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Gaya, or how to produce green gas from dry biomass

Biomethane has the same properties as natural gas, but it is a 100% renewable clean energy. To develop the sustainable production of this green gas at a local level, ENGIE has been developing the Gaya project for several years – a platform for producing biomethane from dry biomass (wood, straw, agricultural and food waste, etc.). Inaugurated in October 2017 at Saint-Fons in Chemical Valley, south of Lyon, Gaya is a key milestone in the development of so-called 2G (2nd Generation) biomethane.

The Gaya platform, inaugurated by ENGIE in October 2017, has been designed to test the production of biomethane from dry biomass. A renewable energy that does not depend on the vagaries of the weather, its production can play a part in effectively diversifying the energy mix.

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Ambition: meeting the energy transition targets

Jointly financed by ENGIE and Ademe (the French agency for the environment and energy management), the Gaya project aims to help meet France’s dual objective of cutting greenhouse gas emissions (40% reduction by 2030) and raising the share of renewable gas in overall gas consumption to 10% by 2030. Some experts claim it could be possible to achieve up to 100% renewable gas as of 2050.

The biomethane produced from dry biomass (known as second generation) is a new form of green energy, obtained from local natural resources such as wood and straw. It is virtuous in two respects: it converts local resources into energy (renewable straw from agricultural crops and forest wood) and reduces energy-related greenhouse gas emissions (because the place of production is in proximity to the place of energy conversion). Another advantage is that the heat produced by the industrial process can be recovered in the form of energy by the local community or a local industrial operator.

Whether used directly as a transport fuel or injected into existing natural gas networks, second generation biomethane is a renewable energy that is available in large quantity. This production will also promote the creation of local jobs. It has been estimated that the biomethane sector could create 5,000 jobs in France by 2040 or 2050.*.

How does the Gaya platform work?

Gaya is a cutting-edge technological platform that produces biomethane in four stages from the dry biomass that is delivered there.

  • The biomass is first introduced into a gasifier, in which it is converted to syngas by a thermo-chemical conversion process.
  • This gas contains impurities; it is purified to remove tars and inorganic compounds.
  • The clean gas thus obtained is fed into a methanation reactor, to increase its methane content.
  • The biomethane is then made compliant with the standard specifications for network natural gas.

Covering the whole second generation biomethane production chain, the Gaya platform is designed to trial the efficiency of the complete process.

Gaya… what next?

Unlike first generation biomethane, which is now produced on an industrial scale, biomethane derived from dry biomass is still at an experiment stage. The ambition of the Gaya project, launched back in 2010, is to demonstrate the technical and economic feasibility of this new technology, with the aim of establishing the sector on an industrial scale by 2020.

Through this pilot project, the only one of its kind in Europe, the 11 partners are hoping to make improvements to production processes so that the experiment can be reproduced elsewhere in France and around the world.

*Based on the report Évaluation des Emplois dans la Filière Biocombustibles (Evaluation of Jobs in the Biofuels Industry) published by Ademe in April 2007.

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