Malmö switches to biogas

December 18, 2009 | 00:00

Malmö switches to biogas

Sweden is increasingly recovering biomethane from biowaste. Initially undertaken only by water utilities and sewage treatment plants, biomethane production is now more and more taking place on or near the farm. With natural gas and biogas prices currently around 20 eurocents cheaper per cubic metre than petrol, demand for gas-driven cars has more than doubled within the last year.

Particularly the southern province of Skåne Lan, often referred to as the “grain silo of Sweden”, is actively pursuing the switch to biogas.   In this province – with the city of Malmö numbering a quarter of a million inhabitants as its capital – some 500 buses, around 80 lorries and more than a thousand cars run on biomethane. For motorists, filling the tank is getting easier all the time, thanks to five biogas service stations in Malmö and another twenty in Skåne Lan. Meanwhile energy utility Eon Sverige has new and bigger biogas stations in the pipeline, with some already under construction. As such this utility company is competing directly with oil majors such as Shell, BP and Total.

Sweden’s switch to biogas is primarily driven by environmental policy concerns. An added advantage is that cities in western Sweden that previously battled with noxious odours resulting from anaerobic fermentation in waterborne sewerage can now stop this from happening by processing waste into biomethane.

Civitas Forum

Since last year the city, provincial and national authorities in Sweden have significantly ramped up their climate objectives. By next year over half of all household waste and more than a third of all organic waste from households and restaurants will be converted into biogas. Most of the gas will be used for public transport, as by 2015 all of Malmö’s buses are slated to convert to biofuel with regional coach services in Skåne Lan set to follow by 2018. Speaking at the Civitas Forum, a regular EU-subsidized networking event for European cities, most recently held in the Polish city of Krakow, Björn Wickenberg of Malmö’s Streets and Parks Department talked about the city’s ambitions and the potential on offer. ‘Currently the province of Skåne generates some 120 GWh of biogas, but the potential is ten times that – in the fields, in water treatment plants and in the food processing industry. Once conversion of biomass into gas becomes commercially viable, that volume skyrockets to more than 40 TWh and we can supply the whole of Sweden with biogas,’ Wickenberg said.

Malmö signed a deal with Eon last year for the construction of 70 biogas services stations by 2012. From that same year Malmö will also start producting 300 GWh of biogas annually in Sweden’s largest biogas installation, thereby cutting carbon emissions by some 75,000 tonnes a year. Dairy cooperative Skånemejerier, where increasing numbers of farmers ferment  manure for methane production, is also taking part in the initiative.

Sweden’s central government has set aside almost €15 million to subsidise biogas production over the period 2009-2011. In addition there are subsidies totalling some €20 million a year for biogas installations that principally process manure. This year another €9 million was awarded in subsidies for the construction of filling stations for CNG (compressed natural gas) and CBG (compressed biogas).

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