Producing biogas at your farm: where do I start?

By | 2018-03-07

Producing biogas at your farm: where do I start?

This article presents the advantages and constraints of the biogas plant development, the main steps to make your project happen, addresses project profitability, and presents companies having an expertise in the design and construction of biogas plants.

For more information, please consult our Biogas Plant Development Handbook.

What is biogas and why do we need it?

Biogas is an important renewable energy resource produced from the decomposition of organic matter by anaerobic bacteria. It is composed principally of methane (60%) and carbon dioxide (40%). It is comparable to natural gas which is 99% methane.

Biogas is a clean and renewable source of energy that enable to produce

  • heat or steam from burning biogas in a boiler;
  • biomethane (renewable natural gas, RNG) from cleaning the gas;
  • electricity from burning biogas in an engine or turbine;
  • electricity and combined heat (CHP).

Know more about biogas

What are the benefits and constraints to design a biogas plant?

Advantages

  • Producing its own electricity and heat or renewable natural gas, and thus save or make money;
  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from livestock effluents and energy consumption;
  • Enjoying the benefits of digestate: it is an excellent organic fertiliser, easier to spread

Constraints

  • The facility operator must be available to feed the digester (if no pumping) and ensure it is in good health.
  • Good administrative management is required. A project can be realized in 1 to 3 years. It takes time to receive all the necessary permits and certificates.
  • Each farm is unique, and each anaerobic digestion unit has its particularities. Before launching your project, you must visit, get information, ask for quotes, etc. The farm must well integrate the anaerobic digestion unit.
  • It takes between 3 and 10 years to have a return on investment. Profitability depends on the following conditions:
  1. the heat produced by cogeneration must be maximized (if applicable);
  2. the farm maximizes the power usage;

How to get started? Steps to make your project happen

1   Initial idea: studies & engineering

If you are thinking to produce biogas it will be good to start at the very beginning and to learn about biogas and anaerobic digestion in general. You can as well have a look at existing projects to get some inspirations and ideas.

If you know what kind of feedstock you would like to use, you can use free biogas calculator to help you estimate your biogas production, energy output, potential revenue, plant cost, GHG reduction, etc.

2  Feasibility and administrative aspects

The next step will be to have a feasibility study of your project and validate. It is also important to carry out a feasibility study concerning the

  • choice of inputs used, which allows the choice of technology;
  • unit dimensioning depending on energy needs and available inputs.

Finding a proper site for a biogas plant also requires significant effort. The site needs to meet proper zoning, and environmental regulations (proximity to houses, rivers, wells, etc.).

Beyond this initial engineering concept, further studies and analysis are often required as follows:

  • Site contamination (soil, buildings, etc.)
  • Risks analysis
  • Value analysis
  • Applicable codes, rules and regulations
  • Timeline estimation

A lot of work must be put into establishing the project fundamentals.

3   Design – Permitting – Financing – Procurement – Construction – Commissioning

Before building the anaerobic digestion unit, there are validations to obtain:

  • Receive building permit (permit)
  • Carry out the scoping study via the Distribution Grid Manager (for the electrical connection)
  • Validate funding and investment and production aid dossiers
  • Build the unit (once these three steps are validated)
  • Control the unit: temporary reception, carry out the electrical connection, implement solutions for heat recovery, etc.
  • Commission the unit: starting the fermentation process and motor

Once all permits are granted and funding secured, purchases to realize the design and construction can be undertaken.

4   Project life: Operation – Maintenance – Optimization

Biogas plants are equipped with multiple equipments that must be maintained to remain optimally functional throughout their entire planned life cycle.

It is important to control the fermentation process parameters on a daily basis, carry out management of potential equipment failures or breakdowns and to perform pre-operational verifications to ensure that all equipment was properly installed upon completion of the various phases of the biogas project.

Optimization of the biogas plant may be achieved by performing modifications to improve processes or performance.

For more information on the different project steps, please consult our Biogas Plant Development Handbook.

How to choose the right technology for my operation?

There are two main types of anaerobic digestion processes for treatment of biodegradable wastes:

  • wet anaerobic digestion systems which use organic material with consistency of 10–20% dry matter or less
  • dry anaerobic digestion systems for organic matter with consistency of 20–>40% dry matter or more

The choice whether to use dry or wet digestion for the fermentation of the organic depend dry matter content and others specifications.

For more information, read our article State-of-the-art dry and wet anaerobic digestion systems for solid waste

How can I make sure that my project will be profitable?

The time of return on investment can be used to determine the project profitability. The return on investment can vary between 5 to 10 years. Biogas systems are significant capital investments that require careful planning to maximize the chances of success. To calculate the project profitability, these aspects need to be taken into account:

Choice of power and technology: The amount of investment varies depending on the power. For the same power, the amount of investment can also vary depending on the choice of technology (dry or wet digestion). However, the choice of technology is based on the type of inputs available. For example, for dry technology, the price may vary according to the manufacturer, the choice of materials, the chosen technique, etc. The price may also vary depending on the existing facilities. For dry digestion, investment costs will be reduced if a telescopic machine is already present on site for loading. For wet anaerobic digestion, an existing storage tank can reduce costs.

Valuation of the generated heat: More heat is valued, better will be profitability. The return on investment time can decrease up to 5 years.

Labour costs: Labour costs must be taken into account in the profitability calculations. It can be a control, an intervention when a pump is clogged, etc.

Read our biogas plant development handbook for more information

Any questions? Any projects? BiogasWorld can assist you!

BiogasWorld will be pleased to help you to achieve your project by providing free tools as well as personalized and flexible services to fit your project needs and to connect you with product suppliers and service providers.

– Products & service catalog
– Online calculation tools
– Biogas projects and bids

And even more…

– Hours of dedicated work
– Advanced calculation & estimation report
– Personalized industry directory report
– Connecting you with key stakeholders
– Due diligence of your project
– Market intelligence
– Training

Know more about our services or contact us for additional information at nikolas@biogasworld.com

Biogas Engineering and Consulting companies (BiogasWorld’s clients)

If you need help for your project, do not hesitate to contact one of our clients offering biogas engineering and consulting services.

*** Bähler Biogaz – Canada

Having worked on more than 20 successful projects in Canada over the past 10 years, we have developed a unique expertise in the infrastructure design, construction and installation in the anaerobic digestion sector. More recently, over the past two years, we have been involved in the development of the most anaerobic digester construction projects in Canada.

Know more about Bähler Biogaz

BTS Biogas – WorldWide

BTS Biogas is the largest provider of biogas plants in Italy and is a pioneer in this sector. The core expertise of the company is in planning, production, and constructing the plants. A qualified team of biologists, technicians and other specialists offers service, consultation and biological support for biogas power plants from 25kW to 1.5MW+ modules.

Know more about BTS Biogas

Naskeo – France and abroad

Naskeo is a French and independent company with more than 12 years of experience in project development from 100 kWél to 2 200 kWél, in France and abroad. They carry out the development, design, construction and maintenance of biogas plants.

Know more about Naskeo

Eliopig – Worldwide

Eliopig s.r.l. is a company founded in 1980 by engineers with extensive experience in the design, production and construction of biogas/biomethane plants, nitrogen reduction plants and livestock equipment for pig and cattle farms.

Know more about Eliopig

HoSt – Europe

With over 20 years of experience in the design, construction, and installation of biogas plants and a large service team, HoSt is one of the largest suppliers of bioenergy systems in Europe.

Know more about HoSt

Sebigas – Worldwide

Sebigas boasts extensive experience in the biogas sector where it has designed and built over 60 biogas plants, managing 18 of its own plants with modules from 100 kW to 1.5 MW+, reaching a total of over 50 MW installed.

Know more about Sebigas

Bekon – Worldwide

Bekon is a worldwide technological leader in the construction of batch biogas plants for generating electricity from waste. Bekon provides innovative solutions of dry fermentation and composting for municipalities and waste management companies.

Know more about Bekon

To find more companies offering biogas engineering & consulting services, visit the Products section on our website.

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