10,000+ Miles per Acre on Cellulosic Biogas

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Biopact reports that Salzburg AG has opened its first biomethane gas station, allowing owners of Compressed Natural Gas vehicles to use their blend of 20%.  This is the first retail station I have heard of selling a cellulosic-derived fuel to retail customers (are there others?)

Prospective Cellulosic Ethanol investors should take note… while cellulosic feedstocks are likely to supply much of our liquid fuels in the future (although not as much as we currently use), cellulosic ethanol is unlikely to have the field (so to speak) to itself.  Ethanol’s low energy density and difficulty of transport will be continuing barriers to its adoption as the cellulosic fuel of choice.  Also, biogas from anaerobic digesters and landfills is already used to generate electricity and fed into pipelines.  There are other contenders to displace ethanol as the heir-apparent to gasoline as well, such as 2,5-dimethylfuran (DMF), and ETBE as a substitute fuel additive.

While conventional gas vehicles can easily be modified to accept ethanol, that advantage may be outweighed (at least in some areas) by the advantage that biogas (after purification) is chemically identical to natural gas, and so there is no difficulty in shipping it through the existing pipeline infrastructure.  A vehicle conversion to compressed natural gas (CNG) costs approximately $2,000 to $4,000, although Salzburg AG is offering it for less than $1000, at which price the lower running costs for CNG should give a payback of only a few years.

While the 10,000-15,000 passenger vehicle miles per acre quoted are lower than those expected from switchgrass derived ethanol and even ethanol from corn (see this link for great graphic comparison), the lack of inputs makes grass-derived biogas much more sustainable than ethanol from corn, and the established market and infrastructure for natural gas will make biogas producers much less vulnerable (but not immune) to local fuel gluts.

This article at After Gutenberg makes much more detailed examination of the benefits of Bio-CNG.

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