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BioGaC Study Tour November 2014

ATBEST logo resized

In this blog, ATBEST researchers at Christian Jenne (University Duisburg-Essen), and Laura Gil Carrera (Gas Networks Ireland), tell us about their experiences of attending a study tour (BioGaC) throughout Sweden and Finland.

BioGaC (Biomethane and LNG in the North for Growth and Competitiveness in the EU) is a €4.4 M European Union research project in Sweden which started in March 2014. The research study covers the pilot deployment of two new CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) filling stations in Härnösand and Umeå, as well as improvements to existing stations at Sundsvall and Skellefteå in northern Sweden. The aim is to increase the number and density of the CNG filling stations, encourage the use of CNG and create a market opportunity for CNG/LNG (liquefied natural gas) investors.

Proposed CNG/LNG filling stations in Sweden

Biofuels region was the project co-ordinator for this study tour, which opened a call for 12 participants in taking part on a study tour. This two day study tour started on 21st November 2014 in Skellefteå (Sweden) and finished in Vaasa (Finland) the following day.

Laura Gil Carrera from Gas Networks Ireland and Christian Jenne from University Duisburg-Essen have been nominated for this field trip. Demand for this research study trip was huge and was oversubscribed with submissions from eight different countries.

On our first day we met all participants at the central bus station in Skellefteå. From there we drove to a local biogas plant which was led by Mr Ola Burström. He was the main driver behind this biogas project since 2003. The biogas plant was fully commissioned and officially opened on 26th February 2007. All the food waste in this region is treated in this biogas plant and a “brown bin” was introduced to collect all local organic waste products. The owners of this biogas plant are mainly ordinary people living near the city and five company investors.

Plant field


This biogas plant has two 100% CBG (Compressed Biomethane Gas) filling stations: One onsite for trucks and commercial vehicles and one located in the city centre with the aim to increase the customer base. The biogas filling service is used by some haulage companies, local bus services, taxi drivers, pizza service and ordinary car drivers. Each customer has an individual fuel card and all biogas fuel purchases are deducted from their registered accounts by the end of each month. Due to a huge popularity (18 buses and trucks and 7 taxies and cars) the filling station needs an upgrade.

Filling 1-3

Filling process in comparison to a regular diesel fill for a bus can take up to 25 minutes which causes long waiting times for refueling. The future plan is to install a few more fast charging refueling points. This also will be housed in an open building with a night time refueling option for commercial vehicle. This would reduce waiting time on the filling station during the day and will translate into more efficiency for drivers due to filling process during the night time. This would mean the vehicle can be refueled over night without any supervision and therefore less man hours required.

On the second day after a short bus trip we met Leif Åkers, CEO at Stormossen Oy, and Johan Saarela, process engineer. Leif gave us a nice presentation on their biogas plant and how they are working to upgrade the biogas to biomethane. To handle the ”Chicken and egg” – problem, Leif firstly approached the municipality and he has been working very close with them. The municipality will have their own biomethane buses ready to run once the biogas is upgraded to biomethane.

The anaerobic digesters are fed with waste from household and sewage sludge. Such feedstock generates the equivalent to about 1.6 million litres of diesel. It is currently being used for electricity and heat production through CHP, however electricity price is very low in Finland so they are getting very low revenue, hence they are willing to upgrade the biogas and use it for transport. Leif showed us around the biogas plant, the waste processor, AD, gas holder and the CHP engines.

Afterwards we met Kurt Stenvall, CEO at Jeppo Biogas. Kurt talked about their biomethane plant, which has three digesters and produces 20- 25 GWh of biogas/year out of manure, offal and green masses from non-food agriculture. The biogas is sold to two nearby industries, Merkki and Snellmans and transported by pipeline to their premises. At the moment only a small amount of biogas is upgraded to biomethane, however they expect it to grow when a filling station will be built next year in Stormossen. It was very interesting to hear the challenges that they faced to make such a huge project real and successful.

The next talk was given by Mauri Blomberg, CEO at Vaskiluodon Voima Oy. He told us about the largest biomass gasification plant in the world, built in Vaasa. The power plant is mainly using coal for electricity (1.2-2.5 TWh/y) and district heat production (0.8 TWh/y) and integrating the biomass gasification plant to the existing coal-fired boiler  is a way of contributing to a more sustainable society and also prolong the life span of the plant. The syngas is used directly and co-fired with coal. Since the plant is air-blowned, it is not possible to use the syngas in a methanation process. The total investment was €40M, the gasifier has a fuel input of 140 MW and reduces the use of coal by 25-40% as well as CO2 emissions by 230,000 tons/year. It was great to hear Mauri’s talk but we needed to have a look of the technology in the field, so the bus took us to the gasifier and we could see the biomass dryer (called Titanic) as well as the gasifier itself.

gasifier 1-3

The visit was coming to an end, but a very interesting session was waiting for us in the conference centre, where we discussed how to solve biomethane and CNG market issues. We discussed on the different challenges and concerns in our countries and the mechanisms to face them. It was very rewarding session since we could hear interesting experiences, from the other participants, that could help us to face and solve our problems.

Besides lectures and visits to biogas plants, there was also time for entertainment and fun. After the long but very fruitful day we enjoyed some Swedish beers and a tasty Mexican dinner in a van J.

Dinner 1&2

Overall, it was very interesting to see how biogas business is constructed in Sweden and Finland. It was very impressive to see all the biogas plants successfully up and running and how they are working together from production to fuel and the market. It was great to share our experiences with such knowledgeable and interesting group and I believe we all learn something.

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