Biogas: A high-potential, sustainable, yet untapped fuel in Romania

Biogas production in the EU in 2013 was 566 PJ (157 TWh), accounting for almost 7% of total renewable energy use, but only 0.8% of total primary energy demand and 3.5% of natural gas demand. The situation varies considerably between countries. Half of all EU biogas production takes place in Germany (287 PJ) and another 27% is equally split between the UK and Italy (76 PJ each). Other important biogas producers are the Czech Republic, France, Spain and the Netherlands, totalling 66 PJ (Eurostat 2014). Italy, Germany and the Czech Republic have registered the highest growth rates over the past 5 years, but they are all currently slowing down, with changes to their biogas incentive schemes.

Portrayed as a key element to Romania’s sustainable energy future, biomass should be the object of intense debate in connection with the future national energy strategy. Solid (wood, charcoal) and liquid (biodiesel, bioethanol) forms of biomass are rather well known, but it is also possible to derive significant amounts of valuable, clean energy by burning (upgraded) biogas. This article briefly discusses the prospects of biogas production and use in Romania, in a European context.

Biogas is a valuable methane-based, gaseous fuel, derived from various biogenic sources. While conventional (fossil) natural gas forms from the decomposition of organic matter at high temperature and pressure in the lithosphere over millions of years, biogas forms close to ground surface or in special plants, within weeks or months, in a four-stage process called anaerobic digestion. Due to the speed of biogas synthesis by anaerobic digestion, its methane content is lower (35-70%) than for natural gas (80-96%) and its CO2 content rather high (15-50%). The solid residue of anaerobic digestion, called digestate, can partly become fertilizer.

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