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Liquified Natural Gas (LNG), or liquefied methane, can be refined from crude biomethane produced in agricultural settings from manure and other plant residues.

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Germany is not a big producer of biomethane, but this could all be about to change. A small-scale pilot plant in Darchau near Lüneburg has just gone into production. It provides a model for how farmers could produce CO2-neutral bio-LNG directly from their own biogas and market and use it as an alternative, low-carbon fuel for heavy-duty transport (HGVs-heavy goods vehicle).

Liquified Natural Gas (LNG), or liquefied methane, can be refined from crude biomethane produced in agricultural settings from manure and other plant residues. The plant developer Ruhe Biogas worked with Agrarvereinigung Darchau and an Italian technical partner Ecospray Technologies to develop the pilot, with 55 percent of their investment costs coming from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The blueprint plant was based on a standard module suitable for 500 kW biogas plants, the most typical size in Germany, and is able to produce three tonnes of bio-LNG a day. The scheme could be especially useful for units that have turned 20 and are thus no longer eligible for feed-in tariffs.

"In principle, any agricultural business can become a bio-LNG production facility," says Kunibert Ruhe, chairman of Agrarvereinigung in an article in SolarServer. "The new liquefaction module can be retrofitted to operators of existing biogas plants who are looking for a follow-up concept to feed-in tariffs for the conversion of biogas into electricity."

The potential market for bio-LNG is large as HGVs-heavy goods vehicle produce 30 percent of all CO2 emissions in Germany, while only accounting for only 6 percent of all vehicles on German roads. "Only about 30 percent of farm manure is currently used in conventional biogas plants," says Ruhe. "If we were to process 100 percent of it into bio-LNG in the future, we could supply about 37 percent of the truck fleet."

The company has developed a turnkey solution for farmers along with the technical and economic model for supplying bio-LNG to regional filling stations, based on a supply contract the petrol station company Q1 Energie. In this way, bio-LNG production could be scaled-up relatively easily in the Federal Republic, providing a new revenue stream for biogas plant operators.