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Biogas more useful as chemical feedstock than for energy?

A Finnish team of researchers have found that biogas could be more useful as an alternative feedstock for the chemical industry than as a fuel for electricity generation.

By Kari Williamson

Writing in a forthcoming issue of the International Journal of Sustainable Economy, the researchers explain that using biogas in this way would reduce dependency on oil and gas-derived products and is commercially and technically viable.

Jouko Arvola of the University of Oulu and colleagues point out that environmental pressure has turned our focus to reducing carbon emissions by the employment of renewable energy sources instead of fossil fuels.

Biomass can be readily converted to usable energy mostly in the form of methane through anaerobic fermentation, but rather than simply burning this biogas, the team suggests that at the local level it would be beneficial in terms of resources and pollution to utilise this carbon source as an industrial feedstock.

Arvola et. al. have demonstrated that in theory, this is a serious alternative to natural gas or oil-derived resources.

To initiate such a switch to biogas from landfill and other sources, there may have to be subsidies akin to those implemented in food production. However, as the price of raw fossil materials - oil and gas - continues to rise, biogas will become a more competitive alternative feedstock and government support could gradually be reduced.

"The use of biogas can be promoted by identifying existing industrial sites currently using fossil-based gas as raw material and by analysing whether they can utilise biogas," the team says. "By constructing biogas producing unit at industrial sites potentially enables development of other biogas applications. Building pipelines to other biogas users, or vehicle uses, are potential options.”

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