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Supporting the expansion of biomethane around the world to sustain energy transition

Published on August 04, 2023

4 minutes

When it comes to the renewable energy sources that are making headlines these days, biomethane is a rising star that has the potential to play an important role in the decarbonization of both heavy-duty transport and industry. For over a decade, Air Liquide has been facilitating the expansion of this key energy source around the world.

A circular process that gives back

Biomethane’s life cycle starts with a variety of common waste products that result from daily life: food scraps, manure and other organic compounds. But how does decomposing waste become one of the most sustainable alternatives to fossil natural gas and diesel? Explanations.

To start, biomethane facilities receive deliveries of the aforementioned organic waste. After being homogenized and pasteurized, the resulting sludge is fed into an anaerobic digester. This closed tank provides the oxygen-free environment necessary for bacteria to digest and breakdown organic matter. The biogas that results from this decomposition process is a mixture of carbon dioxide and biomethane, which must then be separated from one another. By passing the biogas through Air Liquide’s proprietary polymer membranes, the biogas is purified and the carbon dioxide removed. This technology has been fine-tuned by Air Liquide to be as sustainable as possible, maintaining a high extraction rate (up to 99%) while optimizing electricity consumption. The final result? High-quality biomethane which can be fed into the natural gas grid or liquified to be used as transport fuel and in industrial processes.

Air Liquide’s commitment to a closed-loop biomethane production process creates high levels of efficiency and sustainability for all stakeholders. The production of biomethane and its uses actively encourage the development of a circular economy by giving farmers, manufacturers and local authorities a sustainable and financially interesting alternative to discarding their waste. To complete the cycle, waste left over after the treatment process returns to farms as fertilizer.

An expanding global network

Within the biomethane production industry, Air Liquide is a major global player possessing proprietary biomethane purification and liquefaction technologies. The Group’s extensive expertise enables it to handle every aspect of the production process, from sourcing the raw materials to transforming biogas into biomethane, as well as handling transport and delivery to customers. This 360-degree involvement makes Air Liquide an ideal partner for those looking to source biomethane for their operations, and Air Liquide is ready to meet growing demand around the world.

In recent years, Air Liquide has expanded its initial production base from France, Norway and the United Kingdom to several other countries where there is a growing demand for this low-carbon alternative to natural gas.

In 2022, the Group opened two new biomethane production sites in the Italian cities of Truccazzano and Fontanella. Together, they will produce enough bio-Liquified Natural Gas (bio-LNG) and bio-Compressed Natural Gas (bio-CNG) to supply 100 trucks per day. On the other side of the world, in China, a new site in the province of Jiangsu just entered into production. It feeds biomethane into a local gas grid for household use and also uses it to generate electricity. And in the United States, Air Liquide is on track to set a record with its largest biomethane production unit to date, currently under construction in Rockford, Illinois. Along with another site in Delavan, Wisconsin, which entered into production in 2022, Air Liquide is developing its presence in the U.S. biomethane production market. 

With 25 biomethane production plants now in operation and more on the horizon, the Group currently boasts a global annual production capacity of 1.7 TWh. Responding to the needs of heavy transport fleets, industry applications and energy grids that are looking to decarbonize, biomethane is a versatile energy source that has a key role to play in the energy transition.