Technological transition of the biogas sector to innovative business models with increased profitability and reduced subsidy dependence


10/2015 to 09/2019

The biogas sector in Flanders represents an annual revenue of approximately  50 million euro, plus yearly investments to the value of 70 million euro during the past 7 years. The sector, including its suppliers, employs somewhere between 1.000 and 2.000 people and provides green energy to approx. 120.000 families, not including a surplus of green heat for an equivalent of 20.000 families. Every year, the anaerobic digestion plants in Flanders account for about 625.000 t CO2 eq avoided emissions. This means that, per MW installed, biogas plants clearly contribute in a greater way to Flemish (and Belgian) climate objectives than any other renewable energy technology. Furthermore, the 40 large scale installations in Flanders process about 1,2 million tons of organic waste and a surplus of 1,9 million kg N and 1,8 million kg P from manure. The processed end product is  a valuable organic soil fertilizer.

Thanks to this added value on top of the production of renewable energy, the appreciation for this key technology is increasing across Europe. Thanks to a more predictable and constant energy production level throughout the year biogas serves as a better energy basis compared to weather dependent technologies based on wind and/or solar energy, which has a positive effect on energy prices (lower cost).

1. Problem definition

Despite its high added value, anaerobic digestion as a base technology still has a high investment and operating cost and is dependent on financial support for renewable energy technologies. Clearly all parties that are involved, such as governments and energy partners want to reduce the level of support to a minimum, while biogas producers themselves also strive for more independence, robust business models and decreased support dependence.

2. Objective

TransBio wants to further optimize the baseline business model for anaerobic digestion plants by focusing on knowledge and innovation, the basic values from which the sector was able to grow in the past. By doing so the business model should become more profitable and less dependent on variating governmental support mechanisms.

3. Methodology

Starting from the built-up knowledge, market surveys, follow-up on progress in neighbouring countries and targeted stakeholder interaction a number of scenarios are identified that can induce a significant cost reduction or revenue increase.

The scenario analysis is used to determine the most meaningful transitions where potential administrative and legal issues are identified and tackled. Then, the selected scenarios are further investigated for effective market introduction through training, demonstrations, symposia and general platform activities (including dedicated working groups).

The categories for scenario analysis, can be divided as follows:

  • reduced costs for raw materials through development of supply chains of current unexploited biomass (grass verge, roadside and nature management cuttings, organic waste, crop residues, alternative crops).
  • increased revenues from electricity that is produced by more intelligent approach to intra-day variation in energy prices and the use of biogas plants as "net balancing units" that can operate as a buffer for more weather dependent and inconsistent forms of energy (such as wind and solar energy).
  • market diversification by upgrading biogas to biomethane and introduction to the trading market as a green fuel.
  • recovery and reprocessing of mineral constituents to high quality mineral fertilizers (N/P/K) which can act as fossil based fertilizer substitutes.

At the international level, business optimization of biogas and its related activities sometimes develop very rapidly. To keep up with the pace of development Biogas-E can rely on an extensive network/cluster of projects and innovating partners ( Additionally as Head of the Scientific Advisory Council Biogas-E is also well represented in the European umbrella organization of biogas associations (European Biogas Association).

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