Green Gas mission in Europe. Interview with M. Mazzero, member of the CAB – European Biogas Association

By | 2020-10-29

The European Biogas Association (EBA) has appointed the members of the Company Advisory Board (CAB): these are experts with long and broad careers in the gas and renewable energy sector, and are tasked with accelerating the deployment of renewable gas in Europe as part of the EU Green Deal. Marco Mazzero, CEO of IES Biogas (Snam Group), is one of the 8 members, and he has been entrusted with the task of giving advice on the choices needed if we are to achieve the expected potential for biogas and biomethane in the coming years: 39 billion cubic meters of natural gas equivalent by 2030 and 120 billion cubic meters by 2050.

This sector is part of one of the key strategies of the European Union aimed at achieving the ambitious reduction target of 55% by 2030 and achieving climate neutrality by 2050: the production of biogas and biomethane can be used to replace fossil fuels and reduce GHG emissions released by many sectors, such as transport, construction or other energy-intensive industries. It can help in the reduction of organic waste in cities and develop a sustainable agriculture model in local areas, in line with the principles of an efficient circular economy.

What contributions will Italy and IES Biogas bring to the Company Advisory Board?

Our experience and know-how: Italy is the second country in the EU for the number of biogas plants (1.995, according to the CIB) and, in just a few years, it has launched an effective incentive policy dedicated, for now, to the use of biomethane in transport. In short, a sector in strong growth: in 2040 the demand for biomethane will reach 12 billion m3 in our country.

As IES Biogas, we have installed plants producing over 150 MW in the agricultural and industrial sector. The experience acquired over 12 years at the European and international level has allowed us to develop a concrete vision of how the sector can be developed, and which actions, in our opinion, can accelerate the energy transition. Today we are at a crucial phase: we, together with other companies in the supply chain, also having many years of experience in the field, can help to effectively implement and realize all those policies aiming to promote green gas.

Is the Covid-19 emergency a threat or might it be an opportunity to accelerate the energy transition? What role do biogas and biomethane play in this scenario?

An emergency can be an opportunity. The European Union and member countries must implement measures that consider our carbon neutral goals. It is precisely because they respond to an emergency, that they must be implemented quickly.  And we already have biogas and biomethane technologies immediately available, this is our strength: the existing natural gas transport and distribution infrastructures are already available for the supply of biomethane to industry, the transport sector and sustainable mobility, as well as in energy efficiency projects for the redevelopment of schools, public offices and homes.

We are strong in a technology that has been steadily consolidating in recent years and has benefited from important innovations. Starting with the production of electricity, biogas already meets many of today’s needs, because it is a vector that can be converted into different types of energy, thereby capable of stabilizing the grid. Green gases, such as biomethane, have a quality that other renewable energy sources do not have: they are programmable, that is, they can be produced in relation to a greater or lesser demand, allowing effective integration between different energy systems.

What is the future for European farms?

The farm of the future is one that continues to produce quality food and integrate agricultural activity with the production of additional raw materials for energy production through anaerobic digestion, significantly reducing CO2 emissions. It would, essentially, be a food & fuel farm. This would lead to a drastic reduction in the use of chemical fertilizers and the optimization of nutrient recycling and use of water resources (fertigation with digestate), with an increase in soil stored carbon.

Moreover, the biogas and biomethane supply chain in the agricultural sector encourages an innovative approach towards the adoption of advanced cultivation techniques, such as precision farming and minimum tillage, which can help Carbon Capture and Storage processes and Land Efficiency.

What advantages can the food industry derive from the production of biomethane?

The by-products of the food industry, coming from the processing of raw materials, are an incredible opportunity for the production of energy. Their enhancement and transformation into biomethane represents one of the technological solutions that best manages to reconcile environmental and economic sustainability. Agrifood companies can inject it directly into the national grid or use it as a green biofuel for distribution fleets, thereby reducing their carbon footprint, that is -the impact of activities on the global climate in terms of the amount of CO2 that the processes generate along the entire life cycle of the products.

The residues, which remain after the fermentation process, are also an excellent raw material for the production of natural fertilizer to be used in both traditional and organic agriculture.