Energy: biogas now claims to be competitive in France

Posted January 12, 2023, 6:41 pmUpdated January 12, 2023, 6:56 p.m

Biogas can enter a new era. Until now, limited by an unfavorable regulatory framework and perceived problems, the sector hopes to use the context to develop: the decline in Russian gas supplies is forcing the country to reconsider its sources, and the interest of industrialists is growing.

France Gaz (the new name of the French Gas Association) proposed on Thursday to double production targets for renewable gas in France to 20% of gas consumption by 2030 (up from the current target of 10%). “We are extremely confident that the sector will be able to achieve this ambitious goal,” said Jean-Marc Leroy, president of France Gaz.

According to the sector, depending on the hitherto subsidized feed-in tariff, the economic model of anaerobic digestion would become competitive thanks to the increase in the price of natural gas. This is especially the case with TotalEnergies, which announced this Thursday the commissioning of BioBéarn, the largest methanization plant in France, with a maximum capacity of 160 GWh, equivalent to the annual consumption of a city of 32,000 inhabitants. the size of the first place holder so far.

Tanker has a worldwide production target of 20 TWh in 2030 (versus a previous target of 6 TWh).

An evolving model

It proposes a virtuous model and offers farmers and cooperatives the opportunity to buy their own products (corn husks, cattle and pig slurry, etc.) while also buying them with digestates (emissions from the methanation process) at a competitive price. , alternative. to fertilizers whose prices have exploded in recent months. “France is an exception, the origin of the sector is agriculture. But scaling up requires larger units.

After 50 GWh, production costs decrease, “says TotalEnergies, whose customer demand is increasing, especially in heavy industries that want to decarbonize their activities. TotalEnergies, which bought Fonroche Biogaz two years ago, believes this and is ready to invest several billion euros in the coming years.

With six employees, BioBéarn could create around thirty indirect jobs, and TotalEnergies has 40-50 biogas projects in the pipeline in France. A plant has started operating in the United States, and another plant is being built here. TotalEnergies also has projects in India and Poland, where it is in the process of acquiring a company that should bring 18 new methanation plants. Markets vary greatly in terms of unit size (one unit in the US can generate up to 500 GWh) and lead times. BioBéarn, for example, was launched seven years ago when it took an average of 18 months for projects to come to fruition in the US.

Herein lies the problem. Even if the regulatory framework is already developed, public authorities are currently ill-equipped to respond to the increase in projects and hence the extension of delays.

A framework to be defined

The Renewable Energies Act has answered some of the long-forgotten appeals of the biogas sector. Guaranteed biogas purchase prices are thus revalued and indexed to inflation. And targets have been set to reduce implementation times to less than two years. The term of applications was also limited by the decree published last September.

But biogas has more to offer. A decree obliging producers, for example, to integrate a certain dose of biogas, has not yet been published. “The sector needs visibility, especially as it has been strongly affected by the economic crisis. We need guarantees, financial commitments, even if it means starting with more modest goals,” said Cécile Frédéricq, chief representative of the French company Gaz Renouvelables, who expects certain provisions to be adopted for the adoption of electricity for gas as well.

“The law recognizes the possibility of concluding direct contracts for the supply of biomethane with the customer in the form of a PPA for electricity, welcomes Jean-Marc Leroy. We hope that this will be on the market as soon as possible. Such a proposal will provide long-term price visibility. »

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