Biomethane in transport

Role of biomethane

Even though the energy potential of AD in the UK is enormous (approximately 40 TWh), this is not an unlimited resource and there must therefore be clear direction from government as to how this limited resource should best be used. The Carbon Trust identified that using biomethane as a transport fuel represents the most carbon effective use of biogas, but government policy is not currently effectively supporting this use through the RTFO.

Biogas can be upgraded to biomethane, a natural gas renewable equivalent, which can then be injected and stored in the grid, providing baseload energy which balances the intermittency of other renewables.

Biomethane can also be used as a transport fuel, achieving significant environmental and cost savings in HGVs, buses and other vehicles, compared to diesel vehicles, while also playing an important role in improving poor air quality in our towns and cities.

How can government realise these benefits?

High cost and regulatory complexity has made grid connection difficult for many plants. Although injection to the gas grid is one of the most efficient uses of biogas, only two plants are currently connected. Amendments to the gas regulations – already being contemplated – such as increasing the volume of oxygen biomethane may contain and relaxing inappropriate requirements on calorific value measurement would make a major difference, as would introducing functional specifications for grid connections to standardise connection requirements and open them up to competition.

Putting the RTFO on parity with the RHI will mean that biomethane producers will be better incentivised to go down the transport route where this is viable rather than choosing grid injection, which is the most logical option at present.

Government should also give a clear steer to local authorities to encourage them to use biomethane vehicles in bus fleets and refuse collection vehicles.

Following the AD Strategy and Action Plan, Ofgem established a group to consider Energy Market Issues in Biomethane. This reported in June 2012 with recommendations to break down barriers to grid connections for biomethane plants. The government could help release the benefits of biomethane by ensuring that these recommendations – which particularly apply to Ofgem – are implemented in a timely manner.

If you are an ADBA member and you are interested in supporting ADBA’s work in this area have a look at our Transport Working Group.