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LIFE Methamorphosis project allows to obtain biomethane from organic waste

Sustainability and concern for the environment are fundamental priorities for public administrations, industry and citizens. The fight against climate change and air pollution calls for initiatives that help mitigate the effects of these global problems, which seriously affect the health of the population. On the other hand, the treatment of organic waste poses a challenge: this fraction has a great potential for use when properly separated at source.

An example of an initiative that uses the circular economy to meet these challenges is LIFE Methamorphosis, a project co-financed by the European Commission within the LIFE program, which promotes innovative technologies in the field of environment and climate change. The project is coordinated by Aqualia, and the partners participating in the consortium are the Metropolitan Area of ​​Barcelona (AMB), the Institut Català de l’Energía (ICAEN), FCC Medio Ambiente, Naturgy and SEAT.

LIFE Methamorphosis explores technologies to recover organic waste generated in both urban and rural environments, and convert them into a new resource, biomethane, a type of renewable natural gas that can be used as a vehicle fuel or injected into the gas network. This last option means being able to use it in any of the traditional uses of natural gas (industrial, residential, transport). The growth of the use of biomethane would mean a significant saving in air emissions of 9,500 tons of CO2 annually.

The main objective of the project is the fight against climate change. Biomethane is neutral in CO2 emissions, and guarantees a lower level of pollutant emissions (NOx, particles) compared to conventional fuels. In addition, its production reduces external energy dependence, since it is a locally generated energy.

The processes of decomposition of organic matter generate large amounts of biogas, which with 65% methane (CH4) is a good base to be used as fuel, always after being treated to increase this percentage until reaching levels of methane greater than 95%. At this time, already converted into biomethane, it is suitable for use in vehicles and injected into the gas network in accordance with European standards.

This technology makes possible the circulation of vehicles with a much cleaner fuel than fossil hydrocarbons, since each vehicle fueled with biomethane is neutral in terms of CO2 emissions throughout the cycle of obtaining and using the fuel (well-to-wheel). In addition, the process also allows waste treatment facilities to have high efficiency and lower levels of pollution, thanks to the 70% reduction in energy demand required in the process and the 80% reduction in emissions of CO2 compared to the latest systems implemented.

LIFE Methamorphosis has launched two prototypes, UMBRELLA and METHAGRO, which operate under this principle.

UMBRELLA is installed in the Ecoparc de Montcada i Reixac (Ecoparc 2), one of the waste treatment plants owned by the AMB, managed by FCC Medio Ambiente. This facility receives 100,000 tons of organic waste (selectively collected in the metropolis) per year.

In addition, it also manages 168,000 tons of the remaining fraction per year, which contains about 40% of poorly classified organic matter. The organic waste, after being separated in the plant, is introduced into a digester where it generates biogas, which is subsequently refined and converted into biomethane. Thanks to this project, 7,350 tons of organic waste from the metropolitan territory are being used to generate fuel every year.

In its final section, the prototype has a biomethane dispenser, where the two types of CNG vehicles dedicated to this pilot test can fill the tank:

• Light vehicle: SEAT León TGI and SEAT Arona TGI models (the only SUV model in the world with CNG technology), which currently perform durability tests with biomethane, consisting of the accumulation of 120,000 km of operation.

• Heavy vehicle: municipal waste collection truck, provided by the municipality of L'Hospitalet de Llobregat and FCC Medio Ambiente. This truck will undergo a one-week test, in which it will carry out its tasks operating exclusively with biomethane.

The other prototype of the LIFE Methamorphosis project, METHAGRO, is located in the Porgaporcs agri-food plant, owned by Ecobiogas, in Vila-sana, 35 km from Lleida. In this case, the raw material from which the biogas is obtained is the slurry. The objective of this prototype, managed by Naturgy, is to take advantage of these facilities by reducing their environmental impact, eliminating the risk of contamination of aquifers and using the waste in the form of slurries to make it a resource. The biogas generated naturally by slurries has a methane concentration of 67%, while the remaining 33% is CO2.

After being refined and converted into biomethane by the improvement process, the fuel is already suitable both to fill the tank of natural gas vehicles, and to be injected directly into the natural gas network.

Source: LIFE Methamorphosis

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