TotalEnergies has made an agreement with Veolia to produce biomethane – the precursor to bio-LNG, once liquefied — from wastewater and landfill, at facilities in around 15 countries.
Engineering at Sea has discussed biogas and bio-LNG before, and they encompass numerous advantages for maritime. Using methane that is emitted as a by-product of anaerobic digestion, they offset introduction of new CO2 emissions caused by burning fossil hydrocarbons.
It is debatable as to whether waste food or municipal sewage, the feedstocks for biogas, are ‘biogenic’ — since they would not exist in any quantity without humans. But they represent a natural part of the carbon cycle. Harnessing biomethane, in particular, which turns into CO2 when burned in a ship engine, would provide a critical short-term decrease in greenhouse gas emissions, boosting the normal offset gained from leaving fossil fuels in the ground to, in effect, warming-negative.
Bio-LNG is also chemically identical to LNG, making it an option for use in vessels which have, in the last ten years, either been built or retrofitted in an earnest attempt to reduce emissions. It could be extremely significant, because many shipowners have treated LNG as a future hedge, given its CO2 emissions profile is 20% less than conventional fuel. However recent IMO calculations have shown that when methane slip is taken into account, switching to LNG does not have much of an effect on greenhouse gas emissions at all. But bio-LNG would be one way in which shipowners could offset their costly investments in LNG bunkering.
TotalEnergies and Veolia will be targeting 1.5TWh of biomethane by 2025, but say that up to 6TWh could be possible if the technology could be applied to Veolia plants globally. According to TotalEnergies’ numbers, doing so would bring down CO2 levels by 1.2m tonnes annually.
“Our partnership with TotalEnergies is in line with Veolia’s strategy to develop solutions for decarbonising the energy mix, notably with biogas, as part of an ecological transition,” said Estelle Brachlianoff, Veolia COO. “With this biomethane production potential and our know-how in biogas management, Veolia intends to become a leading player in the value chain while developing more decentralised and local green energy production capacity.”