Alpen Steel | Renewable Energy

~ Technologies And Appllication Of Biogas

The German Biogas Industry
Medium to large-scale biogas plants

In recent decades, the combustion of biogas, produced by fermenting biomass, to generate electricity in combined heat and power stations has expanded in Germany to become an independent sector within the fast-growing bioenergy industry. Biogas can be obtained from various sources such as organic waste from landfill sites (landfill gas), municipal wastewater (sewage gas), and industrial/commercial /domestic organic waste as well as from agricultural waste materials and energy crops.

German companies are market leaders in the biogas technology sector. Their many years of experience in plant management, process biology and associated laboratory services ensure successful plant operation. Specialists cover the entire value creation chain and support all project phases - from planning and financing to the operation and maintenance of biogas plants. Sophisticated products are also available in the fields of combined heat and power units, storage and tank systems as well as biogas analysis technology.

Technologies and applications

Biogas is produced by fermenting organic substances in an environment free from air and oxygen. This process uses various anaerobic bacteria, the composition of which depends on their organic feed stock and specific process conditions (temperature and pH level). As a rule, agricultural biogas plants use liquid manure as a base material. Renewable sources such as corn, cereal crops and other energy plants such as sunflowers, Sudan grass, oil radish, Sorghum bicolor etc., are increasingly being used to raise gas yields.

Commercial plants also process wastewater (from purification plants) as well as waste from food production, food scraps, grease traps and slaughterhouse waste. Biogas is comprised of 55 to 60 % methane, the energetically usable component. The gas also includes carbon dioxide as well as minimal amounts of hydrogen sulphide, ammonia and hydrogen. Aside from the biogas itself, a digestate is created - a mix of water, minerals and organic substances which have not decomposed. This by-product can be used as a high-grade fertiliser by agriculture, thereby closing the nutrient cycle with the cultivation
of energy crops, or it can be sold to increase the added value. As the productivity of biogas plants is critically dependent on the microbiological processes during fermentation, both biotechnological and process-specific expertise are required to ensure optimisation of process management. German companies are world leaders in this field, conducting pioneering work in the development and design of such plants.

Using biogas plants to generate electricity and heat

Utilising biogas

Biogas plants can be connected to almost any manufacturing process for agricultural products. The energy recovery from organic residues represents an important link in the waste disposal chain of biogenic waste. Biogas plants can also function as the source of local added value. Businesses located in their vicinity can benefit from a constant and, above all, reliable supply of heat.

Currently, biogas is primarily used stationary in combined heat and power plants (CHP) to generate both electricity and heat. The electricity produced is fed into the public grid for a statutorily fixed tariff. The heat produced can be used by downstream systems in a number of ways - traditionally, for the heating of barns and homes, in greenhouses or for drying agricultural products. One area that is becoming more and more important is the utilisation of industrial heat for process heating or for operating refrigerators.

If the waste heat is not required at the plant location, a very attractive option may be direct feed-in into the existing natural gas grid. This decoupling of production and utilisation presents new fundamental options for efficient electricity production in combined heat and power plants at sites with optimal heat sinks as well as for the use of biogas as a biofuell


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