Beca, EECA, Firstgas Group and Fonterra are backing a study to assess the potential of raw biogas by treating it so it becomes a possible substitute for natural gas.

Eleanor Grant, Industrial Sustainability Lead at Beca said, “We know there is real potential for biogas generation in New Zealand and this study is the next piece in the puzzle. It will help build a picture of the scale of this opportunity and what a successful biogas industry for New Zealand would look like.”

Angela Ogier, Group Strategy and Corporate Development Manager at Firstgas Group explained, “There is real potential that biogas could be refined and injected into existing gas pipelines, providing a means for gas users to decarbonise their operations without having to change out boilers or appliances. This would make biogas an efficient and cost-effective solution to lowering carbon emissions.”

Biogas is made from decomposing organic material from the likes of landfills, wastewater treatment plants and food manufacturing. The biogas is then upgraded to biomethane which is a direct replacement for natural gas.

“Currently biogas production is fragmented and does not operate in a cohesive network,” said Ms Grant. “This study is a positive step forward. For the first time we will engage widely with industry to develop a robust understanding of the biogas market potential, key regulatory, costs and technical barriers, and the ways to address these issues,” she added.

Tony Oosten, Manager Energy & Utilities at Fonterra said, “We know we have a part to play in New Zealand’s transition to renewable energy and that by working in partnership we can achieve more.

“Our history in operating the largest anaerobic digestor in the southern hemisphere at our Tirau plant provides us with experience we can share to help with the development of the biogas industry,” Mr Oosten added.

Andrew Caseley, CEO at EECA said, “Biogas is one of several options that may help to decarbonise our energy use. As a co-sponsor, EECA looks forward to seeing the outcomes of the study and evidence to support the role that biogas may play in New Zealand’s energy mix”.

While the study will be driven by the four sponsors, they will be calling on the expertise of other industries and groups to help build the potential supply scenarios, understand the barriers to production and use and assist in developing actions and prioritising them into a roadmap.

Beca, EECA, Firstgas Group and Fonterra are jointly co-funding the study. Lion is providing in-kind technical support to the study, sharing their experience using biogas generation technology in their breweries across Australasia. The results of the study will be released in Q2 of 2021.