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The Two-Way Benefits Of Biomass Energy Production
New energies 11/03/2021

The Two-Way Benefits Of Biomass Energy Production

Biomass has made a comeback as the world’s second-largest source of renewable energy.

Renewable gas from non-recyclable waste

We know today that we will absolutely need the technology used for the Gaya platform in order for ENGIE to reach its 100% green gas grid target.

Adeline Duterque - Director of ENGIE Lab CRIGEN

Before the industrial revolution ushered in the era of fossil fuels, biomass served as the primary energy source of mankind. Today, as our global effort to phase out polluting fuels keeps accelerating, biomass has made a comeback as the world’s second-largest source of renewable energy.Biomass (essentially a fancy term for organic material that comes from plants and animals) is considered a renewable energy source as long it is produced in at least the same quantity as it is consumed. As it contains stored energy from the sun, organic plant or animal matter can be harnessed to produce heat or electricity.

In Europe, waste generated from agriculture is a burgeoning problem, and in many developing countries, biomass residues are often left in the field to decompose. As such, biomass is gaining traction for its double-potential as a sustainable energy alternative to fossil fuels and as a solution to our global waste issue.

Here are two exciting energy projects pushing the boundaries of biotechnology:

Reversible electricity production

A group of Swiss scientists have applied their expertise in reversible solid-oxide cell technology to better incorporate biomass into existing power grids and gas distribution systems.

  • The team, which is part of École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne’s Group of Energy Materials, has invented a system that uses a gasification process to turn biomasses into hydrogen, and further into methane. The reversible technology allows electricity to be stored as methane, and converted back into electricity with high yields in both directions.
  • During high electricity demand, the system injects power into the electrical grid; during low-demand, the biomass is instead turned into hydrogen or methane and injected into the natural gas grid.
  • The team points out that the system, which is already being field tested in Denmark and Italy, can be particularly useful in conjunction with other local renewable-energy systems that rely on weather conditions — filling any gaps in power production.

From landfill to clean energy

In a pioneering project, ENGIE has produced renewable gas from non-recyclable waste at its semi-industrial R&D platform in south-eastern France. The GAYA project is an ENGIE Lab CRIGEN (ENGIE R&D Center) led initiative involving 11 partners from the industrial, institutional, and academic worlds in France and Europe..Located in the heart of the ‘Chemical Valley’ in Saint-Fons, the GAYA platform is a flagship demonstrator for the sector.

  • A year after producing biomethane from forest biomass, the GAYA platform has now produced the world’s first cubic metres of renewable gas from solid recovered fuels such as waste wood, paper, cardboard and plastic otherwise destined for landfill.
  • Non-hazardous waste is prepared and gasified at very high temperature to produce synthesis gas with high calorific value. The gas is then purified and transformed into biomethane using a catalytic methanation process.
  • Following GAYA’s success, ENGIE now plans to build its first industrial unit in Le Havre, France. Starting in 2026, the Salamandre project will turn 70,000 tons of non-recyclable waste per year into 150 GWh of renewable gas and 45 GWh of renewable heat to meet urban and industrial needs.

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