Big global prospects for sustainable biomethane
A new report by the International Energy Agency provides estimates of the sustainable potential for biogas and biomethane supply, based on a detailed assessment of feedstock availability and production costs across all regions of the world. These form the basis on an outlook for biogas and biomethane supply and demand up to 2040, based on the scenarios presented in the annual World Energy Outlook.
The case for biogas and biomethane lies at the intersection of two critical challenges of modern life: dealing with the increasing amount of organic waste that is produced by modern societies and economies, and the imperative to reduce global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
By turning organic waste into a renewable energy resource, the production of biogas or biomethane offers a window onto a world in which resources are continuously used and reused, and one in which rising demand for energy services can be met while also delivering wider environmental benefits.
A detailed, bottom-up study of the worldwide availability of sustainable feedstocks for biogas and biomethane, conducted for this report, shows that the technical potential to produce these gases is huge and largely untapped. These feedstocks include crop residues, animal manure, municipal solid waste, wastewater and – for direct production of biomethane via gasification – forestry residues. This assessment considers only those feedstocks that do not compete with food for agricultural land. Biogas and biomethane production in 2018 was around 35 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe), only a fraction of the estimated overall potential. Full utilisation of the sustainable potential could cover some 20% of today’s worldwide gas demand.
Possibilities to produce biogas and biomethane are widely distributed around the world. Biogas offers a local source of power and heat, and a clean cooking fuel for households.