Analyzing key constraints to biogas production from crop residues and manure in the EU - A spatially explicit model
Journal article, 2017
This paper presents a spatially explicit method for making regional estimates of the potential for biogas production from crop residues and manure, accounting for key technical, biochemical, environmental and economic constraints. Methods for making such estimates are important as biofuels from agricultural residues are receiving increasing policy support from the EU and major biogas producers, such as Germany and Italy, in response to concerns over unintended negative environmental and social impacts of conventional biofuels. This analysis comprises a spatially explicit estimate of crop residue and manure production for the EU at 250 m resolution, and a biogas production model accounting for local constraints such as the sustainable removal of residues, transportation of substrates, and the substrates' biochemical suitability for anaerobic digestion. In our base scenario, the EU biogas production potential from crop residues and manure is about 0.7 EJ/year, nearly double the current EU production of biogas from agricultural substrates, most of which does not come from residues or manure. An extensive sensitivity analysis of the model shows that the potential could easily be 50% higher or lower, depending on the stringency of economic, technical and biochemical constraints. We find that the potential is particularly sensitive to constraints on the substrate mixtures' carbon-to-nitrogen ratio and dry matter concentration. Hence, the potential to produce biogas from crop residues and manure in the EU depends to large extent on the possibility to overcome the challenges associated with these substrates, either by complementing them with suitable co-substrates (e.g. household waste and energy crops), or through further development of biogas technology (e.g. pretreatment of substrates and recirculation of effluent).