Renewable energies are on the rise. Among them, biogas is an important approach in the substitution of fossil fuels.
Speaking of renewables, there is a large spectrum of distinctive energy sources one might refer to, rather than one specific method of heat or electricity production. So far, their share in worldwide energy consumption is still comparatively small: Coal, oil, and natural gas are considered as dominant energy sources. However, significant progress is being made in the field of renewable energies, taking over increasing shares in global energy supply.
Among the renewable energy sources, biogas rises as an extremely promising alternative to fossil fuels. Additionally, modern and efficient biogas engines are already heavily relied on in areas with unstable energy supply. Huge progress is being made in the attempt of driving progress in the use of biogas as renewable energy source.
Fossil fuels vs. renewable energy sources today
Despite great efforts being taken to establish viable substitutes for fossil fuels, these are still the dominant energy source in several fields. In the production of electricity, for instance, almost 36% of worldwide power generation was carried out in coal by 2022, with natural gas soon after, with 22%.
On the other hand, renewable energy sources seem to be far more diverse, as there is a great variety of different sources. By far the most dominant renewable energy source is hydropower – as in 2020, it ensured 18% of global power supply, which is more than all the remaining renewable power sources together. The next-smaller share (24% in 2018) in the overall capacity of renewable energy production is taken by wind energy, followed by solar power and biomass.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, biomass covered almost 5% of the United States’ primary energy consumption. But yet again, biomass is not a single source of energy, as it can come in various different formats, and can be used in manifold ways – from biofuels based on agricultural crops to biogas produced out of animal manure or solid waste.
Biogas, on the other hand, can also be referred to as renewable natural gas, and derives from biomass like manure or municipal waste. It is the product of an anaerobic decomposition process, when bacteria digest organic material. Similar to natural gas, biogas is a mix of various elements, between 45 and 65% of which is made up by methane.
Biogas as renewable energy source: Current developments and challenges
In many cases, biogas is directly burned to produce electricity or heat. However, further processing steps to increase methane levels also allow it to replace natural gas in many fields, making it a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels.
Furthermore, it is essential to maximize the lifetime of these engines, as they are relatively costly installations and require regular maintenance for their safe and efficient operation. In addition, efficiency levels of gas engines need to be constantly improved in order to keep track with technological progress and ensure that they are as sustainable as possible.
Enormous global effort is being taken to establish viable alternatives to conventional, fossil fuels. Renewable energy sources like biogas are on the rise, with stakeholders worldwide being engaged in constantly improving respective technologies. This does not only apply to gas engine manufacturers themselves, but also to licensed service partners that maintain, overhaul, upgrade and refine gas engines.
Entire companies have been established as specialized partners in not only performing regular maintenance: Some of them design and offer dedicated machine components and spare parts that prolong the lifetime of biogas engines while making them more efficient and reliable.
By decreasing the need for costly and laborious machine servicing and trusting in innovative technologies, biogas operators can enhance the cost-effectiveness and reliability of biogas engines. This is an additional step in further establishing biogas as a growing component in tomorrow’s renewable energy supply.