Germany was long considered the world leader in biogas. But the current tendering system, competition from other renewables on the energy market and the electrification of the transport sector now seem to be holding biogas back. Since its formation in 2002, however, EnviTec Biogas has never been one to sidestep a challenge. Early internationalisation of the company’s business operations proved to be a wise move for the North German company, putting all of its units on a broader footing while maintaining its vision of promoting renewable energy and the sustainable use of regional resources.
“This strategy is still paying off,” says company CFO Jörg Fischer, not least because of the persistent trend towards renewable energy sources, especially in electricity generation: according to Fraunhofer ISE, renewables accounted for 55 percent of net power generation in Germany in the first quarter of 2020. Onshore and offshore wind power was responsible for 37.7 percent of net power generation, with biomass making up 8.2 percent, just in front of third-placed photovoltaics. “While raw material costs mean that the energy generated by biogas plants is more expensive than wind or solar power, both biogas and biomethane are essential to achieving the ambitious climate goals set by the German Government,” Fischer continues—also stating that this can be done without the German EEG Act that has guaranteed feed-in tariffs for the last 20 years. In 2025, the subsidy period will come to an end for most biogas plants here in Germany. While many plants can of course continue to operate, sustainable strategies are required that must also be feasible for plant operators. With its EnviTec Energy unit and partner 2G, EnviTec Biogas can offer its customers innovative alternatives that literally power the production of carbon-neutral electricity, heat and fuel while also putting earnings into overdrive.
Another promising segment for EnviTec Biogas in the future is biomethane production and use, especially in the mobility sector. “Biomethane is easy to convert into CNG and LNG, and can then be used directly at the service station as a renewable source of vehicle fuel,” says Stefan Laumann, who heads EnviTec’s Gas Upgrading Department.
Alongside plant engineering as a foundational segment, service and energy, biomethane has really proven its worth in the company’s own operated plants. Fischer: “With 74 plants in Germany and abroad, this segment guarantees broad-based expertise in the use of advanced technologies and input materials while generating high levels of revenue—for many years now, in fact.” One milestone this year is the fitting of a photovoltaic system to the Forst plant run by EnviTec. Rated at over 700 normal cubic metres, this gas upgrading plant forms the centrepiece of the biofuel park where it is located. Since September 2014, this plant has fed around 65,000 megawatt hours of green energy into the local gas grid every year, supplying 4,000 households with renewable natural gas. The new PV systems will help to cover the energy needs for the gas upgrading and biogas plant: as a result, Bioenergiepark Forst will make significant reductions to its consumption of conventionally generated electricity. More biogas plants with photovoltaic systems could follow: with their high energy consumption, biogas plants with gas upgrading offer the perfect conditions for such projects.
“As a plant construction company and industry innovator, we are always sounding out all kinds of sustainable options to promote the integrated use of renewables in Germany,” Fischer concludes: “this also ensures that we are ideally placed to meet any challenges the market throws up in the future.”