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Can Using Biowaste Save The Climate?
COP26 has recently drawn to a close, but one of the final events in the last week of the climate crisis conference was held by the World Biogas Association (WBA) and explored how anaerobic digestion (AD) can be used to help reduce methane emissions and fulfil the Global Methane Pledge (GMP), a collective commitment to decrease the amount of methane emitted globally.
Methane is generated from the billions of tonnes of organic waste generated from agriculture, food production and waste, landfills, and wastewater treatment facilities every year.
Over 100 countries have signed up to the GMP, and pledges to reduce emissions by 30 per cent from 2020 levels by 2030.
AD has been highlighted as ‘one of the key technologies that can deliver methane reductions at low cost’ by the UN Environment Programme and Climate and Clean Air Coalition in a joint Global Methane Assessment (GMA) report and is considered to be key to helping slow the global temperature increase.
Drew Shindell, the lead author of the GMA report, said that AD technology is able to provide substantial, low-cost mitigation of emissions in various sectors, while also producing useful products such as biogas.
“Using AD to turn organic food, farm and sewage waste into biogas and biofertilizer that can be sold or used on-site to generate energy, can help reduce methane and create a sustainable source of revenue and job creation,” he said.
Biogas is produced through the decomposition of an organic waste feedstock in an oxygen-free environment, known as anaerobic digestion. The resulting biogas is filtered through a membrane to produce biomethane.
Anaerobic digestion generates biogas and bioCO2 by treating the waste organic matter. By implementing the widespread adoption of biogas as a fertiliser and fuel, industries such as transport, agriculture, and food production can be decarbonised.
These industries are generally considered hard-to-abate, particularly the logistics and transport sector, with heavy goods vehicles responsible for 17 per cent of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, and around 21 per cent of road transport nitrogen oxide emissions.
Industrial gas organisation Air Liquide has been exploring the use of biomethane in the reduction of emissions to help decarbonise the transport sector. Biomethane can be used to fuel HGV vehicles, as well as being fed back into the national gas grid.
According to the Gas Vehicles Network, there was a 78 per cent increase in the number of gas-powered HGVs in the UK between 2019 and 2020, and biomethane is the primary fuel source for these vehicles.
The sale of petrol and diesel vehicles between 3.5 and 26 tonnes will be banned from 2035, meaning it is little surprise that many of Air Liquide’s clients have transitioned to biomethane for their commercial fleets, encouraged by the 90 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions.
Biomethane is just one of many technologies made possible by harnessing the energy produced by organic waste. In addition to AD, biomethane and biogas could play a key role in reducing methane and CO2 emissions.
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