14:20 10.12.2021


Biomethane - European experience and Ukrainian realities

6 min read
Biomethane - European experience and Ukrainian realities

Ihor Gotsyk, Head of international projects at Regional Gas Company (RGC), for Green Deal portal


European perspectives

According to the European Biogas Association, by 2050, 30% to 40% of Europe's total gas consumption could be made up of sustainable biomethane.

In 2020, the EU produced 18 bcm or 191 Twh of biogas and biomethane the output will be expected to double in the next nine years. By 2050, the output could increase at least fivefold to exceed 1,000 TWh, and by some estimates as much as 1,700 TWh.

Agricultural biogas and biomethane installations make up the lion's share of the total output, which exceeds Belgium's total natural gas consumption and represents 4.6% of gas consumption in the European Union.

In terms of job creation, the EU's biogas and biomethane industries are already responsible for over 210,000 jobs today. It is expected that both sectors will create about 420,000 jobs by 2030 and more than a million jobs by 2050.

Other synthetic low-carbon solutions can supply future gas demand, such as green hydrogen. Developing synergies between clean and green gases will be vital to satisfying the future needs of Europe's gas market.

According to the European Biogas Association, future investments in infrastructure should target the strengthening of the resilience of renewable gas distribution capacities, taking into account the specific needs of each type of gas, and their best possible location.


Ukrainian context

Unlike other European countries, Ukraine is just beginning of its path towards biomethane. This year, the draft law was passed on establishing the state register and introducing guarantees confirming the biomethane origin. The following steps will include the development of the delegated legislation for the practical implementation of the provisions of this law, namely, regulatory and technical standards for the connection of the plants, as well as the procedures for the operations of the networks containing biomethane.

In Ukraine there are plants that produce biogas from agricultural wastes, livestock wastes, food industry wastes, waste landfills, etc. However, due to its physical and chemical characteristics, biogas cannot be injected into gas networks. Biogas must be purified until it turns into biomethane, i.e., the content of CO2, oxygen, and other components of biogas must be reduced, while the level of methane should be increased to at least 90%. That's where some legal conflict emerges because some provisions of Ukrainian legislation, particularly regarding the oxygen content, set stricter requirements than European legislation.

Adopting the law on biomethane will boost the development of the biomethane market, as it is suitable for injection into gas networks. Gas distribution networks are the best possible solution to inject biomethane into Ukraine’s gas system.


What is the situation at present?

Ukraine’s gas distribution networks are getting ready to work with biomethane. For example, in France, most biomethane plants are connected to distribution networks.

In addition to the legislative and regulatory aspects, primary importance is the technical feasibility of connecting biomethane plants to gas distribution networks. At present, RGC specialists are working on this issue.

Ukraine is currently undergoing the initial stage of biomethane market development when biomethane producers are beginning to appear. The question arises about the way forward. In this regard, if we talk about a sufficiently large output of biomethane, the best possible option is to inject it into gas distribution networks, which will be ready to accept the first volumes of biomethane in 2022. RGC specialists are working to make it happen while allowing everyone free access to gas distribution networks in terms of a possible connection without any discrimination. In fact, we have created a kind of one-stop shop that allows any investor or businessman to contact RGC to assess the technical feasibility of connecting a biomethane plant, get advice on technological solutions, and further develop their business in the technical field.


What problems can biomethane producers face?

First, it is lower consumption of natural gas and, consequently, biomethane by households during the summer period; the consumption rate may vary by 7-10 times. At the same time, biomethane plants operate at a more or less regular pace subject to sufficient availability of resources. Consequently, thorough estimations are required for sustainable operations of the gas distribution networks following the connection of the biomethane plant. The key task is to ensure a safe and uninterrupted supply of gas to all customers, both residential and non-residential. Ukraine's gas distribution networks require significant modernization and redesign, taking into account the current demand of the customers. For this reason, when making estimations to connect the biomethane plants, we take an integrated approach and try to predict the demand for several decades to come.

Second, the location of biomethane plants. Typically, plants producing biogas and, subsequently, biomethane is located in remote rural areas away from the big cities, where the natural gas consumption is not so high, complicating the injection of the entire output of the produced biomethane into the networks. The total consumption of a particular settlement may be less than the actual output of biomethane produced and injected into the networks. This situation has a way out as existing technological solutions make it possible to accumulate some biomethane or use it for their own needs. Also, while constructing a biomethane plant, it is essential to estimate connections to gas distribution networks later to inject biomethane, like residential areas, railways, and other objects can significantly complicate the connection.

Third, the technological solutions for connecting a biomethane plant. This is a brand new business area for Ukraine; consequently, there is a shortage of qualified professionals. Let's talk about technological solutions for connecting biomethane plants. It is also hard to find specialists who can offer such a technical solution and maintain it in the future; this requires relevant knowledge, experience, and access to technologies. In this case, it is worth working with the world's best gas equipment manufacturers, which has already been piloted in the EU and has been operating successfully for many years. RGC possesses the technical expertise and relevant knowledge and can offer the world's best solutions for connecting biomethane plants. To this end, RGC enters into direct contracts with global gas equipment manufacturers and ensures an ongoing process of learning and self-improvement.