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Germany has very few sources of energy of its own and is particularly dependent on Russia for its supply of natural gas. Every year, the country consumes around 900 terawatt hours of natural gas, of which more than 800 terawatt hours need to be imported. Russia supplies just under 39 percent of this gas, namely 315 tera-watt hours. For a while now – and not just since the outbreak of the crisis in the Ukraine – energy experts, politicians and the private sector have been looking at ways to reduce Germany’s dependency on natural gas imports. A recent study carried out by experts working at the Fraunhofer IWES (Fraunhofer Institute for Wind Energy and Energy System Technology) has identified a number of ways of doing this, including the use of biomethane as a substitute for natural gas. RETERRA already has such a scheme up and running.
In 2007, the Federal Government set a new target for 2030: 108 terawatt hours of energy should be produced by Germany itself from biogas. Whilst the country is still a long way from this goal, experts agree that biogas could at least help compensate for the decline in German natural gas production. In line with this plan, RETERRA, one of the leading companies for processing and recycling organic residual materials in Germany, opened up a new anaerobic digestion facility at its compost plant in Coesfeld on 30 April.
In addition to this, Gesellschaft des Kreises Coesfeld zur Förderung regenerativer Energien mbH (GFC) has built a plant to process the biogas generated. GFC’s plant cleans the biogas by removing any unwanted substances and then concentrates the methane content of the gas from ca. 56% to over 97%. The result is a gas of the same quality as natural gas which can then be fed into the gas network. Both plants use state-of-the-art technology and are making a valuable contribution towards the country’s ‘energy turnaround’ (i.e. to change energy supply from fossils to renewables). Prior to this, organic waste had been processed in a conventional composting facility at the Coesfeld-Hoeven composting plant owned by RETERRA West GmbH & Co. KG. Against the backdrop of the increased demands resulting from the energy turnaround and the need to reduce the country’s dependency on energy imports, the company decided to change the way it processed biomass. As part of this new concept, RETERRA West GmbH & Co. KG has built an additional biogas plant with a throughput capacity of 40,000t which will primarily be used for processing organic waste from organic waste bins.
The rest of the organic and garden waste will continue to be used, together with the digestate from the biogas plant, to produce compost at the Coesfeld composting plant. This facility has the capacity to handle 68,000t. The plant’s composting facility has also been completely refurbished and adapted to fulfil the latest emission requirements set out in the ‘BImSCHG’ (Federal Emissions Act). All of the biogas produced at the biogas plant is sold to GFC. Plans are for this facility to produce more than 20 million kilowatt hours of gas every year.
At present, there are very few plants in Europe that are able to produce gas from waste that is of the same quality as natural gas. This might be about to change.
The biogas processing facility, built by GFC at the same time, cleans the biogas and removes CO2, sulphur and water to produce a clean gas mixture of the same quality as natural gas. This gas is then fed into Thyssen Gas’ overhead pipe directly reducing the demand for natural gas and, as a result, the dependency on energy imports and the geopolitical issues connected to this. At present, there are very few plants in Europe that are able to produce gas from waste that is of the same quality as natural gas. Thanks to their investment, RETERRA and GFC are making an important contribution towards producing a climate-friendly supply of energy for the future.
“Producing biogas of the same quality as natural gas can help immensely to reduce our dependency on Russia to supply us with energy.“
Aloys Oechtering, Managing Director of RETERRA
RETERRA, a fully owned REMONDIS subsidiary, accepts, processes and recycles organic raw materials using them to produce high quality products. Such material includes plant and tree cuttings or compostable household waste, from which quality-assured composts are produced. In addition, RETERRA also accepts organic residual waste, such as food waste, which – depending on its suitability – is used in the biogas plant or to produce animal feed. The company’s portfolio is rounded off with sewage sludge fertiliser for agricultural use and environmentally friendly fuels produced from biomass.