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Upgraded biogas from municipal solid waste for natural gas substitution and CO2 reduction – A case study of Austria, Italy, and Spain

2015 / Katherine Starr, Gara Villalba, Xavier Gabarrell

Waste Management Volume 38, April 2015, Pages 105–116

Highlights • Biogas can be upgraded to create biomethane, a substitute to natural gas. • Biogas upgrading was applied to landfills and anaerobic digestors in 3 countries. • Up to 0.6% of a country’s consumption of natural gas could be replaced by biomethane. • Italy could save 46% of the national CO2 emissions attributed to the waste sector. • Scenarios were created to increase biomethane production. Biogas is rich in methane and can be further purified through biogas upgrading technologies, presenting a viable alternative to natural gas. Landfills and anaerobic digestors treating municipal solid waste are a large source of such biogas. They therefore offer an attractive opportunity to tap into this potential source of natural gas while at the same time minimizing the global warming impact resulting from methane emissions in waste management schemes (WMS) and fossil fuel consumption reduction. This study looks at the current municipal solid waste flows of Spain, Italy, and Austria over one year (2009), in order to determine how much biogas is generated. Then it examines how much natural gas could be substituted by using four different biogas upgrading technologies. Based on current waste generation rates, exploratory but realistic WMS were created for each country in order to maximize biogas production and potential for natural gas substitution. It was found that the potential substitution of natural gas by biogas resulting from the current WMS seems rather insignificant: 0.2% for Austria, 0.6% for Italy and 0.3% for Spain. However, if the WMS is redesigned to maximize biogas production, these figures can increase to 0.7% for Austria, 1% for Italy and 2% for Spain. Furthermore, the potential CO2 reduction as a consequence of capturing the biogas and replacing fossil fuel can result in up to a 93% reduction of the annual national waste greenhouse gas emissions of Spain and Italy. Keywords: Biogas Biomethane Natural gas Waste management CO2 emission