Biomethane to support the energy transition: potential and cost in 2050

By ENGIE - 09 July 2021 - 15:28

In order to help its stakeholders - companies, public authorities, employees and citizens - understand the transition, ENGIE has been publishing studies for several years that highlight the various possibilities of decarbonizing its energy mix to achieve a carbon-neutral economy. This study, carried out by the Group's experts and based on external, objective data, analyses the production potential and cost of biomethane in Europe up to 2050.


A key role in the energy transition

Reach the goal Net Zero Carbon emissions in 2050 does not only require 100% renewable electricity, but also green gases (biogas, synthetic gas, hydrogen). Many recent studies (CEER, Gas for Climate, ADEME, ...) highlight that the energy transition requires green gases, and in particular biomethane, to decarbonize all sectors.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA, 2020), the sustainable worldwide feedstock potential for biogas and biomethane production could cover about 20% of today’s gas demand.  Biomethane production depends on the availability of feedstocks such as agricultural residues and manure. An analysis of how much biomethane can be produced in Europe, and at what cost, is the focus of this study.

Estimating the geographical distribution of biomethane potential and costs in 2050

The purpose of this report is to study the geographical distribution of the potential for producing biomethane and to estimate the associated costs in the EU and 10 neighbouring countries in 2050 for anaerobic digestion and pyrogasification.
This report is organized in two chapters. In the first, the evaluation of the feedstock potential in the geographical scope defined is presented: a large list of biomass feedstocks that can be used for producing biomethane and locates where these feedstocks are available. In Chapter 2, the estimation of the cost of producing biomethane across the geographical scope is exposed. The study assesses the cost of the entire value chain, from biomass collection to the injection of biomethane into gas networks. 

What is the method of analysis used?

The theoretical potential of biomass is evaluated using a geographical analysis. Geographical databases on soil utilization are crossed with statistics to assess the spatial distribution of the biomass. Taking into account assumptions on mobilization, competitive uses or soil protection rules, this allows to estimate the potential for biomethane production at a resolution of 1 km². 
The study then locates the least costly biomethane plants in order to use as much of the biomass potential as possible. In this step, the cost of the value chain to produce biomethane is estimated. The result is a geographical distribution of the cost of producing biomethane, depending on the locally available feedstock and logistics.

Two key figures:

  • The potential of biomass available in 2050 in EU27+10 could allow to produce over 1700 TWhHHV  of biomethane.
  • The cost of 1G biomethane could decrease below 70 €2019/MWhHHV in average in 2050

A methodology extended for various analyses 

In conclusion, the study shows the potential in Europe to produce biomethane and its associated cost, obtained through a detailed modeling of the value chain. The methodology developed in this report could be extended to refine the analysis, for example by including the possibility for network extensions or bioLNG transport to enhance the injection potential or by extending the scope to other feedstock (e.g., algae for biomethane, perennial crops for bioliquids, …). The results and the methodology could also be used for other business cases, such as identifying the biomass resources available in a particular region, or the need for gas network adaptations.

* EU 27 + Albania, Iceland, Macedonia, Montenegro, Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Turkey, United Kingdom, Serbia