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The biogas sector

What is biogas / anaerobic digestion ?
The biogas sector in France
Incentive and support mechanisms in France
The context in Western France


Biogas is a combustible gas composed primarily (60%) of methane (CH4), and carbon dioxide (CO2) derived from the breakdown of organic matter in the absence of oxygen. This process is called anaerobic digestion.

Biogas can be produced using digesters or be directly captured in landfill sites. All organic matter can be converted into biogas with varying concentrations of methane gas. Liquid manure, agricultural waste and energy crops can be fed into biogas plants in farms or in collective units that treat different types of waste associated with a significant proportion of manure.

Sewage effluents can be digested in sewage treatment plants. Green and municipal solid wastes can also be converted into biogas in solid waste digester units.

Anaerobic digestion allows farmers, specifically dairy farmers, to substitute their chemical fertilizers with the nutritional by product of anaerobic digestion, thereby in parallel contributing to resolving the problem of storage and waste treatment.

Biogas can be used for:

  1. Heat: Combustion of gas in a boiler for distribution via a heating network
  2. co-generation of electricity and heat (combined heat and power - CHP): biogas is fed into a heat and power cogeneration unit. Electricity generated can first be used for captive needs and/or sold to the electricity utility at the regulated feed-in tariff. The heat from CHP unit is recovered and can be utilized for heating homes or for the production of hot water for a broad range of different applications.
  3. Gas network: the injection of biomethane (cleaned biogas to meet the natural gas standard of >97% methane content) into the natural gas grid or decentralized gas grids.
  4. Fuel : biomethane for vehicles.

The biogas sector in France

Anaerobic digestion enjoys a substantial economical and industrial potential in France, especially in the agricultural sector, thanks a large substrate market, and a still modest number of units in comparison of the potential.

Figures by project type

There are many different kinds of anaerobic digestion projects, because of the range of wastes, which can feed the anaerobic digestion process. Agricultural biogas units can be split in two categories:
- centralised territorial projects, bringing together several actors, mixing animal manure with wastes from industries and local authorities.
- projects led by farmers, utilising mainly animal waste, supplemented with external waste, crops residues and energy crops.
Earl 2016, there were 236 agricultural biogas units, and 31 territorial projects running. The current rate of new projets is around 70 per year.

But biogas isn't restricted to the agricultural sector, and at the end of 2014, we counted as well: 113 biogas units in landfills, 10 in domestic waste facilities, 87 in Wastewater Treatment Plants (WWTPs) and 80 in water treatment units for industries or agro-industries. The Wastewater treatment sector in particular is promising: about 100 WWTPs are already equipped with digesters, and several innovative projects are ongoing, but half the potential (about 1TWh/year) remains to be developed... Which makes the joint organisation of Biogaz Europe with the Carrefour des Gestions Locales de l'Eau all the more relevant!
source: ADEME 2016, RISPO 2016

Figures by biogas uses

At the end of 2015, more than 400 biogas units were connected to the electric grid (an annual increase of 24%), for a total capacity of 365MW. 162 projects were pending, for a cumulative capacity of 116MW.
source: Club Biogaz ATEE 2016

The biomethane injection capacity is currently around 260 GWh/year. The objective of the sector being 3500 GWh/year in 2018, and 8000 GWh/year in 2023 (and 2000 GWh/year for BioCNG, ie. 20% of CNG consumption).
source: Club Biogaz ATEE 2016


Incentive and support mechanisms in France

In order to foster the development of the sector, the government has progressively implemented the following support mechanisms:

  • Local subsidies for biogas projects (by ADEME, local authorities, Ministry of Agriculture...), directing projects towards optimal solutions in terms of environmental impact and energy efficiency.
  • The 19th May 2011 decree fixed feed-in tariffs for electricity produced from biogas, then another decree was published on 30th October 2015 to further increase this tariff. Depending on the project characteristics, tariffs range from:
    • 81.2€/MWh : for domestic waste facilities above 2MW
    • to 220€/MWh : for units below 80kW, with more than 60% of animal manure
  • Authorisation to inject biomethane produced from biogas into the national gas grid since July 2011. This authorisation was then extended to WWTPs in 2014.
  • The 23rd November 2011 decree fixed feed-in tariffs for biomethane. Depending on the project characteristics, tariffs range from:
    • 45€/MWh : for industrial units above 350 m³/h
    • to 125€/MWh : for units below 50 m³/h using exclusively waste as substrates
    More information on biomethane on the official website:
  • Tax relief for agricultural biogas units since 16th February 2011.
  • Since 2012, a law progressively requires large biowaste producers (restaurants, school canteens...) to process their waste via composting and/or anaerobic digestion.
  • In 2013, the ministries of Agriculture and Environment announced the "Energie Méthanisation Autonomie Azote" plan, aiming at 1000 agricultural biogas units by 2020
  • In 2014, a call for projects was launched by the Ministry of Environment to develop 1500 biogas projects in the medium term.

For an overview of support mechanisms, you may check the following websites (in French) :
Club Biogaz
Support for biomethane injection (Ministry of Environment)
Support for cogeneration (Ministry of Environment)

The context in Western France

The Pays de la Loire and Brittany regions are the first French regions for animal rearing (they account for half of the French cattle and pigs), with a strong presence of agro-industries (one third of the French agro-industrial sector in terms of employees and turnover). Therefore, they have naturally a strong potential for anaerobic digestion. Available substrates represent about 50 million tonnes of animal manure, close to 2 million tonnes of agro-industrial waste and 2 million tonnes for waste from local authorities.
sources: SINOE, AGRESTE 2016

In order to oversee the development of anaerobic digestion in these two regions, a programme was created in 2007: the "Plan Biogaz", financed by ADEME and both regions, and animated by AILE association. For more information, click here.

Brittany and Pays de la Loire are the most dynamic regions in terms of biogas projects. 118 agricultural and territorial units are currently in operation in the area.
source: AILE 2016