16 July 2009
Global perspectives: Biogas plant going up in Switzerland
By Cris Whetton
In Switzerland, construction started on a new biogas plant in Münchwilen, Thurgau. Fed by 30,000 metric tons of organic by-products a year from the meat industry, and biogenic waste from hotels and restaurants, the plant will supply 3,000 households with heat or 3,000 vehicles a year with methane. The system will cost $23 million (25 million Swiss francs). Responsibility for the development rests with Erdgas Ostschweiz AG, which has the support of the cities of Wil, St. Gallen, Winterthur, and Schaffhausen, the municipalities of Flawil and Uzwil, and of gas supplier Werdenberg Toggenburg AG. Currently occupying the site, an existing food recycling plant (Hunziker AG) will undergo a rebuild and an expansion so the fermentation process produces biogas, which can feed directly into the gas grid. The plant should be up and running in two years.
Meanwhile, a cornerstone laying ceremony occurred at the Ovcara farm outside the eastern Croatian town of Vukovar for the construction of what is currently the largest planned biogas production plant in Europe. The $42.3 million (€30 million) project has been initiated by the Vukovar-based Bionergija company, established by the local Vupik agribusiness and several Croatian and foreign entrepreneurs. The plant, which should be up and running by the end of 2010, should produce 10 MW of electrical energy and 11 MW of thermal energy per day. The Bienergija company said 700 metric tons of biomass should be available daily from agricultural crops on Vupik-owned arable land for the production of biogas. The plant will employ 200 people.
In Germany, Süd-Chemie AG and The Linde Group launched the production of “climate-friendly” biofuels based on lignocellulosic biomass. A pilot plant officially opened at Süd-Chemie’s research center in Munich-Obersendling. This pilot plant will use cereal straw to manufacture up to two metric tons of bio-ethanol fuel annually. The process developed by Süd-Chemie and Linde allows a manufacturer to produce biofuels, such as ethanol from plant matter containing cellulose, for wheat straw or maize straw, with the aid of enzymes created using biotechnological methods. While Süd-Chemie’s expertise lies in the sectors of biocatalysis and bioprocess engineering, Linde’s subsidiary, Linde-KCA-Dresden, offers experience in implementing chemical and biotechnological processes on a commercial scale. Compared with the first-generation biofuels already in use today, such as biodiesel made from rapeseed oil, these second-generation biofuels offer a significant improvement in terms of climate and energy balances. In addition, second-generation biofuels do not compete with the cultivation of either food or animal feed.
French manufacturer, Alstom, earned a $1.4 (€1 billion) contract for design and construction of a turnkey combined cycle gas-fueled power station for RWE Npower plc, at Pembroke, Wales. With a capacity of 2 GW, it will be the largest power station in the U.K., and will supply 3 million homes. For each of the five KA26-1 generating plants, Alstom will supply an advanced technology GT26 gas turbine, a three-stage steam generator, a compact steam turbine type STF30C, a hydrogen-cooled turbogenerator (TOPGAS), and an ALSPA control system. About 40% of the power generation system in the U.K. went up before 1975 and should undergo replacement in the short or medium term. The Pembroke plant is part of the plan of RWE Npower to replace its power infrastructure with newer and more efficient plant.
Cris Whetton is InTech’s European correspondent.