Catalytic upgrading of biogas to biomethane

Production of biomethane from biogas without CO2 emissions

In 2022 the European Commission gave a strong response to the energy crisis caused by the conflict in Ukraine, in order to limit dependence on Russian gas: with the REPowerEU plan, included in the PNRR funds, the aim is to finance investments and key reforms to diversify energy supply sources in Europe. Among others, biomethane plays a primary role: the goal set for 2030 is in fact to achieve an annual production in the EU of 35 billion cubic meters, against the current 3 billion cubic meters per year (2021 figure, EBA). The second objective is 95 billion cubic meters by 2050. The challenge facing European countries is therefore considerable.

Among the actions promoted by the REPowerEU plan, there is investment in research and innovation for the development and consolidation of new biomethane production technologies. It is in this context that our process of direct production of biomethane from biogas by catalytic method, developed in recent years, finds its application.

The solution we developed and patented is a process for the catalytic production of biomethane starting from biogas.

The process consists in directly treating the purified biogas, without any previous separation or upgrading, in a newly designed multistage catalytic reactor. The Sabatier reaction takes place inside it: the CO2 contained in the biogas reacts with the hydrogen, converting into methane and water. The necessary H2 is produced by an electrolysis stage, powered by renewable energy.
The choice of the best configuration for the reactor, and of the optimum between the operating conditions and the catalyst formulation, has been the key for obtaining a highly pure biomethane. The unit also makes optimal use of the high exothermicity of the reaction, to considerably reduce the energy consumption required to carry out the process.

The result is twofold:
- CO2 is no longer a waste, but a resource: with this technology there are no carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere;
- efficiency is 100%, as all the carbon contained in CO2 is used to produce highly pure CH4, which can be injected into the national gas grid or used as fuel for vehicles. The current averaged efficiency is approx. 50%.

The technology has been validated in the laboratory and is very promising. In fact, a concession from the National Agency for Inward Investment and Economic Development, owned by the Italian Ministry of Economy, has been recognized in 2023, within Smart&Start projects. We are currently in the process of building a prototype for demonstration in an industrially relevant environment.

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