BiogasAction – New developments in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes

PART OF BiogasAction PROJECT

The biogas production in the region made big changes. When the BiogasAction project began, in January 2016, there were 51 plants in Rhône-Alps region. The biogas production represented 400 GWh of primary energy for heat and electricity. There was no biomethane production, but 2 plants were under construction.


Biogas production in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes


The biogas production in the region made big changes. When the BiogasAction project began, in January 2016, there were 51 plants in Rhône-Alps region. The biogas production represented 400 GWh of primary energy for heat and electricity. There was no biomethane production, but 2 plants were under construction. At the same time, in the Auvergne region there were 10 plants and only one farm was producing biomethane. In May 2017, there were 78 plants in the new region Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes representing 700 GWh of production and 61 projects, and six plants injecting biomethane into the gas grid (3 farms or territorial plants and 3 water treatment plants).

Most of future and on-going projects are with farms. The highest potential feedstock is represented by manure and farming by-products and by wastes from food industries. The biogas sector is now a developing sector in the region. Since 2016, the sector has been quite well supported at regional and national level with feed-in tariffs and subsidies for investment. The biomethane production and gas grid injection is the most interesting solution for a project owner in terms of profitability, operation and capacity of development. However convincing banks to invest is quite difficult for territorial or farm projects.

At national level the region had new feed in tariff for CHP plants, national policy on energy crops. The work done by the gas grid operators is really encouraging: they are working on gas grid connection costs reduction and new technical solutions for gas grid injection in territories where there is a limited capacity for gas injection. In France, and specially in this region, French SMes are developing solutions for biomethane production: start-up firms. Consequently, a strong innovative activity is seen in this field, helping new development models such as: biomethane transport by trucks, refueling station for bioNGV in farms, microbiomethane production for local mobility in CHP plants, micro digestion…

The farmers are really interested in producing their own fuel for mobility and energy independence. Major companies in the energy field (Engie, Total, Carrefour) have clearly identified their strategy on biomethane development and are already implementing actions. There are strong demands for LNG and NGV (in local authorities and logistic sector) due to air quality problems in cities or mountain areas. Clearly, the energy transition law has impacted and is generating a new dynamic for this sector. Hence a change of paradigm is seen.

But this sector has to develop quality, standards, security policies, specially in farm and small production. Natural gas grid is not really developed in rural areas where there is most of substrates. Financing projects remains difficult and insurances aspects are not so clear as well. The visibility of Institutional buildings and framework sector is not clear in the long run, and it takes time to convince and create a favorable/open framework at national and regional level. Electricity mobility and hydrogen technologies are well known in the country and are getting most of the finances for research, animation… and regulation support.

Unfortunately French Biogas companies are disappearing essentially because of the very slow process of implementing projects. Some of the main problems are: heavy administrative issues, acceptability and financing. At local level, the acceptance of projects is very difficult with strong opposition from citizens, local associations, companies and finally local authorities.

 


Progress in the region


During the first period of the Biogas Action project, AURA-EE has been working on different tasks in order to promote and fulfill the targets fixed and the different challengers in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. A number of initiatives have been established in different sectors.


  • Institutional-building

The number of members in the regional advisory committee has increased to 250 persons. The aim of this committee is to show to public deciders that the development of this sector has an economic impact in the region, to give perspectives and strategy for companies, to show development and mew market opportunities and to share know-how. This committee is organized twice a year with two different formats: a conference with expert presentations and a site visit and discussions in a local company.

In 2016, new regional operators have identified the biogas sector development as being a strong potential for the region. And thus they decided to promote their activity in this field: the regional association of natural gas (AFG Centre est) decided to create a green gas commission, and the cluster on energy innovation Tenerrdis decided to promote biogas development. For AURA-EE it was an opportunity to strengthen the biogas and biomethane issues towards institutional representatives. AURA-EE presented the Biogas Action project and the strategy in May 2016 as a guidance of their activity and possibility to match with work plan of the green gas commission.

AURA-EE proposed to create with Tenerrdis and AFG a dynamic marketed “Biogaz Gener’action” to give visibility to such work and collaboration. In 2017, AURA-EE was involved in the organization of a business event (60 companies) in Lyon managed by AFG, and a regional event on innovation (150 attendees) managed by Tenerrdis and also in a workshop on training session definition for project owners.


  • Strengthening the biogas sector framework

Most of substrates are in farms which are in rural area, but the size of farms is quite small for gas grid injection. It is not easy to build project involving numerous farmers. The opportunity could be the local production in each farm and share the gas grid injection box. But for the moment the existing mechanism of support is not adapted: the feed in tariff is calculated in the injection point and is decreasing with the high volume of gas injection. This mechanism would allow profitability for small production if the feed-in tariff was calculated at the level of the plant. With the Biogas action project, they decided to communicate and participate in conferences to show this GOOD opportunity to adapt the existing support mechanism: with AILE within the biogas Europe Fair, with ADEME within the POLLUTEC fair.

In the country, new biogas cleaning system technology is based on cryogenic and allowed bioLNG production. It is not interesting to inject into the gas grid. It is suitable to sell directly as LGV. But the feed in tariff in France is only based on gas injection and not biomethane production. AURA-EE is member at national level as part of the national biogas association of a workshop to define a new mechanism of support for biomethane not injected.

Concerning the problem of local acceptance: communicating at national level on the role of local authorities to support a project. At  regional level: producing notes for the regional council and for ADEME to support BioGNV, especially new refueling stations in farms.


  • Optimizing business models and financing of biogas projects

The French model is built on waste treatment (with fee), energy efficiency (heat used), and manure. Since the beginning energy crops are not allowed. The feed in tariff is not sufficient and each project needs subsidies at regional level. The business model in farm with a small CHP plant < 200 kWé is quite operational now. The model of project for gas grid injection has to be adjusted. There is a new market for guaranty of origin. There is a strong demand for the transport sector.

Farmers want to produce biomethane and are not interested in CHP plants. AURA-EE has to reduce the costs and the size of the equipment for biomethane production in farms. In 2016, the business model of dry fermentation was not established, whereas it is quite defined now.

The first territorial AD plants with CHP had strong difficulties:

  • The remuneration from energy or wastes was overestimated.
  • Operation costs were underestimated (territorial plant).
  • Long time to build and to produce electricity (authorizations, electricity connection …) : loss of money.
  • Technical problems with motors, pumps … (lack of insurance).

Banks do not want to finance biogas plants in farms and farmers are not really efficient to present and describe their project to the banks. AURA-EE produced a guideline on the financing process for project owners to understand the positioning of banks and show all the possibilities to finance a project.


  • Optimizing biogas production

AURA-EE met the company “Biovalo” in Clermont Ferrand, a new center of research and training with an AD plant, and is thinking about developing training sessions for regional project owners. Within the biogas gener’action partnership, inside the AFG green gas commission, a new training session for potential project owners on coaching on personal growth was developed. As a potential developer, the trainee has to define its own limits and its strength with regards different skills for the project development: technical, communication, negotiation, contract. They focused on public acceptance and project financing and trained waste management entities on biogas production.


  • Assistance to specific high quality biogas project development

The agency provides support for projects at all the steps of development: studies, business, building, financing, transfer of experience and capitalization on innovative process. In 2016, AURA-EE published the first French guideline on biomethane refueling station in farm. The 60 pages guideline details regulation, authorization and implementation, security aspects, financing, dimensioning and technology with suppliers available in the country. Concerning regulation and authorizations, there are specific status and taxes for refueling stations. When selling biomethane, it means that it is not a real farm activity. The farmer has to deal with local administration to implement his plant in rural area near the farm, and near the biogas plant. For profitability, he has to produce biomethane and inject it into the gas grid. The refueling station will use the gas from the grid with guaranties of origin. There are enough technologies available in France to compress and storage the biomethane and deliver it to cars or trucks. The economic model and the size of the plant really depend on the fleet and habit of customers. Most importantly, the size of the plant will depend on the type of refueling: quick or slow, the capacity storage in link with the size of compressor for successive refueling and the type of demand for trucks or for cars. The most expensive part of the plant for investment and operation is the compressor. In order to be profitable, the plant has to refuel first trucks with other vehicles. Only one refueling station in farm exists in Europe (in Finland). The next one will be in France.


  • For further information 

For further information you can contact AURA-EE. The regional energy agency of the region Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes is promoting and supporting new energy activities in his region in link with public authorities and institutions. It is working in the field of biogas from 20 years. AURA-EE is member of FEDARENE, Club Biogaz (the national biogas association), and national workshop to develop the sector. At the regional level it is a resource’s center financed by the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Regional Council, ADEME and Europe though EU projects to support companies and local project owners with technical input, network, capacity building, replication, training and communication activities.

  • Contact person: Valérie Borroni – AURA-EE Project manager
  • Email: valerie.borroni@auvergnerhonealpes-ee.fr
  • Tel: +33 4 72 56 33 55
  • AURA-EE website: www.auvergnerhonealpes-ee.fr