Implementation of biogas plants in organic farming

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Information about Implementation of biogas plants in organic farming

Published on February 24, 2014

Author: Ecofys



This presentation shows some important steps towards the realisation of a biogas plant in an organic farm. It was held by Frank Hofmann, Consultant Bioenergy at Ecofys, during a Sustaingas workshop in Austria. Additional information is available on the website:

Implementation of Biogas Plants in Organic Farming, Feasibility & Technical Implementation Anja Haupt, RENAC Frank Hofmann, Ecofys Germany GmbH

Biogas Plants in Organic Farming: Technical and practical Implementation General requirements for Biogas Plants in Organic Farming Crucial economic parameter The SUSTAINGAS calculation model Survey with organic farmers Planning, constrution and running of a Biogas Plant in Organic Farming

Biogas Concept

Biogas as fuel

Organic vs. Conventional Biogas Divergences in: 1. Substrates 2. Holistic approach 3. Technical Requirements 4. Sustainability

1. Substrates Choice of Substrates in Organic Farming Farm fertilizer Residues from livestock husbandry: slurry, manure, liquid manure, straw EEG bonus >30% Co-substrates Residues from crop production Catch crops/ Clover gras Material from conservation areas and/or uncontaminated biological residues Additional purchases (e.g. through cooperations btw. farms)

1. Substrates Choice of Substrates (organic vs. Conventional) No/less cultivation of energy plants Utilization of residues from animal husbandry and residues accumulated through organic crop rotation Clover grass in organic farming ~20% of arable land Possible longer transportation distances less substrate area available than in conventional agriculture no food/area/land use competition

2. Holistic Approach

Crucial economic parameter Biogas plants in conventional agriculture Biogas plants in organic agriculture Crucial economic parameter to define the economic feasibility Costs of substrates Investment costs Operation costs Income from the production of electricity and heat Management skills of farmer - Higher investment and operating costs - Biogas plant has diverse effects and impacts onto farm - Holistic view becomes necessary

Feasibility of biogas plants in organic farming Feasibility for organic biogas production has to be considered within the context of the whole farm, and not only for the biogas plant not an isolated view onto biogas plant

Outputs - Digestate Biogas digestate as fertilizer „The incentive in building a biogas plant did not lay in the production of electricity, but in the fermentation from clover gras to an organic fertilizer“ -Hubert Miller, Bioenergie Schmiechen GmbH&Co.KG Additional nutrient source contributing to on-farm nutrient cycle, variable applicability and mobile N-source Odor-free production of digestate Increased fertilizer effectiveness improved nutrient availability in digestate Homogeinity of digestate (depending on feeding-in practices)

Feasibility of biogas plants in organic farming Increased yield and crop quality Biogas plant as plant producing fertilizer Catch crops have a monetary value as energy plants

Influencing factors, Biomass Biomass: Costs and risk of delivery Dependency on biomass Higher costs per kg DM in comparison to the conventional production of biogas High costs, whenever biomass has to be purchased additonally -Avoid additonal purchase of biomass – plan with realistic amounts according to plant size -Collective plants -If add. Purchases cannot be avoided: Isolation of delivery of biomass from fluctuating market prices; long-term contracts with other farmers, e.g. in exchange to fertilizer

Investment strategies according to plant size Small plants < 100 kW Advantages: - Few dependencies on biomass - Low transportation costs - Local utilization of heat Disadvantages: - High particular investment costs - Management responsibility lays with farmer himself - Little electrical energy efficency of CHP Recommended for: -Small farms -With (mainly) animal husbandry Strategies: -„Do-it-yourself“ concept - Simple turn-key concepts

Investment strategies according to plant size Medium-sized plants 100 - 500 kW Advantages: - Low peticular investement and operating costs - Higher electrical energy efficiency of CHP - Generating local employment opportunities Disadvantages: - Dependency from delivery of external biomass - Potential difficulties with the utilization of waste heat - Transportation costs Recommended for: - Medium-sized farms - Farms with a greater size of fields - Farms with a greater horticultural production Strategies: -Turn-key plants - Respective contracts with biomass-delivery - The import of conventional biomass for transition period

Investment strategies according to plant size Large sized plants > 500 kW Advantages: - Possibilities for utilization of gas: -Upgrading of biogas for grid integration -Flexible electricity production -Professional plant operator can be employed Disadvantages: - High investment costs - Financing concept necessary - Prolonged process of approving - Transportation costs - Cooperation agreements necessary Recommended for: - Several larger farms, neighboring organic farms - Possibility of cooperations Strategies: - Planning and design of an individually adapted plant

The SUSTAINGAS calculator Biogas plants should always be adapted to the local conditions and optimized in plant size and kind The SUSTAINGAS calculator allows individual calculations

Technical Requirements Due to special conditions of organic farming some technical adjustments become necessary Different composition of farm fertilizer (more solid manure) Higher amount of Lignin and fiber/cellulose in substrates due to cultivation of other crops Substrates with higher protein content, management of higher nitrogen contents in fermenters become necessary Generally smaller plant sizes

Practical experience: Interviews with organic farmers What do other farmers think? The SUSTAINGAS teamaquestioned 40 organic farmers Do you run or contribute to biogas plant? Country Yes, I run a biogas plant on another farm together with other farmers 5 BG 5 DE 15 DK 5 ES 5 PL 5 37% 48% Yes, I run a biogas plant together with other farmers on my farm No Interviewees AT Yes, I run my own biogas plant on my farm 5% 10%

Practical experience: Interviews with organic farmers Negative impacts Price of biomass input Feed in tarif for power Disruptions, Interruptions and Maintenance Failures and repairs Management and process understanding Insufficient Production of Gas Lack of gas production Investments Running time of CHP Running hour of CHP Availability of biomass To convert to organic farming Dry matter in plants Production of feedstuff Moderate power purchase Effeciency of CHP Harvest and transport of biomass Technology Starting problems and costs Sale of heat 0 1 2 3 Number of answers 4 5 6 7 8 9

Practical experience: Interviews with organic farmers Consideration of experiences of other farmers already in planning process

Practical experience: Interviews with organic farmers Consideration of experiences of other farmers already in planning process

Phase 1: Planning First considerations Calculation of possible revenues Analysis of individual requirements (e.g. compensation of power, financial resources, amount of substrate, location, utilization of heat) as basis for determining concept and size of plant and utilization of biogas Consider effort and financial expenditures for approving process Create a concept to keep costs for biomass as low as possible Create a concept to keep own power consumption as low as possible Include sufficient storage space for digestate

Phase 1: Planning Provision of biomass: Set long-term agreements with suppliers, if there are too little resources on own farm Organic Farmers: Supplying surplus biomass for biogas plant = Access to organic fertilizer in high quality Biogas-Plant operator: Create WinWin Situation Necessity of reliable provision of biomass: sufficient quantity available at fair prices

Phase 1: Planning Implementation of Biogas Plant also means a social project! Acceptance of suppliers, authorities, neighbours, neighbouring farms, media… necessary Select experienced and reliable partners for planning, constrution and consulting

Phase 2: Construction Directing substrates Consider expanded diameter and linearity of pipeline system, with short distances Foreign material Consideration of importance of sand discharge already in planning phase

Phase 2: Construction Digester Increased risk of floating film/layer due to higher protein content – one possibility to reduce risk is the implementation of higher digesters with a more narow diameter Multi-phase digester: less short-circuit current, optimized substrate treatement and handling Agitator: Correlation between costs of operation and quality Premium agitators as a result of higher mechanical burden Slow running process, adapted to viscious/ semifluid substrate

Phase 3: Running Control of biological process Due to higher protein content there are incrreased Sulfite and Ammonia values, constant controls become necessary

Phase 3: Running Utilization of Digestate Digestate has other characteristics than conventional liquid manure: - Different Dry Matter Content - Higher amount of fast available N to plants - Lower fiber amount - Less odor emission Storage basin and turnout technology need to be adapted: - Include sufficient storage capacity for digestate - Apply turnout technology with little nutrient loss - Separation? (Separation of the liquid and solid phase of digestate)  not yet researched.

Further technology options Apart of the „Standardconcept“ there is a number of divergent concepts for specific implementations: Plants with separate Hydrolyse step Dry fermentation process Plants without agitation technology Analyse concept and implementation, question practical references

Best Practice Example (1/3) Bioenergie Hallerndorf, Bavaria, Germany: Plant on commercial property built 2011 GmbH consists of 4 organic farmers (Ø4,5km distance) and Naturstrom ~540 kW (250kWel + 290kWth) Substrates: manure (~70%), clover grass (~30%) Electricity: 2,150,000 kWh /year (6,5% used for biogas plant, rest fed-in through EEG) Heat: 2,400,000 kWh/year (75% of heat is utilized (goal: 90%): 30% used for heating digesters, part of the rest also for drying units) Digestate: 5,900t/year (divided among providers - shareholders and neighbouring farms that feed-in)

Best Practice Example (2/3) Sophienhof, Brandenburg, Germany: Plant built in 2011 Farm size: 510 ha Crops: Greenland, cereal, fodder production Livestock: Dairy cows, pigs 195kW Substrates: Farm fertilizer (manure, slurry + cooperation with chicken farm in neighborhood), grass silage Electricity: 1.570.500 kWhel/a (100% fed-into national grid (EEG), plant demands high amount of energy, electricity needed for the plant still bought externally but provided by wind mill from 2014) Heat: 92% utilization of heat (in summer): Average per year: 50-60% heating of barn, 15-20% heat tanks of biogas plant Digestate: Utilization on areas that served as biogas substrate

Best Practice Example(3/3) Hofgut Räder, Bavaria, Germany: Plant built in 2009 Farm size: 105 ha Crop production: brewing barley, radish, mustard, buckwheat rest grassland Livestock: pigs ~510 kW (250kWel + 260kWth) Substrates: clover grass (~60%), manure (~35%), maize/cereal (~5%) Electricity: 2,150,000 kWh/a (10% own usage of biogas plant, rest fed-in through EEG) Heat: 2,000,000 kWh/a (100% utilization of heat: 5-10% own use (Biogas plant, housing, stalls, drying units), rest sale to local heat grid Digestate: Yield increase in amount and quality through digestate of about app. 20% (subjective impression)

Summary Biogas plants in organic farming should be seen within the system of organic agriculture Besides energy production, the increment of yield is another important part of the financial efficiency Biogas plants in organic farming need adapted technical concepts, that are accessible in a standardized way

Thank you for your attention! Frank Hofmann, Ecofys Germany GmbH

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