The Italian model for agricultural biogas based on the principles of Biogasdoneright® is becoming an international case study. The state of play of the Italian biogas sector was presented last week in Rome at Biogas Italy, the annual event organized by the Italian Biogas Consortium (CIB). On this occasion, the Biogasdoneright® model promoted by CIB and adopted by an increasing number of Italian biogas plants was presented and widely discussed by an international panel of experts. This model is based on the use of feedstock obtained from agricultural by-products and double cropping, which do not compete with food and fodder crops. Thus it represents a sustainable intensification of agriculture which also contributes to the growth of renewable energy. A recent study conducted by Dutch Ecofys, Wageningen University and the Italian Centre for Animal Production (CRPA) has confirmed the effectiveness of Biogasdoneright® and a team of international experts will evaluate the exportability of this model in other countries. “The production of biogas and biomethane with the priciples of Biogasdoneright® has positive outcomes on the increase in food and fodder production, as well as quality, nutrients and biodiversity of the soil, thanks to the used of digestate”, the study affirms. One of the pillar of this model is the principle of double cropping: a winter cover crop is grown after the main summer crop, with no additional irrigation or fertilization, thanks to the favourable climatic conditions of the northern Italian regions where it is currently applied. The study has demonstrated that the combination of double cropping and innovative agronomic techniques such as minimum tillage, fertirrigation and precision farming, is a model that could be successfully replicated.
Considering those results, a team of five international experts coordinated by professor Bruce Dale of Michigan University was constituted at Biogas Italy, with the aim of assessing the replicability and the scalability of this approach in different international contexts. The team is composed by Jorge Hilbert IINTA Argentina, Jeremy Woods Imperial College of London, Tom Richard, Penn State University (USA) and Kurt Thelen, Michigan State University (USA). Since our foundation ten years ago, we are promoting a pathway for sustainable development of anaerobic digestion by using by-products and double crops, so that farmers can continue to produce cost-competitive and quality food and fodder, said Piero Gattoni, CIB president. The interest of international experts to study scientifically what we have been experimenting with daily practice in our farms, is a strong motivation for us to continue with this path. According to the promoters, Biogas and biomethane produced with the principle of Biogasdoneright® are also carbon negative, thanks to the increase in soil carbon, as demonstrated by an LCA analysis conducted by CIB and CRPA on a sample of four biogas plants. The study estimated that the electricity produced by these plants generates CO2 emissions in a range between -335 and 25 g CO2eq per kWh.
Over 1,500 anaerobic digestion plants are active in Italy, 1,200 of which are agricultural biogas plants, with a cumulative installed capacity of around 1200 MW, equal to a potential of 2.4 billion cubic meters of biomethane. By 2030, the potential of biomethane in Italy may be as high as 8.5 billion cubic meters, enough to cover 12-13% of the current natural gas consumption. In addition, the biogas-biomethane sector has a high job intensity, with 6.7 workers per MW installed and this has generated over 12,000 stable jobs in Italy. The first Italian regulation for the use of biomethane in transports, grid injection and cogeneration was introduced in December 2013. However the injection into the national natural gas grid is not fully regulated yet, and a new decree is pending, which should define the rules for the access to incentives, a minimum annual target and an effective accountability system.
Read the complete study: Assessing the case for sequential cropping to produce low ILUC risk biomethane
This post is based on an edited version of a text by CIB Italian Biogas Consortium.