developer to have a profitable business case. In the long-term, support mechanisms need to be replaced by a competitive market scheme.

Strategies for biomethane sector development: Biomethane can contribute to the demand for renewable gas but it cannot cover it completely. Therefore, the interaction and compatibility with other measures as for instance the development of hydrogen sector is necessary. Infrastructure that enables renewable gases in the long term should be incentivised over infrastructure that perpetuates fossil gas use.

Biomethane with CCS/CCU: Biogas upgrading to biomethane is a source of CO2 for bioenergy with carbon capture and sequestration (BECCS) which achieves negative CO2 balances, and for bioenergy with carbon capture and utilization (BECCU) which delivers CO2-neutral products.


The other two reports can be found here:

Report 2 – Status and perspectives of non-biogenic renewable gases



Report 3 – Sustainable potentials for renewable gas trade