Biogas is a renewable, environmentally friendly alternative to natural gas and is a component of the circular economy. Although still only a marginal part of the global energy mix, biogas is an energy of the future that will be necessary to achieve carbon neutrality. ENGIE researchers are working on several projects that aim to lower the cost of biogas production. This is the topic of this new chapter of our feature on research and innovation.
Biogas is formed through the decomposition of organic matter in a process of anaerobic digestion. It can also be produced by the gasification of dry biomass, waste and waste-derived fuels.
Zero-carbon hydrogen is also one of the most promising options for providing industry and the mobility sector with clean energy, as well as for storing and transporting renewable energy. Generally produced from natural gas (methane) through a steam reforming process, green hydrogen is produced from renewable sources and generates no emissions.
Through its GAYA platform in Saint-Fons, south of Lyon, France, ENGIE is carrying out pioneering work and demonstrating that biogas can be produced on an industrial scale.
ENGIE is now manufacturing green gas from forest residues. It is used instead of natural gas in transmission and distribution networks and for vehicles running on natural gas. It is the first platform in Europe to cover the entire green gas production chain from dry biomass. The next challenge it faces will be producing green gas from waste.
In March 2020, ENGIE successfully carried out the world’s first pilot test of renewable hydrogen supply for a passenger train, during a pilot test in the Netherlands. A train called Coradia iLint was tested without passengers on a 55-kilometer stretch between the cities of Groningen and Leeuwarden. The ENGIE Group supplied renewable hydrogen and operated the mobile refueling station that enabled the train to be refilled six times during the 13-day trial. It reached speeds of up to 140 km/h.
This train is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell that produces electrical energy for traction. Its only emissions are water and steam, representing a clean alternative for the Dutch province of Groningen, which is seeking to replace the diesel fleets that run on non-electrified lines, with the aim of achieving carbon neutrality by 2035.
ENGIE New Ventures has invested in H2SITE, a start-up based in Bilbao, Spain, which seeks to commercialize a system able to produce high purity hydrogen on customer’s premises from methane, more specifically biomethane.
3 questions for Johann Boukhors, CEO of ENGIE New Ventures.
H2SITE is a spin-off created by the Tecnalia European research and technology center and Eindhoven University of Technology. ENGIE has taken a minority stake in the capital of H2SITE and is cooperating with it on its research and development projects.
ENGIE firmly believes that hydrogen is an essential ingredient in the energy transition, as it fulfills several needs in terms of mobility, energy storage and industrial applications. The H2SITE technology platform addresses its customers’ requirements in terms of decentralized hydrogen production, transportation and storage. Their breakthrough technology has been identified and evaluated by ENGIE in a variety of collaborative research projects.
H2SITE sets out both to help its customers save money and to pave the way for the green mobility that will characterize tomorrow’s world – two objectives that presuppose being able to produce high-quality hydrogen on site. The on-site production of green hydrogen using biogas, bioethanol or biomethanol eliminates transportation costs and avoids energy loss caused by compression and decompression operations, as well as leaks. Such a solution has previously been considered to be science fiction, but it has now become reality thanks to technology developed in-house by H2SITE and a type of state-of-the-art A-SMR (Small Modular Reactor).
Innovation tracks are endless and biogas is one of the must-haves for the future of energy. The next step is simple: large-scale production and deployment.
Discover all the chapters of our feature on Research and Innovation.