In January 2024, the collection and management of the brown container should be implemented throughout the country, where organic waste will be deposited, which accounts for nearly half of the waste that we generate in our homes. Its implementation shows the growing importance of this type of waste for our society, which can be used as raw material to produce various types of renewable fuels.
Among these new fuels is biogas, which can also be produced from other organic waste, such as sludge from sewage treatment plants and those from agriculture and livestock, such as pruning remains or slurry.
The Institute for Energy Diversification and Saving in Spain (IDAE) highlights the value of biogas as the only renewable energy that can be used in all energy applications. Today, its main use is focused on the generation of electrical and thermal energy, which can be used for both domestic and commercial consumption.
From biogas, we can also obtain a purified version, biomethane, which, due to its chemical composition and energetic power, can be used as a substitute for natural gas. In this way, it is possible to inject it into the gas network and generate heat in industry or homes without the need to create a new infrastructure. Its characteristics also make it an alternative for cars that use autogas as fuel. The Government’s objective is that, by 2030, 1% of the gas distributed in Spain be biomethane.
A development opportunity for the field
In order to achieve this objective, the role of the Spanish countryside is going to be crucial. In our country, for example, we have more than 200,000 livestock farms, so we have at our disposal a large amount of organic waste that can be used as raw material to manufacture biogas. The potential is so great that Vicente Bernal, senior scientist at Repsol Technology Lab, calculates that “Spain would be in second place in the European ranking in potential biogas production due to the availability of this type of waste.”
This sustainable gas therefore offers a huge opportunity for the economy of rural areas and their inhabitants. The key is to build the new plants close to the farms, which will generate employment and improve waste management. In addition, the biogas generated may be partly reused by farms to produce their own electricity. “By turning our waste into resources,” Bernal calculates, “it is estimated that we could have some 2,000 plants throughout the country.”
One of the strategic regions to produce biogas could be Galicia, where Repsol, Naturgy and Reganosa, with the collaboration of Impulsa Galicia, are developing a project that will consist of creating a network of plants to transform the surplus slurry in the region on a large scale in organic fertilizers and biomethane, a renewable gas that will serve to decarbonize transportation, the residential sector, and industry. In total, it is estimated that this initiative would prevent the emission of some 500,000 tons of CO₂ per year. In addition, it would serve as support for the agricultural and livestock sector in the management of slurry and would allow the creation of quality employment in rural areas, with close to 600 direct jobs and 1,900 indirect ones in the coming years.
Great growth potential
According to IDAE, there are currently 146 biogas plants in Spain, most of them close to landfills and wastewater treatment plants. Compared to our community partners, we are talking about still very low numbers. In the European Union there are currently around 17,000 biogas installations and 725 that inject biomethane into the network.
The construction of biogas plants near agricultural and livestock farms will improve the management of their waste and generate employment in rural areas
In recent years, public commitment has allowed progress to make Spain a power in the production of biogas. In March of this year, the Government approved the Biogas Roadmap, which seeks to quadruple biogas production by 2030. In July, the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge (Miteco) opened a Aid line of 150 million euros aimed at “actions for the energy use of organic waste that promote the circular economy” through biogas facilities. For the granting of the same, special importance was given to the positive impact in rural areas.
With such opportunities, the time has come to get down to work to generate the infrastructure that allows the use of biogas and biomethane to grow. To achieve the goal of climate neutrality in 2050, Europe calculates that the production of biogas, biomethane and renewable hydrogen must grow by 1,000% compared to current figures. There is still a long way to go but, as we have seen, the first steps are already being taken.