Biogas refers to a mixture of different gases produced by the breakdown of organic matter in the absence of oxygen. Biogas can be produced from raw materials such as agricultural waste, manure, municipal waste, plant material, sewage, green waste or food waste. Biogas is a renewable energy source. Biogas is produced by anaerobic digestion with methanogen or anaerobic organisms, which digest material inside a closed system, or fermentation of biodegradable materials.This closed system is called an anaerobic digester, biodigester or a bioreactor.
A biogas plant is the name often given to an anaerobic digester that treats farm wastes or energy crops. It can be produced using anaerobic digesters (air-tight tanks with different configurations). These plants can be fed with energy crops such as maize silage or biodegradable wastes including sewage sludge and food waste. During the process, the micro-organisms transform biomass waste into biogas (mainly methane and carbon dioxide) and digestate.
Landfill gas is produced by wet organic waste decomposing under anaerobic conditions in a biogas The waste is covered and mechanically compressed by the weight of the material that is deposited above. This material prevents oxygen exposure thus allowing anaerobic microbes to thrive. Biogas builds up and is slowly released into the atmosphere if the site has not been engineered to capture the gas. Landfill gas released in an uncontrolled way can be hazardous since it can become explosive when it escapes from the landfill and mixes with oxygen. The lower explosive limit is 5% methane and the upper is 15% methane.
High levels of methane are produced when manure is stored under anaerobic conditions. During storage and when manure has been applied to the land, nitrous oxide is also produced as a byproduct of the denitrification process. Nitrous oxide (N2O) is 320 times more aggressive as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and methane 25 times more than carbon dioxide.
Methane in biogas can be concentrated via a biogas upgrader to the same standards as fossil natural gas, which itself has to go through a cleaning process, and becomes biomethane. If the local gas network allows, the producer of the biogas may use their distribution networks. Gas must be very clean to reach pipeline quality and must be of the correct composition for the distribution network to accept. Carbon dioxide, water, hydrogen sulfide, and particulates must be removed if present.
Biogas can be used for electricity production on sewage works, in a CHP gas engine, where the waste heat from the engine is conveniently used for heating the digester; cooking; space heating; water heating; and process heating. If compressed, it can replace compressed natural gas for use in vehicles, where it can fuel an internal combustion engine or fuel cells and is a much more effective displacer of carbon dioxide than the normal use in on-site CHP plants.