What is it?
Biomethane is a natural gas that is produced when organic matter is digested anaerobically. It has the same chemical properties as natural gas; however, biomethane is a renewable energy source, while natural gas, found deep underground, is not.
‘Processed poo’ – a revolutionary energy source
According to Simon Farris, who works as the renewable energy development manager for the water company Seven Trent, there is ‘lots and lots of power’ in poo that can be processed to provide biomethane.
Non-renewable energy prices continue to soar
With the recent Ukraine crisis causing a significant increase in the price of natural gas, and fears of a global energy shortage in the coming years, there is renewed pressure to identify and implement renewable energy solutions. Fortunately, the increase in natural gas and electricity prices has in fact led to a rise in biomethane production, as energy companies scramble to find new energy resources to satisfy ever-growing consumer demand.
Powering homes in Britain’s second city
Severn Trent, which is Britain’s second largest public water company, is the first organisation to this particular type of human waste to provide gas for homes. Its Minworth plant, which treats sewage produced by about 2.5 million people around the Birmingham area, can power up to 4,200 homes each year using 750 cubic metres of poo per hour. In next few years, biomethane could be used to power many thousands more homes across the country.
Biomethane – the solution to drastically cutting our carbon emissions?
According to researchers from the Western Washington University in the US, a biomethane powered engine emits approximately 95 percent less carbon than an engine powered by traditional fuels. Furthermore, the carbon emitted from biomethane powered engines is equivalent to the amount emitted naturally when waste is decomposed. Therefore, using biomethane for energy purpose would not result in an increase in carbon dioxide, unlike traditional sources.
Anaerobic energy – a more practical solution to non-renewable energy
Dr Cynthia Carliell-Marquet, a senior lecturer of the University of Birmingham, has said that anaerobic digestion has already been used for ‘a long time’ and is a more efficient solution for waste sewage than traditional methods. She also said that the UK’s energy supply will be more secure if energy companies can recycle more energy within UK borders.
More than 10,000 US homes now powered by poo
In Washington D.C, a water treatment plant has also been converting poo into renewable energy, powering 11,000 homes across the city and in the surrounding states of Virginia and Maryland.
Thousands of farms could use utilise biomethane in the coming years
In the US, more than 200 farms also convert manure into biogas comprising 40 percent carbon dioxide and 60 percent methane, although the US Environmental Protection Agency says about 8,000 farms in the country could utilise this system in the future.
The creation of a pioneering new energy chain
In essence, with biomethane energy, the electricity and heating used in our homes on a daily basis will actually be powered by the produce of what we consume through food and drink. As non-renewable energy continues to become more expensive and fossil fuels become scarcer, there will inevitably be a more intense and immediate focus on renewable sources in the years to come.
Fraser Ruthven is the Marketing Associate for the well-established London Drainage Facilities. Fraser is very keen to be involved with anything that eco-friendly and likes to keep up-to-date with all of the latest green innovations.