Research

No societies or states have fully realized the potential of biogas solutions, which indicates that it is a difficult challenge. In Europe, most biogas plants are in Germany where the policy initially emphasized and supported the production of renewable electricity. Crops were the main substrate. Nowadays, Germany and the whole of Europe are moving towards the Nordic model for biogas which instead is based on waste and by-products as substrate and upgrading to biomethane which is primarily used for transport or is fed into the gas network where it is often used in industry.

Municipalities and regions have long been key players in developing biogas solutions because they have sometimes managed to integrate different policy areas and identified the overall benefit of biogas solutions. Many of them have been driving strategic work for a long time that is based on collaboration and goal formulations. At the national level, there are examples of countries that have introduced long-term economic conditions for biogas production. In addition to Germany, this applies to Denmark and the Czech Republic where the production of biogas has increased rapidly. In Sweden, there has been a tax exemption for biogas for a long time and the opportunity for investment support. Since 2022, it has been supplemented with support linked to methane reduction, upgrading to biomethane, and making the gas liquid.

The EU wants to increase the production of biomethane quickly and has set a goal of 350 TWh per year by 2030. Member countries will need to develop their own strategies that involve local and regional actors as well as companies to together achieve this goal.

Marcus Gustafsson

Research leader

Works with environmental systems analysis and biogas policy and is one of the leaders for RA1. Marcus is an assistant professor at the Department of Industrial Environmental Engineering at LiU (Linköping University), with a background in energy efficiency of buildings, and also leads a project on the utilization of carbon dioxide (CCU).

Latest from Marcus Gustafsson

Stefan Anderberg

Research leader

Stefan Anderberg is a professor of Industrial Ecology at the Division of Environmental Technology and Management (MILJÖ) and one of the leaders for RA1 and IP1. Stefan’s research has been connected to many different sustainability issues. He has often focused on how regions, municipalities, and companies handle sustainability challenges and has conducted analyses of resource flows in different contexts, their consequences, and related governance challenges. Ongoing projects deal with regional metabolism, the management of urban infrastructure, climate-neutral cities, and the development of biogas use and biogas policy in Sweden and Europe.

Latest from Stefan Anderberg

In Sweden, we have produced about 2 TWh of biogas per year for many years from wastewater treatment plants, co-digestion, farm, and industrial facilities. The expected large growth is believed to mainly come from larger co-digestion facilities, and to some extent, farm facilities while wastewater treatment plants and industrial facilities are expected to grow slowly. There is currently a proposal for a national goal of 7 TWh per year from digestion by 2030 and a long series of projects that are under construction. Many of them are based on the digestion of manure together with other by-products and residues from agriculture. To be really effective, these plants also need other substrates such as food waste from households and the supply chains for food. Biogas facilities have a potentially large role to play in the redistribution of plant nutrients, which there are often too many of in some places while there is a shortage in other places.

The development is mainly pointing towards larger, more standardized, and industrialized biogas facilities. Therefore, localization and logistics become important issues for a sustainable production system. Much of the additional production will take place in rural areas where there is a lot of manure and disposal for the digested biofertilizer. The gas will to a greater extent either be made liquid or be fed into the gas network to be less dependent on only local demand. Infrastructure for the transport of raw gas from several digestion facilities to centralized upgrading and liquification of biogas could be a solution to reduce the extensive transports that take place around a biogas facility. Parallel to this development, the number of farm facilities that produce electricity and heat and recycle their plant nutrients is also growing. These can be a good alternative where it is not possible to obtain a basis for larger facilities.

To be able to increase the production of biogas even more in the future, land use in agriculture needs to be intensified in a sustainable way. There are good opportunities to produce much more biomass than today, for example through increased ley farming. What is harvested from the ley can also be fractionated, split up, into a more concentrated protein part that can be used for feed while the rest is a good biogas substrate. In this way, together with the cultivation of cover crops and more, the cultivation system can at the same time become more sustainable and contribute to a significantly increased biogas production.

Thomas Prade

Research leader

Thomas Prade who is a docent at the Department of Biosystems and Technology at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Alnarp, and leads the “The Production System” group at the Biogas Research Centre along with Karin Tonderski.

Thomas has a Ph.D. in technology and has experience in system studies and techno-economic evaluations. His research focuses on the integration of the production of food, feed, materials, and energy from agricultural crops and by-products. He is investigating new ways to intensify agricultural production and promote ecosystem services without negatively affecting food and feed production.

More about Thomas Prade at SLU

Latest from Thomas Prade

Karin Tonderski

Research leader

Karin Tonderski is a senior associate professor at the Department of Industrial Environmental Engineering, IEI, Linköping University, LiU. Within BSRC, she shares the leadership for research area RA 2 and for IP 2. She is also a co-supervisor to Ph.D. students Giacomo Carraro at LiU and Christian Wedgwood at SLU Alnarp.

Karin is interested in both process and system studies related to the efficient and sustainable use of nutrients. The focus varies from individual ecosystems and industries, through agricultural systems, to regional studies of mass flows. She also leads, along with Hans Andersson, a project that is closely related to BSRC, where the aim is to analyze and find new business models for digestate. Here, focus groups and interviews are important methodological elements.

Latest from Karin Tonderski

The purposes of the digestion processes can be several, but for most actors, the production of methane gas is the most important because it usually accounts for a major part of a facility’s revenues. Thus, much of the research and development in the area is about getting more gas out of the substrate used through faster and more complete degradation. The conversion of organic material to the energy-containing methane molecule requires a long series of different process steps that involve various groups of microorganisms that constitute an entire microbial community. One factor for good and stable biogas production is a good mix of different substrates in co-digestion. With a diverse mix of substrates in co-digestion, the risk of a lack of substances essential for the processes decreases. Depending on the available substrates, different problems can arise. For instance, substrates that are too nitrogen-rich can inhibit biogas production and can advantageously be mixed with more nitrogen-poor ones. The occurrence of hydrogen sulfide is also inhibiting for biogas production and in Sweden, iron compounds are therefore added in the digestion process.

Wet digestion dominates with substrates that are possible to pump into the reactor. The research examines various modifications of the production in terms of various pre- and post-treatment, additions of trace elements, stirring, but also new production concepts with digestion in several steps and recirculation, and more. Digestion of drier substrates (high-density digestion) can be an interesting complement to wet digestion, not least because it can use, for example, solid manure and garden waste as substrates. Another advantage is that all substrates are not mixed but that the new ones are fed in at one end and travel through a lying cylinder. In this way, different conditions can be created that suit the different groups of organisms optimally.

Parts of the available substrates are not completely broken down in the digestion processes. An important such group of substrates is woody and contains a lot of ligno-cellulose. Progress in this area could make new substrates available such as straw and reed. Some proteins can also remain in the material that has passed the digestion chamber. There, post-digestion can help increase efficiency.

It is important in the research not to just focus blindly on gas production but also that a usable biofertilizer is produced that is in demand.It is important in the research not to just focus blindly on gas production but also that a usable biofertilizer is produced that is in demand. From the digestion processes, there is the opportunity to produce more than methane. By controlling external factors, for example, organic acids can be formed that can form the basis for chemical products. Another future product can be generated by harvesting the microorganisms and using them in feed production (single-cell protein).

Annika Björn

Research leader

Annika Björn who is a docent and head for the Division of Environmental Change (TEMAM) at Linköping University (LiU).

Her research focuses on process and technology development of anaerobic processes. For example, research that focuses on the optimization and development of sustainable biogas processes by applying chemical, microbial, and biotechnological methods and alternative concepts.
Annika is a research leader at BSRC (Biogas Solutions Research Center) for the research area on digestion processes, RA3.

Latest from Annika Björn

Anna Schnürer
(more about Anna Schnürer at SLU)

anna.schnurer@slu.se

Biogas solutions have three main products/services; waste management, renewable energy carrier, and renewable plant nutrition. In Sweden, the biogas area has mainly developed as a waste service (including sewage) which for some actors is still an important source of revenue. Gradually, the economic significance of renewable gas has increased, especially for those who upgrade the gas to biomethane that enters the gas network or is used for transport. However, biofertilizer has not yet become a major source of income for biogas producers.nIt has many advantages but is diluted and the economy only withstands shorter transports.

The presence of various actors and the development of the market functions for biogas is a dynamic area. In Sweden, much of the development was driven for a long time by municipally owned companies but today many privately owned companies have entered the scene in different parts of the biogas solution supply chains. The development of a “biogas market” is a complex process that involves activities by many different actors over a long time. In Sweden, municipalities have been a key player and account for many of the functions required to develop the market.

Liquid biogas has become an important product because it is “energy-dense” which makes it possible to transport the biogas further. In this way, the dependence on gas networks and local demand decreases. A consequence of this development is that the gas becomes an international commodity. Another is the possibility of using it in heavy vehicles where performance and range become roughly like diesel, which has led to rapidly increasing demand for the so-called LBG or Bio-LNG.

Different forms of processing, through the division of the biofertilizer into different fractions, are being developed to make it more useful as a product and increase its value. This business is sometimes driven by biogas producers and sometimes by specialized biofertilizer companies. The need for renewable plant nutrition is great, not least for organic cultivation. Other products can be developed from biogas solutions.


The one that is closest at hand is carbon dioxide, which is separated during upgrading but is usually released. Now there are facilities that capture carbon dioxide and convert it into a product that can replace carbon dioxide of fossil origin.

The Nordic model for biogas, with waste as a substrate, upgrading to biomethane, and the use of biofertilizer, has developed in the Nordic countries but is globally relevant. The dissemination of knowledge, technology, and ability to implement biogas solutions can be of great benefit as problems with waste and local environmental quality among several aspects are very large around the world.

Mikael Ottosson

Research leader

Mikael Ottosson is a senior associate professor at the Division of Business Administration.

Research focused on broad studies of market development and expansion of biogas solutions, for example analysis of the conditions for Sweden to reach the 2030 goals.
Among other things, interest in new business models and the possible role of bio-fertilizer for the expansion of biogas solutions.
Research leader for RA4.

Senaste från Mikael Ottosson

Wisdom Kanda

Research leader

Wisdom Kanda is a docent at the Division of Environmental Technology and Management (MILJÖ) and head of the Unit for Sustainable Development and Strategies (HUS) at Linköping University.

Wisdom’s research focuses on understanding under what conditions biogas solutions can be implemented in various socio-economic contexts.

He is the project leader for IP4 and RA4.

Latest from Wisdom Kanda

The products and services of biogas solutions give rise to various societal effects and through their multi-functionality, they usually have a broader and positive impact compared to the alternatives.

When evaluated against broader frameworks such as the UN’s sustainability goals, Sweden’s environmental goals, or wide multi-criteria analyses, biogas solutions turn out particularly well. A label that is close at hand is the decathlete of sustainability. Moreover, biogas is the only fuel that has the prerequisites to contribute to so-called negative emissions, which is explained by the fact that emissions from manure and organic waste are avoided. Capture and use of carbon dioxide can further contribute. However, there are many other alternative fuels that also have good climate performance.

Looking beyond climate impacts, biogas solutions also provide benefits like improved sanitation, better local environment, supply of renewable plant nutrition, strengthened food and energy security, improved sustainability performance for the products of industries produced by biogas, and more.

A continued challenge is to effectively communicate or demonstrate the knowledge about the societal effects of biogas solutions into how they can contribute to private and public organizations’ fulfillment of goals and strategies for, for example, climate, sustainability, and circular economy where too often biogas solutions are missing and their potential is not utilized.

Biogas solutions can also play a role in the development of a sustainable and resilient energy system by increasing the possibilities for so-called sector coupling. If the systems for gas, electricity, and heat are interconnected and conversions between them can occur, the opportunities for system gains related to moving and storing energy increase. Such a connection is about when there is a lot of electricity, it can be utilized through hydrogen production which is then used for methanization of carbon dioxide to produce biomethane.

Maria Johansson

Research leader

Senior associate professor at the Division of Energy Systems (ENSYS) and Director of doctoral studies for the national interdisciplinary Graduate School in Energy Systems.

Within BSRC, Maria is the research leader for Research Area 5 “Sustainability effects of biogas solutions.”

Her research includes energy system analyses focused on the transition to a sustainable and resilient energy system. The focus is on energy efficiency, energy savings, and conversion to renewable energy sources, primarily within industrial processes and supply chains, sector coupling, and flexibility for a climate-neutral and resilient energy system, as well as barriers to and driving forces for a successful transition. Within BSRC, she researches the sustainability assessment of biogas solutions, biogas solutions linked to regional development, and the role of biogas in a flexible energy system.

Senaste från Maria Johansson

Niclas Svensson
niclas.svensson@liu.se

Det finns fem Innovationsprojekt inom Biogas Solutions Research Center(BSRC) som leds av forskare kopplade till centrumet. De partners och medlemmar som är kopplade till BSRC har ett nära samarbete med forskningsledare och doktorander som är knutna till Linköpings universitet och Sveriges lantbruksuniversitet.
Innovationsprojekten ska bidra med kunskap om biogaslösningar genom att fördjupa sig mer specifikt inom ett delområde och med fokus på praktiskt genomförande. Innovationsprojekten är projekt som pågår cirka två år.

Regional biogas strategies to achieve sustainability goals

Jonas Ammenberg och Stefan Anderberg.


Agriculture biogas solutions as enablers for the transition to fossil-free industry

Jonas Ammenberg och Karin Tonderski.


Breakthrough for biogas solutions in the Nordic forest industry – production and use

Hans Andersson och Madeleine Larsson.


Global dissemination of the Nordic model for biogas solutions

Roozbeh Feiz och Wisdom Kanda


The role of biogas solutions for a flexible and sustainable energy system in different regional settings

Åke Nordberg och Emma Lindkvist

 

Biogas solutions, 6hp

Research training is conducted within the Biogas Solutions Research Center.

The purpose of the course is to provide broad knowledge about the development of biogas solutions, from process technology and biochemical processes to biogas from a system perspective, societal effects, and conditions for implementation.

For further information, please contact: Karin Tonderski

Here you can find more information on how to apply for the research training starting in the fall term of 2023.

 

Upcoming publications of 2023