Driving biogas vehicles could push emissions down to just one third
Refining biomass into transport fuel would mean a significant reduction in climate emissions in Turku, Salo and Kymenlaakso. Calculations made in the framework of the W-Fuel project show that in these regions, emissions from biogas production and consumption, as envisaged in the so-called methane scenario, would amount to just about 30% of the volume foreseen if biogas was not used as transport fuel.
In Helsinki, on the other hand, the reduction of emissions brought about by using biogas as transport fuel would not be as straightforward. The reason for this is that even in the baseline scenario, there would be biogas produced in Helsinki for the generation of electricity and district heat. If biogas was to be used as transport fuel, the electricity and heat from biogas would have to be generated with another, alternative energy source.
In the W-Fuel project, emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and dinitrogen oxide have been calculated according to two different scenarios. The ‘methane scenario’ envisages a situation where, in 2020, there would be a total of about 50 new or already planned biogas plants in Southern Finland making transport fuel out of biogas, whereas in the ‘baseline scenario’, the biomass would be treated in other ways.
Reduction in vehicle emissions comes first
On the basis of a biomass survey conducted in the W-Fuel project, it was estimated that Turku could be home to 23 new biogas plants producing transport fuel. Salo and Kymenlaakso would have enough biomass resources to cover the needs of 13 and 14 new biogas plants, respectively.
Kaisa Manninen, Researcher at the Finnish Environment Institute, says that the total emissions caused by biogas production have been calculated on the basis of the raw material base to be used in the biogas plants and by attributing each type of waste its specific emission factor. Accordingly, the volume of climate emissions generated without biogas production and transport fuel use has also been calculated.
– In Turku, Salo and Kymenlaakso, the major share of the emission reductions would follow from the fact that biomethane, which generates very little emissions, would replace fossil fuels as transport fuel. However, it should be noted that in the methane scenario, bio-waste and other raw materials used in biogas production cannot be used again in energy production. In this case, it would be important to compensate them with renewable energy sources in energy production, Manninen emphasises.
With respect to energy balance sheet, too, biogas production would be environmentally friendly in the above-mentioned regions. Manninen says that the energy consumed in biogas plants for processing and transport of raw materials and other similar purposes would amount to about 20% of the energy content of the produced biogas.
More variables in the biogas formula in Helsinki
Similarly, in the Helsinki region refining biogas into transport fuel would help reduce emissions, but not as pronouncedly as in the other target areas of the W-Fuel project. The reason for this is that in Helsinki, the biomass will be turned into biogas, and consequently electricity and district heat, in any event. Ville Uusitalo, Project Researcher at the Helsinki Region Environmental Service Authority, says that if biogas is channelled to transport fuel use, eventual emission trends depend very much on the energy source that replaces the biogas used in the generation of electricity and heat in the baseline scenario.
– It is impossible to give a precise reduction rate, as there are so many variables in these processes, Uusitalo summarises.
According to the baseline scenario, the biogas production sites in Helsinki would be the biogas plant at the Ämmässuo waste treatment centre and the waste water treatment plants in Viikinmäki and Blominmäki. In the methane scenario, there would be one more biogas plant to be constructed for the treatment of agricultural biomasses.
The type of the substitute energy source is the key
Using biogas as transport fuel would help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from traffic. But to achieve a significant reduction in the total volume of emissions by channelling biogas into transport fuel use, a low-emission energy source must also be used in producing the substitute heat.
Plans made in the framework of the W-Fuel project are based on the assumption that the heat could be produced with renewable energy sources, such as woodchips. Uusitalo emphasises this to be an important element in enabling maximum emission reductions in the wastewater treatment plants and in the biogas plant at the Ämmässuo waste treatment centre.
– However, it is easier to acquire emission reductions in the plant that processes agricultural biomasses, since the baseline scenario does not provide for biogas production from these biomasses, but only for using them in the usual manner, Uusitalo says.
Biogas production needs support to flourish
Calculations made in the framework of the W-Fuel project show that economically feasible production of biogas for transport fuel is possible in Southern Finland. In the early days, however, profitability will be low, as there are not enough gas-powered cars around yet. Esa Aro-Heinilä, Research Scientist at MTT, says that the transitional period, during which the promotion of biomethane as transport fuel requires public support, will last at least ten years.
Evolution of gas-powered vehicle population is slow. An example of this is Italy, the leading country in gas-powered cars in Europe, where a mere 1.5% of cars are gas-powered – a figure that has taken two decades to achieve. Locally, however, the number of gas-powered vehicles can be much higher.
– In the free market, gas-powered cars proliferate very slowly, maybe not at all. In order to speed up this trend, biogas plants would need an investment subsidy of about 30%, and production subsidies for biomethane sold as transport fuel as an additional incentive. The production subsidies could be linked to the price of fossil fuels, maybe amounting to 30 cents per diesel equivalent, Aro-Heinilä suggests.
In 2010, the annual replacement rate of the car population in Finland was 4.4%. The number of gas-powered vehicles in the country is currently about 900.
Target: keep consumer price down
For drivers, gas is about 20% cheaper at current prices than diesel, for example.
The fundamental idea behind the aid model is that aid would help in keeping the consumer market price of biomethane at about 30 euros/MWh lower than that of fossil fuel, which corresponds to about 30 cents/litre. Aro-Heinilä notes, however, that the risk in this model is overcompensation of biomethane in case that the price of oil rises significantly.
– For this reason, some kind of cut-off mechanism would be needed: if the price of oil was to rise very steeply, no more production aid would be paid to biomethane, he says.
Production costs depend on the raw material
Creation of an aid system is complicated by the fact that the production costs of biomethane are directly linked to the type of biomass to be used in digestion.
– Producing biomethane out of bio-waste and sludge costs almost nothing, as plants are allowed to charge waste treatment fees for these wastes. But field biomass that has the largest production potential involves at least the costs of cultivation, harvest and transport, Aro-Heinilä adds.
A few new biogas plants would suffice
In the target areas of the W-Fuel project, bio-waste and waste water sludge would suffice to support a 1.5% trade-off in the vehicle population, and the volume of gas would be enough for local transport and waste transport. The number of new plants processing local waste that need to be constructed could be just one.
– In the project target areas, the best conditions for biomethane use are in the Helsinki and Kymenlaakso regions, where it is possible to use the natural gas network to convey gas to filling stations, Aro-Heinilä says.
The Turku and Salo regions, on the contrary, so far lack infrastructure for natural gas. Political decisions would therefore be needed for the take-up of gas-powered vehicles in public transport, which would help the car population and the filling station network develop. With respect to private cars, the first gas-powered vehicles could be taxi cabs.
Environmental and economic impacts of food waste prevention in Estonia
GHG emissions to atmosphere and cost savings due to food waste prevention in the Estonian target areas – Harju and Lääne-Viru Counties have been estimated by generalizing the initial data gathered and the results calculated in Finland in the frame of W-Fuel project.
This analysis has been made by Nea Teerioja from Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority (HSY) in cooperation with the Estonian project teams and considering also the results of the Estonian WP2 (Biowaste and sludge prevention) report. Taking into account the aspect of generalizing the results presented here should be considered only as directional.
All of the main factors used in the analysis depend on the national biowaste composition. It should be mentioned that according to the relevant Estonian studies this essential assumption – share of food waste among biowaste is in Estonia quite similar to that in Finland (also around 80%).
Emission savings per prevented food waste volume depend also on the national agriculture structure and imports and they include all life cycle emissions. Moreover, the cost savings per prevented food waste volume are mainly based on the national price level and are calculated from the waste generator’s point of view. They include the purchase costs, usage cost (eg. transporting, cooking and storing) and waste fees.
Four scenarios compared
According to the Estonian WP2 report the environmental and economic impact analyses are conducted in three different waste prevention scenario options B1, B2 and B3 that are compared to the situation where waste prevention is not enhanced in 2020 (BAU – business as usual scenario A). The scenarios are introduced in Table 1.
In the environmental impact analysis it has been directly applied the emission savings value used in Finland (4.6 tCO2eq/t). The economic impact analysis, however, takes into account the lower price level in Estonia – it has been assumed that the price level in Estonia will be ca 75 % compared to the price level in Finland in 2020 (Kiander, 2012). The results are given in Tables 2 and 3.
Preventing food waste saves money and emissions
The results in Table 2 show that achieving the food waste prevention target in Harju County (incl. Tallinn) will save 30 000–127 000 tCO2eq/t emissions and 29–122 M€ (59–246 €/capita) in 2020 depending on the target level.
Table 2. Environmental and economic impacts of food waste prevention in Harju County (incl. Tallinn) in 2020.
* Population forecast in Harju County is 497 113 in 2020 (Statistics Estonia; Siseministeerium 2009).
Table 3. Environmental and economic impacts of food waste prevention in Lääne-Viru County in 2020.
* Population forecast in Lääne-Viru County is 64 006 in 2020 (Statistics Estonia; Sisemininteerium 2009).
The results in Table 3 indicate that achieving the food waste prevention target in Lääne-Viru County will save 5 000–17 000 tCO2eq emissions and 5–17 M€ (75–264 €/capita) in 2020 depending on the target level.
Kiander 2012. Virosta Euroopan Unionin jäsen. Downloaded on 16.1.2012. http://www.hel2.fi/tietokeskus/suunnat/ss204/Artikkeli.html
Siseministeerium 2009. Uuringu Eesti regioonide majandus-struktuuri muutuste prognoos. Lopparuanne. Vastutav täitja: Tartu Ulikool. http://www.siseministeerium.ee/public/SIREG_lqpparuanne_2_.pdf
Environmental and economic impacts of biogas use in Estonia
The W-Fuel fifth work package (WP5) collects the results of previous work packages and assesses the environmental and economic impacts of biogas production and its use in the Estonian target areas – Harju and Lääne-Viru Counties.
For this reason a Base Case Scenario, BAU in 2020, representing biogas use at the current level including known changes, is compared to biogas production and use in two alternative scenarios in 2020: B1 biogas is used for producing electricity and heat in CHP regime, and - B2 biogas is upgraded to biomethane, i.e. to natural gas quality and used as vehicle fuel. The preliminary results presented below are mainly based on the example of the Harju County case study (pilot biogas plant at Hinnu swine farm).
Figure 1. Biogas use Base Case, CHP plant (B1) and vehicle fuel (B2) in 2020.
Principal description of the both considered biogas options (B1 and B2) is the following. They use sludge, slaughter waste, manure and energy crops as main substrates. While the substrates are kept in oxygen free (anaerobic) digesters they decompose and form raw biogas. If digestate has acceptable quality it can be used as fertilizer replacing current use of manure.
Alternative uses of raw biogas
The raw biogas goes either to a co-generation plant of heat and power (CHP) in (B1) or is upgraded to biomethane (B2). The electricity from the CHP plant (B1) is fed into the electricity grid and the heat used in the district heating network. The upgraded biogas (B2) is distributed to a re-fuelling station and sold as vehicle fuel. As an alternative the upgraded biogas (B2) can be fed into the natural gas network.
Careful control of the digestion process, environmentally sound management of digestate storage and its further spreading give potentially smaller climate impact than non-digested manure handling. In addition, digestate smells much less and digested manure has a higher content of nitrogen directly available to plants, which allows for greater precision in fertilization and reduces nitrogen leakage.
Environmental impacts depends on basic assumptions
According to the preliminary results, the environmental assessment is highly sensitive to the assumption of Base Case electricity generation. Biogas that replaces one kWh of average Estonian electricity mix with 87 per cent oil shale electricity gives larger emission savings than one kWh of biogas used as transport fuel. But if biogas replaces marginal electricity produced from natural gas, the result is the opposite.
The environmental impacts have been translated into monetary values by using national damage costs derived by the European project HEATCO (http://heatco.ier.uni-stuttgart.de/), see Figure 2.
Figure 2. Savings in environmental damage costs, B1 and B2 (compared to Base Case) for Harju County case study in 2020.
The results are further influenced by the European emission trading system (EU-ETS), which includes power generation from oil shale based power plants. If these power plants reduce their CO2 emissions they can sell their emission allowances to other participants of the EU-ETS, who can then increase their CO2 emissions. This happens because there is a binding cap on CO2 emissions within the EU-ETS.
The implication is that as long as biogas electricity replaces electricity produced within the EU-ETS the total level of emissions does not decrease. Instead emissions are re-distributed to other sectors. When taking EU-ETS into account, the use of biogas as a transport fuel leads to a larger environmental improvement than electricity from biogas, irrespective whether replacement concerns average or marginal electricity.
CHP seems to be more profitable
Preliminary results regarding the economic impacts show that it is socially profitable to produce biogas. The preliminary results further indicate that from the perspective of the society as whole, it is more profitable to produce vehicle fuel from biogas than to produce electricity and heat.
However, the private profitability is the opposite. The investment costs are lower for a CHP plant than for an upgrading facility. In addition, assuming the current levels of supports to renewable fuel based electricity generation, i.e. Feed-in tariffs the revenues are expected to be higher from sales of electricity and heat than from sales of biomethane as vehicle fuel.
At the same time biomethane production as transport fuel is a bright new issue in Estonia and needs as well as technical standards to be worked out, also, consideration of financial support schemes that have potential to reduce current disincentives.
Cutting down food waste would save hundreds of millions of euros
Cutting down food waste by 30% would generate total savings worth EUR 534 million in the four target areas of the W-Fuel project in 2020. By the calculations made in the framework of the project, climate emissions, expressed in CO2 equivalents, would be reduced by 415,000 tonnes compared to a situation where waste production would not be prevented at all.
The project entails a prevention plan for the production of waste, aimed at reducing the volume of bio-waste by 30% compared to the 2009 level. Calculations detailing the financial and emission savings generated by this reduction concentrated on food waste, which is the principal element of bio-waste. The comparison figure was the volume of bio-waste in 2020 estimated on the basis of current trends.
Preventing food waste according to the plan would save almost EUR 400 million in the Helsinki region, and greenhouse gas emissions, expressed in carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2-eq), would be reduced by 310,000 tonnes. In Turku, the respective savings would be EUR 84 million and 63,000 tCO2-eq; in Salo, EUR 18 million and 14,000 tCO2-eq; and in Kymenlaakso, EUR 37 million and 29,000 tCO2-eq.
Food waste equals misuse of climate and money
The calculations made in the framework of the W-Fuel project take into account both edible and inedible food waste generated in households, public services, retail trade and elsewhere in the private sector, including restaurants and ships. The required background information on issues such as composition of the waste and the price of food have been collected from earlier Finnish studies, expert assessments and previous results by the W-Fuel project.
Nea Teerioja, Researcher with the Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority, says that preventing one kilogram of food from ending up as waste would decrease greenhouse gas emissions by between 4.0 and 5.3 kilograms CO2-eq. The variance is due to variation in the composition of food waste from different sectors as well as the assumed separation of the reduced waste in edible and inedible food waste.
– The assumption is that the reduction is mainly in edible food waste. Teerioja points out that more than 90% of the reduced emissions would follow from the fact that food would not be unnecessarily produced, processed and delivered to end users.
Teerioja’s estimation is that expressed in the real value of 2010, waste producers in 2020 would save between EUR 4.80 and 6.40 for every wasted kilogram of food that they prevented. In the private sector outside retail trade, including restaurants, the calculated savings would amount to as much as EUR 10 for every kilogram. Besides purchasing price, the calculation includes costs for cooking and storing the food as well as waste fees.
Greatest savings for households
Households would account for about 40% of the financial and environmental savings generated by the reduction of food waste, as they produce the largest volumes of food waste per person. Teerioja calculates that households in the target areas of the W-Fuel project would, in 2020, generate in average 25 kilograms less of food waste per person, and savings would amount to about EUR 120 per person.
According to her estimate, achieving the target reduction of 30% may be difficult in households, as two thirds of the food waste generated by them in Finland is assessed to be inedible.
– A precise estimate of the largest possible amount of food waste that could be reduced would require us to determine the entire volume of avoidable food waste. All edible food waste is unnecessary waste and can therefore be avoided, but it also affects the volume of inedible food waste, Teerioja says.
Bio-waste can be reduced by many means
The bio-waste reduction target of the W-Fuel project is based on a national waste plan. The project also studies means to reduce the volume of bio-waste by 30% by 2020.
Erja Heino, Research Scientist with MTT Agrifood Research Finland, says that the target requires effective economic, structural and regulatory instruments. An example of this is including in the Waste Decree a specific objective for the prevention of bio-waste. In addition, rules should exist on collecting the money required in preventing waste, and an effective information system for collecting and sharing information related to waste should be developed.
Heino emphasises also the need to take advantage of the motivating effect on waste prevention that information on financial and environmental savings can have.
– The Petra system of the Helsinki Region Environmental Services, for example, could be developed to inform waste producers of the lifecycle of the environmental and financial impacts of waste. The development of the system could take place on the basis of the information generated in the context of the W-Fuel project, and the system could first be introduced in the project target areas, Heino suggests.
Guidance to become the responsibility of regional centres
Heino points out that guidance in waste-related matters should concentrate on prevention instead of sorting. In addition, in order to be credible, guidance should be the responsibility of regional advisory centres instead of municipal waste management companies.
– Resources in waste research should be targeted principally to prevention of waste, and producing advisory materials should take place centrally on a national level. This would help in creating a proper knowledge base and avoiding a situation where every waste management company produces similar materials, she argues.
Carrots and sticks
According to the project’s results, boosting the prevention of waste requires a carrot-and-stick approach. Just monitoring the volume of bio-waste in catering services encourages making it smaller. But other measures, such as weight-based waste fees, are also required.
Erja Heino says that on a municipal level, a high-level political decision is a prerequisite, but then the prevention of waste is left to individual employees and their willingness to take action.
– But it should not be forgotten that even an individual can make a difference. In the city of Lahti, for example, the municipal catering service, inspired by their new manager, succeeded in cutting the volume of food waste by 12 percent in just one year, Heino says.
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