on 03-21-201308:55 AM - last edited on 08-26-201312:23 PM by cboysen
Besides the renewable energy fuels including wind and solar, there is another fuel to add to the diverse portfolio of sustainables. Biogas is a natural byproduct of a variety of waste processes. Comprised mostly of methane and carbon dioxide, biogas can be captured from operations such as landfills, wastewater treatment facilities, farming operations and food processing plants and used as a fuel source to generate electric power. The technology of creating and capturing biogas and the engine generator technologies that transform it into energy today are well-established. Biomethane captured from the various and plentiful sources makes for earth-friendly power generation by diverting gases that would otherwise be released to the atmosphere.
Another sustainable energy technology that is well established throughout much of Eurasia and beginning to gain traction in the Americas is combined heat and power (CHP). These technologies capture waste heat energy created by generator sets and make beneficial use of that energy to serve a facility’s or community’s needs. CHP lends itself well to biogas-to-energy projects since most farms, industrial and food processing plants, and wastewater facilities use heat in their processes. The link between bioenergy and CHP is becoming well documented, as identified by the EU COGEN Europe sponsored initiative CHP-Goes-Green http://www.chp-goes-green.info .
Calculating a reliable return on investment for these projects is not without difficulty. In biogas applications, the major costs are capital costs, including fuel treatment and maintenance. Fuel quality is the greatest variable in terms of fuel costs. Biogas contains a variety of impurities that can increase wear and shorten maintenance intervals for the power generation equipment. Every project is different, and every source of biogas is different, which means that impurities will be different according to the source of the biogas. On the revenue side, it is also important to understand how the tradeoffs between generation capacity, or planned uptime, and fuel efficiency affect revenue. Understanding what the long term value of the generated heat and electricity can also be challenging. One can also attempt to count on the governmental incentives that exist around the world that support bioenergy with or without CHP. Companies like Caterpillar have been involved in both the engineering and financing side of biogas and CHP projects, and can be a useful resource when trying to understand the risks and rewards.
Despite the risks, some of the highest potential to generate green energy with even greener returns on investment exist in the Biogas + CHP arena, so long as those who execute these projects are investing and planning wisely.
I’m interested in your opinion regarding biogas and CHP as a major player in the sustainable fuels arena.
- Is your company looking at renewable and CHP projects as an investment opportunity?
- Where are the opportunities and what are the risks?
- Do advocates of sustainable fuels need to add the cost/benefit ratio to the discussion to motivate change via the financial bottom line?