News and insights Blog Understanding biogas: how to cut Scope 1 emissions with biomethane

Understanding biogas: how to cut Scope 1 emissions with biomethane

Biogas is not carbon-free. In fact, burning biomethane emits as much CO2 as fossil methane. So, why do we say it can help reduce emissions and put you on a net-zero pathway? The crux of the matter is the origin of energy – and where carbon comes from.

Written by Nils Holta and Alex Ruelas
Published on 11 July 2023
Written by Nils Holta and Alex Ruelas
Published on 07 July 2023

How does biogas reduce Scope 1 emissions?

Scope 1 considers all emissions coming from direct sources like factories, heat pumps, transport fleets, and other processes owned by a company. Hence, the fuel you burn in your own operations, including gas, falls under Scope 1. 

Biogas, in the simplest of terms, is methane of biological origin (for an in-depth explanation,  watch the webinar). It is chemically identical to natural gas – one carbon atom coupled with four hydrogen atoms. However, unlike its fuel cousin, it is obtained from the controlled decomposition of organic matter that is already part of the natural carbon cycle. 

As it grows, the organic material used to produce biogas – often called feedstock – captures CO2 from the air. When it is transformed into methane and finally burned for energy, the same carbon goes back into the atmosphere.  

In other words burning biogas does not add new carbon to the atmosphere. Biogenic CO2 can be released and recaptured indefinitely without disrupting the planet’s climate in the long term. The European Union’s ETS directive thus considers biomethane to have zero Scope 1 emissions.  

The Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHG-P) further states biomethane emissions should not be counted as greenhouse gas emissions but requires estimating the carbon content of biomass stocks and reporting them “independently from the scopes” to assess short-term negative consequences. 

This relates to the “carbon debt period,” or else the time elapsed between the release of CO2 from combusting biogas and the removal of the same amount of carbon by producing new feedstock. So, although there are no “net” additions of CO2 into the carbon cycle, there are short-term additions to the carbon content in the atmosphere, and we must know the potential consequences of these short-lived emissions. 

Thus, biogas cuts Scope 1 emissions. However, not all biomethane-related emissions stem from combustion. The supply chain of biofuels deserves a closer look. 

Counting carbon: feedstock and the supply chain of biogas

Beyond Scope 1, some biogas carbon emissions come from the feedstock itself.  

The different organic materials used to make biogas are divided into two main categories: waste and crops. The former includes discarded biomatter like sewage sludge, manure, and wood scraps. The latter comprises plants specifically grown to produce biogas, such as sugar cane, sorghum, and some woody crops.  

The benefits of turning waste into energy are straightforward. Crops are trickier. Growing plants for making biogas requires farmland, which can potentially displace food crops. Moreover, the need for land may incentivise the conversion of carbon-rich ecosystems into feedstock production, causing significant GHG emissions. 

To prevent this, the EU Renewable Energy Directive sets exclusions and limitations to protect “old-growth forests, highly biodiverse forests, grasslands, peat lands and heathlands” and requires accounting for land-use change emissions.  

Further, the regulation on land, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) sets “new targets for Europe’s carbon sinks along with new obligations to protect biodiversity and reduce emissions related to land use and forestry.” For companies, it is crucial to know the origin of any volume of biogas to evaluate its sustainability and ensure it aligns with their renewable energy targets. 

Gas Purchase Agreements: how to source biogas long term at affordable prices

Gas Purchase Agreements (GPA) open the possibility for companies with long-term gas needs to source clean energy at stable prices. Similar to Power Purchase Agreements for electricity, GPAs can protect consumers against market volatility, guarantee supplies, and help them hit emissions reduction targets.

Ecohz is ready to help you find the best deal for your business. From selecting the right supplier to proving biogas consumption according to standards and legislation, we can tailor agreements to your needs and help you leave fossil fuels behind.

Do you want to know more about our products and services? Let’s have a chat.

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