In just ten years, the growth rate has been astonishing. As of the end of January, there were 514 biomethane injection points in France, mainly obtained from agricultural waste. There are only 365 in 2021, 123 in 2019, 17 in 2015 and just one in 2012. The industry will host BIO360 in Nantes on Wednesday 8 February and Thursday 9 February.
“Today, the French department has become a model for the whole of Europe”, GRDF General Manager Laurence Poirier-Dietz emphasizes that he is the distribution network manager that connects most of the facilities.
2% of gas consumption
Biomethane is even the only renewable energy source that is better than what is included in the multi-year energy planning law (PPE). “By the end of 2021, we have reached the target set for 2023 and by the end of the year we will be at the level expected for 2028”, The GRDF boss explained that he recalled that 1,100 pending projects had been listed. According to her, the acceptance of local residents is much greater than that of wind power, even large-scale projects are more complicated.
Today, with an installed capacity of 9 TWh, it accounts for about 2% of France’s natural gas consumption. Enough to meet the needs of the residents of the metropolises of Lille, Lyon and Nantes, or 36,000 buses running on the BioNGV.
It has broad support from farmers, who see it as a welcome income supplement. As a fertilizer, biogas residues (i.e. residues from the methanation process) can also limit the use of chemical fertilizers. In short, by replacing natural gas, biomethane meets many criteria, starting with its contribution to reducing CO2 emissions and the fact that 70% of the components used to build the methanator are manufactured in France, 70% of which, 95 % Made in Europe.
Many local elected officials have also advanced the logic of a circular economy, using biomethane on school buses and trash cans. In rural areas such as Vendée, Cher or Orne, it already meets 10% of the gas demand. In Lyon, it accounts for a quarter of heating consumption in municipal buildings since last year.
Substitute something imported from Russia
The industry now believes it is possible to supply 20% of national consumption by 2030, double the target set by officials. This is equivalent to the amount of natural gas imported from Russia before the Ukraine war. According to forecasts by network managers, renewable methane production could even meet all demand by 2050.
The potential is there, even if France, unlike Germany, chooses not to use specialized crops such as maize. In addition to agricultural residues, biogas can also be obtained from sludge from treatment plants or from landfills, where methane is evaporated from buried waste. Water and waste experts such as Veolia and Suez are interested in this topic.
Industrialists want to switch to green gas
Demand is on the rise. For manufacturers, biogas is considered a fast way to decarbonize their activities. It is sold at between €90 and €120 per MWh, which is again higher than current prices on the spot market (around €70/MWh), but well below the peak reached in late summer of more than €200 /MWh.
Most importantly, it allows companies to ride out this volatility at a predictable long-term cost. The just-passed bill to accelerate the development of renewable energy also plans to encourage direct supply agreements between large consumers and biomethane producers.
Arkema and Engie have just signed the first agreement of its kind. The chemist will buy him 3 GWh of biomethane per year for ten years to make his polymers. The molecules will come from 17 methanation units, many in Normandy, most of which are not owned by Engie.In the case of TotalEnergies, which has also increased its investment in the sector, it mentioned “40 to 50 projects in France” by 2030.
one point incentive adjustment
Still, the head of the department is not hiding some concern. “Not many new projects started and we risk cavitation from 2025”, Cécile Frédéricq, general representative of the French Renewable Gas Association, warned. Problematically, the regulatory framework is perceived as insufficiently incentivized and provides little visibility.
The general feeling is that public authorities remain focused on the goal of electrifying everything. Professionals have therefore been waiting for months for the publication of the decree implementing production certificates, which requires gas suppliers to include a certain percentage of biogas in their offers.