Biomethane continues growth

begreen Posted By begreen, Jul 5, 2006 at 4:04 PM

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  1. begreen

    Mooderator 2.
    Staff Member

    Nov 18, 2005
    South Puget Sound, WA
    The New York Times had a lead business article on this yesterday. Cow power is growing.
    Here is a related article describing the growth of biomethane in Sweden. A world leader in energy independence, "Biomethane powers more than 8,000 transit buses, garbage trucks, and 10 different models of passenger cars in Sweden. The country has more than 25 biomethane production facilities and 65 filling stations"
    California has started a partnership with Sweden to develop bioenergy, especially biomethane.

    I wonder how much methane is generated by my septic tank?
  2. cbrodsky

    Member 2.

    Jan 19, 2006
    Millbrook, NY
    I posted something along these lines to the Ash Can but at the end of a very off topic debate so I'll repost here :)

    My wife (also a chemical engineer) used to work for a company that did just this. They worked with a variety of sites around the country in TX, CA, NY, OH… The technology is all there but as I understood it, the profits came from three components. First, you get paid to solve a problem for the facility that is spewing uncontrolled methane discharges. A few years back, a dump in the virgin islands was literally exploding and bursting into flames, for example. It’s a hazzard and a source of pollution. Second, you get tax credits for generating renewable energy and you sell these on the market to polluters that don’t want to upgrade their controls and instead will subsidize business generating green power. Finally, you sell the methane - as a relatively low BTU fuel, it’s not all that valuable. In plant design economics, methane by products were often so low value (heat and economic value) compared to other components that you could neglect them as being within the noise when optimizing the plant.

    The problem here is take away any one of those three and the business model falls apart pretty quickly. Additionally, the extraction of the gas relies on fairly expensive vacuum and pressure swing adsorption processes that are not very cost-effective. The gas is rich in CO2 and water - both of which must be separated. So, it’s doable in the right scenario, but not quite as easy as it sounds.

    So, what happened to her job? This small company was bought by Enron at an outrageous price with no due dilligence despite very shaky fundamentals and huge liabilities brought on by their CEO that had problems keeping his pants zipped and was involved in 3 lawsuits on that subject. You know the rest… She saw the writing on the wall about 2 months before it ended and got a new job in a new industry just in time. Looking back, we should have shorted Enron the day they purchased this company at the price they did and would have made a killing… hindsight is 20/20.

    I wonder how much that model has changed at current gas prices - much higher than the late 90s.

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