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Assessing the total theoretical, and financially viable, resource of biomethane for injection to a natural gas network in a region

O'Shea, Richard, Wall, David M., Kilgallon, Ian, Browne, James D., Murphy, Jerry D.
Applied energy 2017 v.188 pp. 237-256
biogas, carbon dioxide, cattle manure, energy, energy costs, grass silage, greenhouse gases, models, natural gas, prices, profitability, Ireland
The total theoretical biomethane resource of cattle slurry and grass silage in Ireland was estimated using the most up to date spatially explicit data available. The cattle slurry resource (9.6PJ) was predominantly found in southern and north-eastern regions while the grass silage resource (128.4PJ) was more concentrated in western regions. The total biomethane resource of cattle slurry and grass silage was equivalent to 6% and 76% of total natural gas consumption in Ireland in 2014/15, respectively. A sequential optimisation model was run to determine where to source cattle slurry and grass silage from, for 42 potential biomethane plant locations in Ireland. The concept was to maximise plant net present value (NPV) and develop locations in order of plant profitability. The impact of plant size, grass silage price, volatile solids ratio (VSR) of grass silage to cattle slurry, and incentive per unit energy of biomethane was assessed in 81 separate scenarios. The results indicated that total biomethane production from plants with a positive NPV ranged from 3.51PJ/a to 12.19PJ/a, considerably less than the total resource. The levelised cost of energy (LCOE) of plants was also calculated and ranged from ca. 50.2€/MWh to ca. 109€/MWh depending on the various plant parameters. LCOE decreased with increased plant size and ratio of grass silage to cattle slurry. The relationship between grass silage price and LCOE was assessed. In the median scenario (33€/twwt grass silage, VSR of 4, 75,000twwt/a plant size, 60€/MWh incentive) cattle slurry was sourced within 6.4km of the facility while grass silage was sourced within 10.5km of the facility. A high level assessment of the carbon dioxide intensity of biomethane from the median scenario was conducted and showed a potential greenhouse gas reduction of 74–79% when compared to natural gas.