08.4.2021

Biogenic CO2: Its challenges and potential as a vital energy source

By Anthony Wright

During gasworld TV’s latest webinar, CO2: Use It, Don’t Lose It, and Monitor, Part Two, Christopher Carson, Founder and Principal Director at Carbonic Solutions, gave his perspective on the burgeoning biogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) industry and its potential as an alternative energy source.

As a specialist in the CO2 industry, Carbonic Solutions focus on the supply chain and markets for CO2. In addition to working towards assessment and development of raw CO2 sources, the company has also been involved with biogenics as a source of CO2.

When asked by gasworld Global Managing Editor Rob Cockerill about biogenic CO2, Carson elucidated, saying, “So what are the alternative CO2 sources that we can be looking at? One of them that I’ve been very involved with over the last five years is a biogenic source of CO2, CO2 captured from biogas, which was mentioned earlier.”

“Biogas is produced from anaerobic digestion processes where you ingest biomass and it produces biogas, a very, very similar process to what goes on in the bio ethanol industry.”

He likened this fermentation process to what occurs in alcohol distillation, saying it’s similar to how we would produce whisky and vodka. Feedstocks for biogas can include anything from energy crops all the way down to animal manure, chicken litter, pig slurry to more variable waste, food waste, and other biomass waste streams, he added.

Factfile: Biogenic CO2 is defined as CO2 released as a result or the combustion of decomposition of organic material, or biomass, from sectors such as landfills, manure management processes, and feedstock manufacture.

Bioenergy can contribute to climate change mitigation even as its combustion still emits CO2. The difference between CO2 emissions derived from biomass and those emitted from fossil fuels is that those from biomass releases gases that are part of the biogenic carbon cycle, whereas fossil fuels release carbon that has been locked up in the ground for millions of years.

Economies of scale and market perception

Before widespread use of any alternative CO2 source, consideration must be given to challenges that may arise such as economy of scale and the perception of a new source of CO2 by the market itself.

Carson spoke about the hesitancy expressed towards new sources by one of Carbonic Solution’s biggest off takers, the carbonated soft drink industry, saying, “Those players are very cautious with new sources of CO2, and they want to watch and see before they start using CO2 from sources that aren’t proven.”

“Although it’s been around for four to five years, it’s still seen as new into the industry and unproven from their standpoint.”

He also said that something most people in the industry don’t realise is that one vital gas source is not the same as the other and there is a high degree of variability with regards to CO2 obtained from different biogas sources. Giving an example, Carson stated that there is a fear of variable feedstocks, as there might be contaminants that aren’t necessarily being tested for that manage to get into the CO2.

With quality issues then being the concern, he continued, saying the industry needs to recognise that not all biogas sources are the same and as more fit-for-purpose plants are built and scaled up, the industry will become more comfortable using alternative sources of biogenic CO2.

With this acceptance already occurring in the UK and other countries, Carson added, “If we just look at where this is happening in the UK, we probably have eight to ten CO2 recovery plants on biogas, producing about 40 or 50 thousand tonnes per year.”

“We’ve got about the same amount in the Netherlands, Germany, France and Italy.”

With a handful of plants in each one of those countries that are recovering CO2, there is also a project being built in the Philippines, as well as a Danish plant that, together with its partner Nature Energy, has the capacity to produce 20 thousand tonnes of CO2 per year from strictly a manure waste stream.

As the infrastructure around CO2 sources from biogas increases, Carson believes that the market will become more accepting, providing the right testing is undertaken and the right quality systems are put in place within the plants.

He concluded, saying, “There’s no reason why biogenic biogas sources can’t play a really important role in the future and increasing our CO2 production capacity all the way across the globe.”

This article appeared on the gasworld website at https://www.gasworld.com/biogenic-co2-its-challenges-and-potential-as-a-vital-energy-source/2021438.article

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