20 YEARS of EnviTec Biogas – milestones in the history of our company
We’re celebrating 7,300 days of EnviTec Biogas and letting you share in the milestones achieved by our innovative team: from the adoption of the EEG to our first business trip abroad, and including all of the challenges great and small we have faced over the last two decades. We’d like to thank you, our valued customers, who make this success possible for us – each and every day. Thank you for placing your trust in our team! We’re particularly proud of and thankful for our worldwide EnviTec family: you're simply the best and the cornerstone of our success!
Only two years after the first EEG, EnviTec Biogas gets off the ground. Olaf von Lehmden, Kunibert Ruhe and Tobias Schulz form EnviTec Biogas GmbH with a total of 17 members of staff. The local grid feed-in subsidies for green power, gradually phased in by the EEG since the year 2000, prepare the way for biogas – the green all-rounder. Biogas becomes an attractive source of revenue and EnviTec Biogas begins its success story as a company.
Mayonnaise as an input? Not a great idea. One of our first plant operator customers did use this cold sauce alongside wet manure and nursery green waste, but this then led to a huge increase in hydrogen sulphide. Well, necessity is the mother of invention: our young team decided to add iron chloride into the process and – hey presto, the instrument readings quickly normalised! As an added bonus, the detailed investigations conducted as part of this process meant that we accidentally discovered a cure-all for external desulphurisation that we’re still using today.
Nasty odours? Not in our plants! These results impressed many of our future biogas plant operators, following our development of a mixing method for solids, including the necessary push floor, in an initial 836 kW pilot plant. Consequently, this means we are then able to complete the first biogas plant rated at over 1 MW: this gives us a competitive edge plus valuable experience for our later major projects – like Güstrow.
A plant can only optimise the value chain in the agricultural sector end to end if it keeps running perfectly. This is why we set up our Service portfolio as soon as possible. We’ve kept stocks of parts likely to fail on hand ever since, consigning longer periods of downtime to history. We currently provide biological and technical support services to plants with a total installed capacity of roughly 150 MW and 422 MW, respectively.
The new EEG is adopted, introducing a biomass bonus. No one was really sure what this would amount to, so we offered our customers a right to cancel their contracts if the bonus was set at less than 4 cents. This was an obvious advantage for customers, as EnviTec was able to use the time until the EEG entered into force, and make a start on the project planning and approval phases. When the expected bonus then eventually arrived, the plant construction phase could start immediately. Today, the ‘von Lehmden Planungsbüro’ handles all of the approval planning work and also provides support to our customers for many other applications requiring regulatory permits.
Big, bigger, Anklam: after just two years in business, we added a real flagship project to our portfolio with this biomass energy park – the largest in Europe at the time. This project also brought with it a large influx of new colleagues and a start of construction we’ll never forget: snow in April and the intervention of a monuments authority that decided to comb over the entire site for Bronze Age relics. Today, the 2.7 MW EnviTec plant in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, run as part of our Own Operations, produces roughly 23 mio. KWh of both, heat and electricity every year.
Island debut: the start of construction for the first biogas plant on the North Sea island of Pellworm literally broke new ground for us and our customer, a consortium of island farmers. Not least because this project featured some especially unusual and challenging logistics. Although the ferry, heavily laden with concrete and other materials, narrowly avoided grounding at one point, things were certainly made much simpler by having sand for filling available from the neighbouring mud flats.
The first operational management contract with a bonus-malus arrangement in EnviTec’s 20-year company history was concluded with an operator from Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. This shrewd businessman, who owned a 500 kW plant, took the ambitious step of offering EnviTec a bonus if plant performance could be maintained at no less than 92 percent. If plant output dropped below this level, we would have to pay him compensation (the ‘malus’). He couldn’t have imagined that he would have to pay us several thousand euros in bonuses over a period of just two years. But he was a good sport and bore his losses with composure – but also something of a wry grin on payment day.
Following on from ‘Big, bigger, Anklam’, NawaRo Bioenergie AG awarded us the construction contract for what was then the world’s largest biogas park, boasting a total electrical output of 20 MW, split into 40 standard 500 kW units. Covering the same area as 20 football pitches, the site in Penkun, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, was home to around 200 tradespersons from 30 companies during construction – and we coordinated them all.
In 2006, we packed our bags and headed off to the Netherlands Geographically speaking, our first plant outside Germany was a truly pioneering move. Today we are represented in 16 nations worldwide by our own companies, sales offices, strategic partners and other joint ventures.
‘Deutsche Börse welcomes EnviTec Biogas’: on 12 July, the EnviTec delegation met up outside the stock exchange in Frankfurt. A truly historic day. After a brief bit of posing for the waiting photographers and camera crews, it was off to the trading floor. On this particular morning, the delegation only had eyes for the big board in the room, which duly displayed the first share price for EnviTec Biogas AG, stock symbol ‘ETG’, after only a few minutes of trading. Our loyal shareholders have supported us right up to the present day. We thank you for your confidence in our power to innovate!
R&D – putting theory into practice. Thanks to our Own Operations, we’ve been doing this since 2007. Alongside construction and maintenance of biogas plants for our customers, we also operate our own biogas plants. In Germany, these now amount to 67 plants with an installed total output of 65.6 MW and we also run 9 plants totalling 10.7 MW abroad. The Own Operations success story, which began with just 1.8 MW, continues to add new chapters every year.
Three is a magic number. Alongside the major projects in Anklam and Penkun, another gigantic undertaking was added to our well-filled order books in 2008: Güstrow. This was the site of the world’s largest plant for biogas upgrading to natural gas quality. Following its completion, the BioEnergie Park comprised six modules of 1,667 cubic metres in size – the equivalent of 3.5 MW of output in each case. As a result of our purchase, Güstrow is now one of the plants run by EnviTec’s Own Operations. Following extensive conversion work, the largest biogas plant built in Germany to date will supply significant quantities of purified bio LNG for greener heavy goods traffic from early 2023.
Thanks to record orders on hand, there was really only one thing for the EnviTec team to do in 2008: get packing! Which was how our team managed to complete the first plant in Czech Republic. EnviTec was also the first company to deploy the organic Rankine cycle (ORC) process here, which converts waste heat into power, so as to increase energy yields by a further 15 percent. Beneficiaries of this waste heat-to-power to date include a kindergarten and a school, who are supplied with district heat from the 500 kW plant in the Czech city of Lipa.
Every year, an international jury of technical editors from the German agricultural trade journal DLV honours the sector’s best innovations with its ‘Machine of the Year’ award – and this year, EnviTec’s FeedControl is a winner. Our sophisticated sensor and control system adjusts feeding intervals variably to match the biogas quantities required. The output control system adjusts feeding to ensure that the CHP unit can operate continuously at its highest performance level. This means plant operators can operate their CHP unit permanently at maximum output while simultaneously reducing their acreages by up to 10 percent.
And EnviTec continues to grow: by 2009, we have already completed seven biogas plants with a total connected electrical load of 12.6 MW, which include an industrial biogas plant directly adjacent to the L’Oréal production facilities in Libramont. This biogas plant meets all of the L’Oréal plant’s heating needs while feeding excess energy for around 4,000 households into the public grid. And EnviTec is also impressing Italy with its plant technology: just four years after entering the market, EnviTec is now one of the top five system suppliers in Italy. Che successo!
The new decade is ushered in by partings and new beginnings: as co-founder Kunibert Ruhe steps down from the company, we welcome engineer Jürgen Tenbrink as our new CTO. EnviTec also rockets past the 200 MW milestone in terms of overall installed electrical output – a truly inspirational achievement!
For our customers in the food industry, ‘from waste to energy’ is becoming an important topic. Organic residues (biowastes) are an outstanding option as substrates for biogas production. This not only reduces the total volume of waste: the procedure also reduces the overall costs of production while protecting the environment. The first EnviTec plant operated exclusively on food waste is commissioned from us by our customer Premier Foods in Wales. Completed in 2010, the plant supplied around 10 percent of the power that the factory needed for its food production.
Welcome to the boom year! So far in the year 2011, our company posts the highest revenue figures in its history. And there’s plenty more going on: the energy market is undergoing radical change and we’re there at the outset with our new business unit ‘Energy’. Above all, we’re aiming to give our customers more options for their energy marketing, while working on the drafting and implementation of tailor-made generation plans, and taking on all of the customer’s operational risk, including financing. This is the first time we’ve been able to offer the entire value chain from ‘renewable to radiator’ – a business model that the German Energy Agency (dena) honours in the following year as ‘Biogas Product of the Year 2012’.
High, higher, HighGester – the shiny new digester from EnviTec’s Innovation Lab doesn’t just look good but also improves the production process for biogas. Seems pretty simple, even when it isn’t. The familiar components used for decades, namely the prefabricated tank and flexible roof, have been adjusted to match fermentation requirements and continuously improved. The centrepiece of this is the HighGester, which is characterised by offering three times as much volumetric loading plus extreme process stability. And it’s not just in digestion where the EnviTec team is incredibly innovative: in 2011, EnviTec’s own FeedControl process receives another accolade in the shape of the Innovation Prize from the German region of Münsterland. Bravo!
Ground-breaking tech for the next decade: with EnviThan, we enter the gas upgrading 2.0 era – these modern, hollow-fibre membranes from Evonik Industries are especially efficient at purifying the raw biogas generated in biogas plants. This high-purity biomethane can then be fed directly into the natural gas grid. Nor is this only good for the environment: plant operators also benefit financially, thanks to the recently amended EEG for upgraded biogas. And the innovation is clearly popular with the market: since completing our EnviThan pilot plant in Sachsendorf in 2012, we have constructed a total of 60 EnviThan plants worldwide and we also won the German Agricultural Innovation Prize in the launch year!
Just in time for our 10th anniversary celebrations, our total electrical load connected to the grid breaks through the 300 MW barrier – and we also make an initial foray into the US market. Donald Jensen, owner of Lawnhurst Farm in the state of New York, is impressed by our expertise. His 541 kW biogas plant is still in operation today, with its primary inputs being feed waste, wet dairy cow manure and grease/fat residues from his agricultural operations.
Innovative, technologically superior and sustainable: these were the three accolades given to the 541 kW EnviTec Biogas plant ‘Lawnhurst Energy, LLC’ by the American Biogas Council (ABC). Operated by the Jensen family in New York State, the plant was ordered in EnviTec’s 10th anniversary year, entered production in 2013 and won the award in 2014. Nor was ABC the only organisation it impressed: the plant also created a string of positive headlines in the US trade media and even encouraged others to take the plunge.
One example was dairy farmer Christopher Noble, who followed in the Jensen family’s footsteps to plan a biogas plant with EnviTec with a nominal electrical output of 400 kW at his farm in Linwood, New York. This would become our second milestone in the US market!
Back home, there was plenty to celebrate as we once again won the German Agricultural Biogas Innovation Prize. After EnviThan, it was the turn of our intelligent control unit for demand-driven performance control to win in 2013. The precise logging and control of a gasholder is a basic requirement for ensuring that adequate volumes of gas can be supplied to a co-generation plant. Conventional fill level gauges proved incapable of providing enough data about the percentage fill of a gasholder. Yet our software solution can regulate gas production and gas storage plus the operation of the co-generation plant so that balancing energy can be offered to the market with high forecast accuracy – which is a basic precondition for the transition to green energy.
热烈欢迎 – rèliè huānyíng! – means ‘Welcome!’ in Chinese and we certainly feel very welcome as we make our entry into the Far Eastern market. Chinese shipbuilder China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC) and its 500 normal cubic metre EnviThan gas upgrading plant paves the way for our business in China – and seven further projects have since followed in the People’s Republic to date.
Lying down beats standing up: although the two EnviThan gas upgrading plants in Sachsendorf and Köckte feature vertical arrangements of the SEPURAN Green modules from Evonik, a new generation of membranes is now installed as a horizontal cartridge system in Forst (Brandenburg). Since then, this improvement has offered our customers an even more cost-effective solution, as this means we can now install more than double the number of membranes in just one container.
The year 2015 gets off to a successful start with the commissioning of our first biogas plant in Japan: this 250 kW biogas plant located near to the major Japanese city of Osaka is run entirely on biowaste. Nor is our new project with local partner RENAGEN just a milestone for the region itself – it also breaks new ground in the field of power generation from residues such as supermarket and restaurant waste. As part of the REMATEC Corporation, a leading residual material recycling company in Japan and south-east Asia, our RENAGEN partnership is one with a future!
Another milestone is celebrated this year in the UK, as the first EnviThan gas upgrading plant (in Ipsden, Oxfordshire) is connected to the grid and starts supplying gas to around 2,150 households. Alongside EnviThan, there’s also huge demand for EnviWaste in 2015: this system for converting residues into biogas proves to be especially popular in France. In Lorraine, EnviWaste is now deployed in both Meuse and Créhange with the aim of digesting waste into biogas. In Créhange, the ‘Humus Innovation’ plant is run exclusively on waste, without any inputs from agricultural residues or energy crops. The 500 kW plant, whose biogas plant was constructed by EnviTec, is located on the premises of operator and waste management company Terralys.
Innovative energy solutions needed? Together with a subsidiary of Dong Energy A/S, we construct the world’s first plant that uses enzymes to convert untreated waste into green energy. The method, which is used to treat unsorted household waste with the aid of a specialised formulation involving the use of enzymes, was developed and tested in a pilot plant operated by the company in Copenhagen. EnviTec supervises construction of the digestion plant near Manchester both above and below ground as a turnkey project for the customer through its subsidiary EnviTec Biogas UK. At this time, the 6 MW plant is EnviTec’s third-largest construction project in the company’s 14-year history. Complementing our established UK market, we are also making further inroads into central Europe: our contract for the construction of a new 998 kW biogas plant in Nigrita, Central Macedonia, marks the first project in Greece in our order book.
A safe pair of hands for 30 MW of biogas power – and peace of mind for the Greven-based energielenker GmbH, who entrusted their 40 biogas plants to our care in April 2016. Alongside our standard biological and technical services, the service package in this master agreement also includes a full range of aftersales business services. Here we provide our customer with comprehensive repowering options, since expansions, optimisation and improvements to flexibility are the be-all and end-all when it comes to giving existing plants a new lease of life from both a technical and business perspective.
Another year, another award: this year, it’s our ‘Drive Biogas’ business model that is awarded the first prize from the German Energy Agency (dena) in its Biogas Partnership of the Year competition. With this model, we are offering the market a product that turns organic waste into ready-to-use bio CNG – a green fuel for gas-powered vehicles. This also offers plant operators alternatives for biogas plants whose subsidies are expiring. This system converts plants into rural filling stations that provide gas-powered vehicles from the surrounding area with environmentally friendly fuel.
Environmental awareness is also growing in China. Compressed gas for eco-friendly drivers is now already on offer at several filling stations in the eastern Chinese port city of Yantai. In 2017, we’re now supplying one of these with deliveries of biomethane from two 1,000 Nm³/h EnviThan gas upgrading plants!
Precise analysis with ultra-modern equipment – offered by our first lab in Germany. After the opening of the company’s first lab in Verona (Italy) in 2015, the laboratory based at the head office in Lohne now also offers a full range of services from a single site. This investment in our own, ultramodern lab tech gives EnviTec’s customers access to analyses that are efficient and time-saving: initial results from a sample are available to the company’s experts in just a few hours. In 2022, our network expands from Italy and Germany to include our first French lab!
The new year also brings with it another first for France: following up on our first EnviThan plant in 2017, we now deliver a high-pressure compressor. Made by BAUER KOMPRESSOREN, this piston compressor compresses the upgraded biomethane from 9 to 64 bar and is therefore a perfect fit for our made-to-measure plant model. This means that the biomethane produced in the 340 Nm³ EnviThan plant in Étréville can be fed directly into the >60-bar grid managed by local network operator GRTgaz.
“Our EBITDA for the year rose from EUR 24.6 million to EUR 27.3 million.” While it might sound a little boring expressed in these financial reporting terms, this was actually our company’s best result in its history – and definitely a reason to celebrate! Alongside this fantastic result, strong demand for biogas and gas upgrading plants in France gave us another reason to raise our glasses. Since 2018, no less than nine plants now feed into the French grid – and this was just the beginning!
Doing very well in Denmark! Following our entry in 2015, Denmark has since proven its worth as a key growth market for our EnviThan gas upgrading technology. With Glamsbjerg, Svendborg, Hammel, Sindal and Hjerm, we’ve successfully completed five commissioning projects for EnviThan plants!
And China’s also going from strength to strength: in 2019, our fifth plant goes online, after Minhe I and II, Yingtan and Dingzhou. The 1,570 Nm³ biogas plant in the province of Shanxi, 500 km south-west of Beijing, is run by our customer Shanxi, Shenmu New Energy Co. Ltd, with maize stover silage, turkey litter and liquid dairy cattle manure. The biogas produced is compressed to bio CNG in a second process step and sold directly from the plant premises. In this way, our customer is meeting the growing demand for CNG in the Chinese market.
Our innovative ‘Drive Biogas’ business model continues to bear fruit: together with our partner BAUER KOMPRESSOREN, our first project is an expansion to a CNG filling station in Hürth, North Rhine-Westphalia. First opened in 1995, this natural gas filling station needed a new compressor. With a technical equipment building already in place and the need to integrate an existing compressor, quite a bit of planning was involved – but the effort was worth it. Today, up to 1,300 green fill-ups can be made per month!
Steering a path through the crisis. Something we’ve clearly managed to do, after three months of the pandemic. While many mid-size companies have been forced into short-time working, we’ve mastered the many Covid challenges. We’ve even hired new team members, expanded our Saerbeck site and built a new Electrical Engineering department. Our staying power is also appreciated by our customers: in just the first ‘Covid year’, we complete no less than three biogas upgrading projects as part of our market entry into Estonia. Following the commissioning and successful performance test runs for two EnviThan gas upgrading plants in Tartu and Vinni within the short space of six months, Estonian customer AS EG Ehitus promptly orders its third plant from EnviTec Biogas.
A watershed moment for climate mitigation efforts in transport: With the purchase of Bioenergiepark Güstrow, the largest biogas plant built in Germany so far will be ‘greening’ the heavy goods vehicles segment by supplying significant quantities of upgraded bio LNG for trucks from early 2023. News of this conversion into Germany’s first integrated bio LNG liquefaction plant travels fast in the market – the first contracts are quickly signed with customers who will offer our climate-neutral LNG. And all thanks to the entry into force of the Renewable Energy Directive (RED II), which states that those placing fuels on the market must now cut their GHG emissions by 25 percent by 2030 compared with 1990 levels. And we’re only too happy to help them!
Nor do we rest on our innovative laurels: Güstrow is soon followed by the formation of BALANCE EnviTec Bio-LNG GmbH, as we achieve yet another milestone in the decarbonisation of the transport sector. This joint venture is planning a bio LNG liquefaction plant near Berlin. Our services are also powered by innovation. We pass certification audits for both Germany and Italy with flying colours. The French subsidiary of EnviTec Biogas also receives official notification of its outstanding dedication to quality by obtaining the French ‘Qualimétha’ quality mark. Nor are these certificates just a feather in our cap – they also encourage all of us at EnviTec to pursue our winning strategy of being a reliable, high-quality partner in France, Germany, Italy and the wider world.
Our jubilee year gets off to a flying start, with four orders in the USA plus the completion of our sixth and seventh biogas plants in China. Alongside our fully planned eighth plant near Tunliu district, projects #6 and #7 in Lankao and Qinxian now also complete their commissioning stages successfully. Even though EnviTec is not actually ‘there’: both plants are started up and then – for the first time in the company’s history – EnviTec Biogas completes all of the commissioning remotely via a video conference call! The perfect solution, given the travel restrictions due to the pandemic.
And the celebrations continue! Our company anniversary year is also marked by winning the Business Prize at the 15th Biogas Innovation Congress in Osnabrück. We receive this accolade in recognition of our sustainable ‘From waste to green fuel’ business model and the investments we’ve committed to the advanced biofuels business segment. After cancelling two Christmas parties and summer fetes, we’ve been celebrating these successes to the full in July. It was a time to say a big thank you – for the last 20 years and all of their challenges, achievements, innovations and team spirit! We’ve been celebrating our 20th as a staff-only summer event. But we’re already looking forward to organising a big party to remember in 2027 – our silver jubilee is just around the corner!