mcloudy.png
Tuesday August 16th, 2022 8:45AM

Europe's farmers stir up biogas to offset Russian energy

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

SONCHAMP, France (AP) — In lush fields southwest of Paris, farmers are joining Europe’s fight to free itself from Russian gas.

They'll soon turn on the tap of a new facility where crops and agricultural waste are mashed up and fermented to produce “biogas.” It's among energy solutions being promoted on the continent that wants to choke off funding for Russia's war in Ukraine by no longer paying billions for Russian fossil fuels.

Small rural gas plants that provide energy for hundreds or thousands of nearby homes aren't — at least anytime soon — going to supplant the huge flows to Europe of Russian gas that powers economies, factories, business and homes. And critics of using crops to make gas argue that farmers should be concentrating on growing food — especially when prices are soaring amid the fallout of the war in Ukraine, one of the world's breadbaskets.

Still, biogas is part of the puzzle of how to reduce Europe's energy dependence.

The European Biogas Association says the European Union could quickly scale up the production of bio-methane, which is pumped into natural gas networks. An investment of 83 billion euros ($87.5 billion) — which, at current market prices, is less than the EU's 27 nations pay per year to Russia for piped natural gas — would produce a tenfold increase in bio-methane production by 2030 and could replace about a fifth of what the bloc imported from Russia last year, the group says.

The farmers around the Paris-region village of Sonchamp feel their new gas plant will do its bit to untie Europe from the Kremlin.

“It’s not coherent to go and buy gas from those people who are waging war on our friends,” said Christophe Robin, one of the plant's six investors, who farms wheat, rapeseed, sugar beets and chickens.

“If we want to consume green (energy) and to avoid the flows and contribution of Russian gas, we don’t really have a choice. We have to find alternative solutions,” he said.

Biogas is made by fermenting organic materials — generally crops and waste. Robin likened the process to food left too long in a container.

“When you open it, it goes ‘Poof.’ Only here, we don’t open it. We collect the gas that comes from the fermentation,” he said.

The gas from their plant could meet the needs of 2,000 homes. It will be purified into bio-methane and injected into a pipeline to the nearby town of Rambouillet, heating its hospital, swimming pool and homes.

“It’s cool,” said Robin. “The kids will benefit from local gas.”

Like in the rest of Europe, the production of bio-methane in France is still small. But it is booming. Almost three bio-methane production sites are going online every week in France on average and their numbers have surged from just 44 at the end of 2017 to 365 last year. The volume of gas they produced for the national network almost doubled in 2021 compared to the previous year and was enough for 362,000 homes.

France's government has taken several steps to quicken bio-methane development since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. The industry says bio-methane met almost 1% of France's needs in 2021 but that will increase to at least 2% this year and it could make up 20% of French gas consumption by 2030, which would be more gas than France imported last year from Russia.

The Sonchamp farmers took out 5 million euros ($5.3 million) in loans and received a 1-million-euro state subsidy to build their plant, Robin said. They signed a 15-year contract with utility firm Engie, with a fixed price for their gas. That will limit their ability to profit from high gas prices now but ensures them a stable income.

“We’re not going to be billionaires,” said Robin.

Workers are finishing the construction and the plant is almost ready to be connected to the network. Piles of agricultural waste — wheat husks, pulped sugar beets, onion peelings, even chicken droppings — have been prepared to be fed into the giant bubble-like fermentation tanks.

Winter barley specially grown to make gas will make up about 80% of the 30 tons of organic material that will be fed each day into the plant.

Robin insists that the barley won't interfere with the growing of other crops for food, which critics worry about. Instead of one food crop per year, they'll now have three harvests every two years — with the barley as extra, sandwiched in between, Robin said.

In Germany, the biggest biogas producer in Europe, the government is cutting down on crop cultivation for fuels. The share of corn permitted in biogas facilities will be lowered from 40% to 30% by 2026. Financial incentives will be provided so operators use waste products such as manure and straw instead.

Germany is estimated to have over 9,500 plants, many of them small-scale units supplying rural villages with heat and electricity.

Andrea Horbelt, a spokeswoman for the German biogas association, said the production of bio-methane could be doubled in a matter of years but also wouldn't be cheap.

“Using biogas for electricity is more expensive than solar and wind, and will always remain so,” she said.

At the end of their gas-making process, the Sonchamp farmers will also get nitrogen- and potassium-rich wastes from the fermenters that they'll use to fertilize their fields, reducing their consumption of industrial fertilizer.

"It’s a circular economy and it’s green. That pleases me,” Robin said. “It’s a superb adventure.”

___

Jordans reported from Berlin.

___

Follow all AP stories on the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine,

Read AP stories on climate change issues at https://apnews.com/hub/climate.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP World News, AP Business, AP Business - Corporate News, AP Business - Industries, AP Business - Agriculture, AP Business - Utilities
© Copyright 2022 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Europe's farmers stir up biogas to offset Russian energy
In lush fields southwest of Paris, farmers are joining Europe’s fight to free itself from Russian gas
2:31AM ( 14 minutes ago )
Defenders inside Ukrainian steel mill refuse to surrender
Ukrainian fighters battling Russian forces in the tunnels beneath Mariupol’s immense steel plant are refusing to surrender in the face of relentless attacks
2:22AM ( 24 minutes ago )
Live updates | UK: Russia aims to take Mariupol before V-Day
The British military believes Russia wants to take the port city of Mariupol and its vast steel mill before its marks Victory Day on Monday
2:11AM ( 34 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
FDA restricts J&J's COVID-19 vaccine due to blood clot risk
U.S. regulators are strictly limiting who can receive Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine due to a rare but serious risk of blood clots
12:29AM ( 2 hours ago )
Hill bargainers seek Ukraine aid deal, COVID aid in question
Lawmakers are working toward a compromise on President Joe Biden’s $33 billion Ukraine aid request that they hope to have ready as soon as next week
12:09AM ( 2 hours ago )
Asian stocks follow Wall St down as rate hike worries grow
Asian stocks have followed Wall Street lower as fears spread that U.S. interest rate hikes to fight inflation might stall economic growth
12:06AM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Business
Amazon union head, others meet at White House on organizing
Vice President Kamala Harris and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh met Thursday with union organizers at the White House as the administration looks to boost unionization campaigns
6:36PM ( 8 hours ago )
DoorDash sales soar in Q1, but costs grow as well
DoorDash sales soared in the first quarter as it added new users
5:24PM ( 9 hours ago )
Boeing expected to move headquarters from Chicago to DC area
Boeing plans to move its corporate headquarters from Chicago to the Washington, D
2:44PM ( 12 hours ago )
AP Business - Corporate News
DoorDash's sales soar in Q1 but its costs also grow
DoorDash sales soared in the first quarter as it added new customers, putting to rest any question of whether delivery demand will continue as the pandemic wanes
6:35PM ( 8 hours ago )
Anti-discriminatory bank law getting update for modern era
The three major U.S. banking regulators say they plan to rewrite many of the outdated regulations tied to a decades-old banking law
4:54PM ( 9 hours ago )
NASA climate research scientist wins World Food Prize
A NASA climate research scientist who has spent much of her career explaining how global food production systems must adapt to a changing climate was awarded the World Food Prize at a ceremony at the U.S. Department of State in Washington
12:00PM ( 14 hours ago )
AP Business - Industries
Some evacuated from Mariupol; US lawmaker Pelosi visits Kyiv
The United Nations is working feverishly to get civilians out of the bombed-out ruins of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol
9:03AM ( 4 days ago )
Pelosi meets with Ukraine president in Kyiv
U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi has met with Ukraine’s president during a visit to the country’s embattled capital, Kyiv
2:39AM ( 5 days ago )
Some Ukrainians evacuated from ruins of Mariupol steel plant
Some Ukrainian women and children have been evacuated from a steel plant that is the last defensive stronghold in the bombed-out ruins of the port city of Mariupol
2:07AM ( 5 days ago )
AP Business - Agriculture
OPEC+ opens oil taps gradually as Russian war roils markets
OPEC and allied oil-producing countries are gradually increasing the amount of crude they send to the world
8:54AM ( 17 hours ago )
Live updates | Global donors pledge $6.5 billion for Ukraine
Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki says that $6.5 billion has been raised at an international donors’ conference in Warsaw to provide humanitarian help for war-torn Ukraine
8:45AM ( 18 hours ago )
Live updates | New gas pipeline reduces dependence on Russia
A 500-million-euro ($530 million) Lithuanian-Polish natural gas transmission pipeline was inaugurated Thursday, completing another stage of regional independence from Russian energy sources
8:00AM ( 18 hours ago )
AP Business - Utilities
Defenders inside Ukrainian steel mill refuse to surrender
Ukrainian fighters battling Russian forces in the tunnels beneath Mariupol’s immense steel plant are refusing to surrender in the face of relentless attacks
2:22AM ( 24 minutes ago )
Live updates | UK: Russia aims to take Mariupol before V-Day
The British military believes Russia wants to take the port city of Mariupol and its vast steel mill before its marks Victory Day on Monday
2:11AM ( 34 minutes ago )
Growing African mangrove forests aim to combat climate woes
In a bid to protect coastal communities from climate change and encourage investment, African nations are increasingly turning to mangrove restoration projects, with Mozambique becoming the latest addition to the growing list of countries with large scale mangrove initiatives
2:07AM ( 39 minutes ago )
Asian stocks follow Wall St lower as rate hike worries grow
Asian stocks have followed Wall Street lower as fears spread that U.S. interest rate hikes to fight inflation might stall economic growth
1:54AM ( 52 minutes ago )
SpaceX brings 4 astronauts home with midnight splashdown
SpaceX has returned four astronauts from the International Space Station with a midnight splashdown off the Florida coast
1:54AM ( 52 minutes ago )