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Biogas at IFAT 2010: Energy from organic waste

(PresseBox) (München, ) • In addition to agricultural biomass, organic waste from local authorities, business and industry can also be used to generate biogas
• The international environmental technology trade fair IFAT 2010 will provide a comprehensive forum for this promising recycling method

The generation of biogas is an option that is as yet hardly used in the waste disposal industry. According to the professional association Fachverband Biogas, around 4,500 biogas plants will be in operation in Germany by the end of 2009. About 95 percent of them use agricultural substrates such as slurry, dung and bioenergy crops. Locally collected organic household refuse or organic waste from food production have so far only been used as energy sources to a very limited extent.

One reason for this is the greatly fluctuating composition of these input materials, which pose a particular challenge to fermentation technologies. In addition date-expired food and other food waste has to be sanitised before fermentation, which means additional costs. Nonetheless a number of companies which also offer fermentation procedures for local and industrial biowaste have become established in Germany and other, mainly European, countries. Many of these companies will be making use of the international environmental trade fair IFAT to present solutions in September 2010. Since the last event in 2008, all kinds of technologies and services concerned with biogas have formed a new focus for the well-established environmental technology trade fair held in Munich.

In addition to generating electricity and heat via combined heat and power stations, over the past few years refining biogas to the same quality as natural gas has appeared as a further method of obtaining energy from waste. The appeal here is that the refined biogas is fed directly into the natural gas grid and so can reach every location and every application via the pipeline. According to the Fraunhofer Institute for Wind Energy and Energy System Technology (IWES) in Kassel, more than 80 biogas refinement plants were in operation in Europe in November 2009. Of these, according to the German Energy Agency (dena) in Berlin, 44 plants supplied public gas grids with refined biogas.

Although Sweden has the most biogas refining plants in the world, the greatest feed-in capacity is in Germany. One reason for this is that in Sweden – as in some other European countries – the refined biogas is often used directly as fuel, without the intermediate feed-in stage. However, according to dena, Germany has the highest statutory buyback price for bio natural gas in Europe, followed closely by Austria.

A market incentive which also has an effect on biowaste gasification plants. A current example is the biogas plant in Altenstadt in Schongau. The plant, which went onstream in 2001, refines commercial waste such as out-of-date food, residual materials from cheese and milk dairies, slaughterhouse waste and organic waste. Before the waste materials arrive in the wet fermenter they go through a sanitisation stage, in which heat destroys any bacteria that might damage the process. The plant has been producing a crude biogas which is converted into electricity locally in five combined heat and power stations, producing a total output of just under two megawatts. A third of the heat cogenerated in this process is used for sanitising the input material and another third for heating the fermenter. If there is no buyer, the rest is released into the environment via heat exchangers. Partly to stop this loss, which has negative economic and ecological effects, Erdgas Schwaben GmbH, based in Augsburg, together with Ökopower GmbH, based in Altenstadt, built a complementary plant, in the summer of this year, which refines the biogas to bring it up to a methane content of around 98 percent. From 1,200 cubic metres of crude gas per hour, 750 cubic metres of bio-methane is generated, which is fed into the natural gas grid. The plant has been working in test operation since November 2009, with the official start-up planned for early summer 2010.

The Berlin sanitation department (BSR) wants to use waste from compost bins as an energy source in the future. The 60,000 tonnes of organic waste collected from the city’s households should produce around 2,200 tonnes of organic natural gas via two fermenters, using a dry fermenting process followed by gas purification, which will then be fed into the grid. The plan is to source the equivalent quantity elsewhere to fuel the BSR refuse collection vehicles which run on natural gas. This would prevent emissions equivalent to 2.5 million litres of diesel from being released into the environment. The project is currently at the planning approval stage.


In 2008 IFAT set a new record for attendance, with 2,605 exhibitors from 41 countries and around 120,000 trade visitors from 170 countries. IFAT 2010, the 16th International Trade Fair for Water – Sewage – Refuse – Recycling, takes place at the New Munich Trade Fair Centre from 13 to 17 September 2010. It is the world’s most important trade fair for innovations and new developments in the fields of water, sewage, refuse and recycling. The event offers an attractive exhibition programme featuring state-of-the-art technology and a broad range of professional services for water, sewage and refuse management.

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Messe München GmbH

Messe München International (MMI) is one of the world’s leading trade-fair companies. It organises around 40 trade fairs for capital and consumer goods, and key high-tech industries. Each year over 30,000 exhibitors from more than 100 countries, and over two million visitors from more than 200 countries take part in the events in Munich. In addition, MMI organises trade fairs in Asia, Russia, the Middle East and South America. Via its six subsidiaries – in Europe and in Asia – and 64 foreign representatives actively serving over 90 countries, MMI has a worldwide business network. Environmental protection and sustainability are key priorities in all MMI’s operations, at home and abroad.