Friday, November 14, 2008

French Natural Gas Network Soon to Accept Biomethane

Biomethane is coming to the French natural gas network

In France, authorisation for injecting biomethane fuel into the natural gas distribution network has until now been subject to an assessment of the environmental and health risks. The French Agency for Health and Safety in the Environment and Workplace (AFSSET) came to a favourable conclusion on the 29th October. The injection of biomethane into the network, as well as a fiscal approach which favours the principle of “green gas”, will allow the field of biomethane fuel, considered the best way of developing biogas, to make progress under much better conditions.

Although natural gas as a fuel is already considered to be safe, efficient and less polluting than petrol or diesel, French support for the field of biomethane fuel is fairly recent. However, initiatives have demonstrated all of its benefits. In Lille (Metropolitan Urban Community, LMCU), the methanisation of urban organic waste has meant that the biomethane obtained has been used as a fuel in the city’s buses and domestic waste disposal vehicles. Furthermore, this approach has been legitimised environmentally by a study of the life cycle of the methods of developing biogas, commissioned in September 2007 by ADEME and GDF (to download the ACV conclusions, go to the BiogasMax web site).

At the ‘Grenelle’ Environment Conference (October 2007) the biogas club had submitted several ways of proceeding with the work for developing this field, which has enormous ecological benefits.

The club’s voice was heard: at a recent conference on this subject, Charles ThiĆ©baut (from the Department of Risk Prevention at the Ministry of the Environment, Energy, Sustainable Development and Town and Country Planning) said that “the commitment had been made to favour methanisation by supporting it and modifying regulations” (National Technical Day conference, 07.10.08 – Succeeding with a methanisation project including household, agricultural and industrial waste, ADEME).

The development of the biogas fuel field was waiting for authorisation to inject its biomethane into the natural gas network, as even if the production of biogas is continuous, vehicle consumption can fluctuate. In order to be used as a fuel, biogas has to undergo processes known as “purification” (drying, desulphurisation, decarbonisation) which makes biomethane very similar to NGV natural gas for vehicles.

In the first instance, therefore, authorisation for injection had to be subject to technical specifications. These having been established and published by GDF in December 2007, (download the GDF technical specifications), there only remained the assessment of risks to public health and the environment.

This study was requested from the French Agency for Health and Safety in the Environment and Workplace (AFSSET) in September 2006. Its conclusions are now available and are “unequivocally favourable when biogas is produced from methanisation of waste or from storage of non-dangerous waste.”

Very soon, therefore, the Centre for Organic Development (CVO) in Lille-Sequedin should receive authorisation from the Ministry in charge of energy and be able to put into operation the connection of its canalisation system of purified biogas with the French gas network. Having opened the way, it will be the local authorities who will subsequently issue these authorisations. More here...

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