The biogas sector grows impressively every year across the European Union. The sector’s progress is evident, since European primary energy growth leapt by a further 4.3% in 2009, reaching an energy output of 8.3 Mtoe. In 2011, 10 Mtoe have been produced in the European Union. Germany has a leading role in Europe with almost 7 400 biogas plants in 2012, but the German market is no longer Europe’s sole market driver. Italy’s growth forecasts are particularly high, and they should be matched by those of France, Spain and the UK. New markets are emerging in Eastern Europe such as the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. The potential for biogas production in 2020 is estimated at 40 Mtoe according to AEBIOM
and the BiogasIN project, mostly concentrated in France, Germany and Britain.
Biogas energy is mainly recovered in the form of electricity. In 2009, 25.2 TWh were produced from biogas, which is an increase of 17.9% on 2008. Actual figures are difficult to obtain for the whole Europe, but only in Germany, the 2012 production was above 22 TWh electricity.
Increasingly cogeneration plants produce this electricity and, at the same time, also supply heat (combined heat and power production, CHP). Biogas produced by the anaerobic digestion of biomass is also a valuable renewable energy source that can be exploited directly as a raw material for the production of synthesis gas and/or hydrogen for industrial syntheses or energetic purposes.
Under an optimistic scenario, the 2 Billion EUR biogas plant installations business could grow up to 25 Billion by 2020.
However, as also pointed out in the roadmap of the BiogasIN project (N. Bachmann, A. Wellinger, D6.3 Pan-European Biogas Roadmap) today the diversity of regulations
and variety of EU practices and technological choices for safety and environment
at design and operation stages represent major barriers for the increased production and uses of biogas
. It creates delays for an operator who wants to exploit resources to produce biogas, it generate unnecessary costs when a European operator has to adapt its technologies to the national non-harmonized safety and environmental requirements, and generate confusion among the public that might hamper the acceptance of biogas as a key renewable energy source for Europe by 2020.
These statements are the main motivations for the creation of the European Working Group on Biogas Safety & Regulation (EWGBSR).
The objectives of the activities of the EWGBSR are:
- Share information, data, good practices and experiences on biogas safety and regulation, including accidents and near-misses.
- Collect the experience feedbacks on accidents, incidents, failures, breakdowns.
- Agree on gaps in terms of safety and regulation.
- Propose solutions to fill those gaps by initiating projects (possible external European funding such as EU Framework Programme, Competitiveness and Innovation Programme, EUREKA, SET-Plan Technology Roadmap…).
3 main topics will be addressed in particular:
- Management of the biogas plants (process organization),
- Human and organizational factors (behaviors),
- and technical system (technologies).