Biogas and Biomethane Market in Italy: Current state and perspectives

By | 2018-03-16

Once again this year, CIB (Biogas Consortium of Italy) organized Biogas Italy, an important event for biogas and biomethane market in Italy, where the most prominent Italian and international experts in biogas industry highlighted the key role of biomethane in removing coal from the Italian economy. The CIB estimates to have a biomethane production potential of 10 billion m3 in 2030.

In a video published by Biogas Channel, Arthur Wellinger of EBA offers an overview of the biomethane situation in Europe and focuses on the heavy transport sector, where biomethane can play an important role – especially in the field of maritime transport by ferry. There are currently more than 500 plants with a capacity of 250,000 m3 per hour and an annual production of 1.5 billion m3 of biomethane.

Biomethane in Italy: Key to the Italian National Energy Strategy

During the Free (Renewable Energy Efficiency Coordination) Conference, Piero Gattoni, President of CIB (Consorzio Italiano Biogas), stresses the importance of attributing a key role to biogas and biomethane in the National Energy Strategy to reach the potential of 10 billion m3 in 2030.

Biogas and biomethane fully respond to the evolutionary requirements of the energy system for several reasons, including:

  •  Its production, due to the increased efficiency and the spread of innovations, has a solid path of reducing production costs.
  • Produced with the principles of “BiogasDoneRight”, it enables full integration between food and energy production, with increased productivity and food security.

“Thanks to biogas refineries (the biogas plant connected to the electricity grid and the gas grid), biogas and biomethane are also the only programmable renewable source that enables effective integration between different energy systems. It can also contribute to the greening of the gas network: once injected into the grid, it can be used for different purposes and makes possible the progressive decarbonization of ‘non-electrifiable’ sectors, i.e. heavy, naval, agriculture, industry”, concludes Gattoni.

Watch the interview with Piero Gattoni

Italy plans to invest €4.7 billion in advanced biomethane and biofuels

In early March, the European Commission has approved under EU State aid rules a support scheme for the production and distribution of advanced biofuels, including advanced biomethane, in Italy.

Italy plans to spend 4.7 billion euros from 2018 to 2022 in order to reach the EU energy and climate change goals.

“This is yet another step towards greater use of renewable energy in Europe and helping Italy’s transition to more environmentally friendly fuel sources. The scheme will encourage the production and consumption of advanced biofuels in Italy, while limiting distortions of competition.”, said Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy.

A premium for producers of advanced biomethane and biofuels

Biofuels and biomethane have much higher production costs than fossil fuels. Under the scheme, the European Commission plans will give farmers a premium which allows them to compensate for these higher costs and compete with fossil fuels in the transport sector.

The scheme will encourage producers to produce biofuel and biomethane from manure and other agricultural residues, and also to use it to power their agricultural machines and vehicles. The premium can be increased if producers also invest to improve the distribution and improvement of advanced biomethane.

The scheme will be financed by transport fuel retailers who are obliged by law to include a certain percentage of advanced biofuels and biomethane in their fuel blends.

What are the main opportunities for European and particularly Italian biogas/biomethane manufacturers?

According to Bright Biomethane, a leading supplier of biogas upgrading to biomethane systems, the market for biomethane in the whole world is very promising:

“You can see it when you look in the LNG market that uses fossil methane. The emissions of methane are much lower than other fossil fuels and we have lots of waste and by-products that can be digested in AD plants, that otherwise will create problems in the air, land and water. We can become carbon neutral of even carbon negative. In the north of Europe, it’s already normal that you can drive on methane produced from manure. In Italy, we have a huge infrastructure for methane so it’s relatively easy to increase significantly the use of methane in transport as also in the cogeneration sector. Getting it in the existing gas grid or convert it into CNG or LNG has only positives for the sectors and the environment.”

What major technological innovations can we expect in the coming years?

Bright Biomethane expects that the membranes we are using will be more performing than what they already do:

“(>99,5% of methane) and with the increase of the market, production costs will decrease and so also our sales prices. I believe very much that this market will contribute to the conversion to electrical energy for the transport sector. But it is not yet ready to be produced by non-constant renewable energy plants, we have to use biomethane to create continuous renewable energy. Other important innovations I foresee in the pretreatment of the waste and by products.”

The potential of biomethane in Italy

According to BTS Biogas, the largest provider of biogas plants in Italy, the potential in Italy is very high especially for the biomethane production from organic waste and by-products.


However, Bright Biomethane raises important concerns for biogas development in Italy: “We are already in 2018. 2020 is very near. Demand will raise a lot, but plants have to be authorized and built before to go in production. This will take time. For sure this year we will see other plants that will start producing biomethane and of course even more in 2019. As for Italy, without a decree, I only foresee development in the waste market. It is very difficult for farmers to take a decision on this moment to invest in the biomethane market.”

Nevertheless, Bright Biomethane is optimistic: “Biomethane from waste or by-products is at this moment a very attractive solution. Otherwise, the waste or by-products only contribute to problems and they have to be eliminated in different and for sure less ecological ways. Indications for the future predict that biomethane used for CNG and LNG can contribute to a large increase of carbon neutral or even carbon negative renewable energy.”