Waste Management In Action

Decarbonising Sweden with biogas: Hitachi Zosen Inova

Building off the success of its new biogas facility in Sweden, Hitachi Zosen Inova is committed to driving the country’s green transport sector transition.

Sweden has been producing biogas at municipal wastewater treatment plants since the 1960s.

After the oil crisis of the 1970s, biogas production expanded, with significant investment into research and development to reduce the country’s dependency on oil.

As highlighted by Smart City Sweden, several landfills started to collect and utilise biogas produced on site in the 1980s, an activity that expanded throughout the remainder of the decade.

Fast forward to today, and the European Biogas Association predicts that with the right investment, Sweden could phase out natural gas in transportation and replace it with 100 per cent biogas by 2030.

Nils Lannefors, Hitachi Zosen Inova (HZI) Business Development Manager Sweden, explains that biogas is one of the key pillars of Sweden’s green transport sector transition, in parallel with electrification, hydrogen and sustainable liquid biofuels.

“After the ban on landfilling waste in Sweden in 2005, regulations to introduce the separation of food and green waste fractions from municipal solid waste have been implemented, which made the biowaste substrates needed for biogas production available,” he says.

Lannefors adds that the political will to decarbonise the transport sector and make biowaste an important pillar of Sweden’s circular economy was crucial to one HZI’s latest projects – the design and construction of a new biogas facility in Jönköping.

The facility, which was commissioned earlier this year, receives regional biowaste and provides Jönköping city buses and waste trucks with biogas, as well as fertiliser for local agriculture.

When fully operational, the plant will reduce the region’s CO2 emissions by 15,000 tonnes per annum.

Jönköping first engaged HZI in 2015 to explore improved ways of converting organic household waste into energy and fertilisers.

At this point, the municipality had almost 10 years operational experience with its own wet anaerobic digestion (AD) plant, but struggled to achieve positive economic results due to high operational costs and low productivity.

After developing a business case, HZI started project development in 2017, before taking over municipal biogas activity in February 2019.

HZI’s business case stood out for a number of reasons, Lannefors says, namely that the advantages of its Kompogas technology were proven to be the most suitable fit for the municipality.

“HZI proposed their Kompogas dry AD technology which has lower water consumption and increased flexibility in terms of the substrates that can be treated in the process,” he says.

“We also presented an attractive financing procedure. Based on that, we qualified for the Swedish green investment support scheme and the bank loans of the Japanese banks involved.”

Biogas production has now begun, with a successful first delivery of compressed biogas to the facility’s off-takers.

“Nevertheless, the plant is still going through tests and adjustment processes in order to make it as efficient as possible, both in terms of biogas production, but also to have the operations as automated as possible,” Lannefors says.

BUILDING BIOGAS

Jönköping’s biogas production technology is based on HZI’s dry AD Kompogas technology as well as their proprietary BioMethan gas upgrading technology and follows a holistic approach.

“Kompogas is a robust, proven low OPEX technology with minimal water and power consumption as well as high availability,” Lannefors says.

“In the Jönköping plant most of the water required in the process is rainwater collected from the 1500 square metre roof structures.”

He adds that a common challenge for the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) of biogas projects is the integration of all the subsystems in the plant – waste bunkers, pre-treatment, digestors, gas bells, biogas upgrading and compressed biogas systems – to avoid bottlenecks and interface issues.

Additionally, particular attention must be payed to the instrumentation of the plant to allow for effective and autonomous operations when needed.

“HZI is an experienced EPC project contractor used to manage several suppliers from different countries through well-defined interfaces. The construction on site requires excellent coordination of both the construction works and the environmental, health and safety aspects,” Lannefors says.

“HZI has done around 75,000 working hours on site in Jönköping without any severe incident involving any workforce at the construction site, which is an excellent achievement.”

The plant’s design also ensures energy efficiency, with the excess heat from the biogas compressors re-used for the plant’s heating system and landfill gas used to heat digestors.

“The new biogas plant is located on an old landfill which is still producing landfill gas. This gas is being captured and burnt in a gas boiler for the heating of the digesters and for the winter heating of the process building and offices,” Lannefors says.

“Before the plant was built the landfill gas on this site was flared only to avoid methane leakage into the atmosphere.”

According to Lannefors, by treating the region’s organic waste to produce 100 per cent biogas for the transport sector, HZI is strengthening the local circular economy by delivering fuel for the local waste truck fleet as well as for the city’s buses.

This is increased further by local farmers using the facility’s liquid rest product as an ecological fertiliser, in line with Swedish and EU ambitions to reduce the use of synthetic fertilisers in the agricultural sector.

“HZI’s ambition is to continue to own and operate the new plant and continue to be part of the circular economy in Jönköping,” Lannefors says.

With the Jönköping Kompogas plant as a reference, along with long-term political support for future Swedish biogas production, HZI and its financing partners are committed to a new approach to developing, financing, building and operating new biogas production projects in Sweden.

Marc Stammbach, HZI Australia Managing Director, says he is excited about translating this overseas experience into a local context.

He adds that Biogas Opportunities for Australia, a 2019 report from ENEA Consulting, estimates that Australia’s total biogas potential is 103 terawatt hours, with the potential to avoid up to nine million tonnes of CO2 emissions.

“We can look forward to a biogas boom driven by source separation of food and green organics and green incentives. And the organics transformed into quality compost and nutrients to feed our soils,” Stammbach says.

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