Eco-friendly fuels are renewable resources that also help to reduce pollution. But what makes any fuel eco-friendly? This article will answer the question of why biogas is an eco-friendly fuel and how it can help replace traditional fuel methods.
Biogas, also known as landfill or garbage gas, is no new thing. What is new about it is how we’re using it to replace fossil fuels. The ready availability of biogas makes it the perfect contender for renewable energy.
Substances that are unlimited resources with little to zero emissions give us eco-friendly results. We will discover how biogas fits the bill with:
- Explaining renewable resources
- A breakdown of Biogas
- How the two relate
Can anything called “landfill gas” really be that good for the environment? Keep reading to find out.
Why Is Biogas an Eco-Friendly Fuel?
Biogas is a renewable resource that helps cut down our reliance on fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions. Biogas comes from organic matter decomposition, or the decomposing of organic materials. This process is a natural, everyday occurrence unlikely to add to emissions.
The main key points we’ll cover are:
- The practicality of Biogas
- Biogas vs Fossil fuels
- How Biogas reduces emissions
1. Is Biogas a Renewable Resource?
Yes, biogas is easily renewable because it uses renewable resources in decomposing organic matter. Organic matter refers to anything that can live or die and eventually break down into the earth.
For instance, food remnants, plants, animals, and humans are all organic matter.
When something dies and begins to decompose, this process releases gas. Harnessing the gas will give you fuel for electricity or heat.
Let’s pretend you have an orange. If you peel the orange and throw the skin in your compost heap, the skin will begin to decompose. As it breaks down into compost, the orange skin will release energy, heat, and gas.
Let’s pretend you have a way to harness this residue energy from the orange skin. Consider how many people eat oranges and how many orange skins are left to break down.
That released energy has always been available, and it will continue to be available as long as people eat oranges.
But the process isn’t limited to orange peels.
Biogas uses food waste, wastewater, crops, and livestock waste. All these things constantly end up in landfills, gardens, and compost heaps everywhere. Because we will always have food and livestock waste, the resource of Biogas is easily renewable.
How Is Biogas Made?
Biogas uses an anaerobic digester for processing and collection. Waste products from food, livestock, and other organic materials go into the anaerobic digester, where the decomposing process begins.
This decomposing process is known as anaerobic digestion. Anaerobic digestion will occur faster if a digester contains multiple kinds of waste and is kept hot.
As the waste breaks down, it releases biogas. The digester collects the biogas for immediate use.
Biogas can also turn into biomethane. Some biogas producers will create biomethane as an alternative to methane and natural gas. But because biomethane is renewable, it’s often known as Renewable Natural Gas, or RNG.
2. Does Biogas Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions?
Biogas reduces the quantity of two main greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4). When it replaces fossil fuels as the main source for heating and electricity, Biogas helps cut down CO2 and CH4 emissions.
Fossil fuels are the main source of greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon dioxide makes up a large part of fossil fuels, as does methane. If no one uses fossil fuels, neither carbon dioxide nor methane will become released into the atmosphere.
However, around fifty percent of biogas is methane, and around thirty to forty percent is carbon dioxide. These numbers might cause you to wonder how biogas can reduce greenhouse gas emissions when it uses two of the biggest ones.
How Does Biogas Reduce Emissions?
Biogas reduces emissions by cutting down both carbon dioxide and methane use. This might seem counter-intuitive considering that Biogas contains both these gases. However, there are several things Biogas does to reduce emissions.
The release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is a natural occurrence. When plants and animals die and decompose, their remains release some amount of CO2. However, the extreme amount of carbon dioxide currently in our atmosphere is what creates a negative impact.
These extreme CO2 levels are a result of using fossil fuels and natural gas. Both are the biggest source of carbon dioxide emissions. Biogas contains less carbon dioxide than your average fossil fuel. Therefore, by using biogas, you automatically reduce your carbon dioxide output.
But is this reduction enough?
It seems that the use of biogas results in the release of a neutral amount of carbon dioxide. What is a neutral amount?
When you substitute biogas for natural gas and fossil fuel, a much smaller amount of carbon dioxide ends up in the atmosphere.
This smaller amount is similar to the carbon dioxide that would naturally occur during the decomposition of organic matter. After all, every time you compost an orange skin, carbon dioxide will be one of the products of the process.
Therefore, the amount of CO2 emitted from using biogas is comparable to the amount that would already occur even if you weren’t using biogas.
In short, biogas carbon dioxide emissions have no negative effects on the atmosphere. They simply aren’t big enough to disrupt the natural balance.
The anaerobic digesters that collect biogas capture excess methane. This methane would escape into the atmosphere without the digesters, resulting in greenhouse gas emissions. By capturing the gas, the methane can’t escape and is instead put to good use as renewable energy.
Transforming methane into renewable energy automatically results in lower emissions. But using methane can also provide eco-friendly results.
By burning methane, much of the harmful elements of the gas disappear. What remains is carbon dioxide.
In some cases, this can seem like you’re only swapping one harmful emission for another. But, if the biogas in question only emits a neutral amount of CO2, such as mentioned above, burning methane will not drastically increase the end amount.
For example, imagine you burn a soda bottle’s worth of methane. Imagine as well that you can only release half of the bottle’s worth of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This half-bottle will result in a neutral impact.
Now, imagine that by burning the bottle of methane, you will get enough carbon dioxide to fill one-quarter of the bottle. One quarter is half the amount that is safe to release, so by burning the methane, you will still have a neutral impact on the atmosphere.
3. Is Biogas an Eco-friendly Fuel?
After considering the reduced emissions and renewable abilities of biogas, it’s safe to say it’s an eco-friendly fuel.
Eco-friendly entities are renewable and don’t need damaging harvesting methods to obtain. They also leave a positive or neutral impact on the environment and climate.
Biogas does both. It is readily available to make and, at worst, provides a neutral output of emissions. The process to create biogas is also eco-friendly, as it concentrates on natural processing already occurring.
Many biogas plants use the decomposition of nearby landfills or livestock farms to create their product. Landfills are terrific sources of biogas, as there are so many of them, and they are constantly decomposing newer organic matter.
Biogas as a Renewable Resource
Resources that have a steady source are known as renewable resources.
Fossil fuels come from the remains of fossilized animals and plants. As there are only a limited number of fossils in the world, and it takes thousands of years to make more, these fuels are non-renewable.
By contrast, it is easy to replenish renewable resources by providing more options for natural processes. For example, planting trees will provide more resources for paper products.
Similarly, by harnessing the natural emissions that escape from composting organic matter, Biogas is easily renewable. Organic matter decays all the time, so there is no fear of running out of resources. Also, the emissions emitted from decomposition are not enough to harm the environment or climate, meaning you will not contribute unnatural levels by using biogas.
4. What Are the Advantages of Biogas?
There are many advantages to biogas over other heating and electric options, such as:
- Sustainable and renewable resource
- Positive or Neutral emissions
- Recycling of waste products
- Better use of natural emissions
- Alternative to fossil fuels
- Improvements for fertilizer
- Affordable fueling
The main benefits of biogas are its eco-friendly features. Unlike other processes, biogas is easily sustainable, as it does not take many extra resources to produce.
Traditional fossil fuels need drilling companies and refineries to get the result. These companies require resources like land, drills, pipelines, and money to extract fossil fuels from the ground.
Final Thoughts on Why Biogas is an Eco-Friendly Fuel
When creating biogas, all you need is decomposing organic matter and a container to store it in. Not only do you save on the number of emissions produced, but biogas is cheaper to make. It provides a more long-term solution than other options available.
- PennState Extension – A Short History of Anaerobic Digestion
- IntechOpen – Biofuel: An Environmental Friendly Fuel
- World Biogas Association – Why biogas?
- Science Direct – Biogas
- Wikipedia – Biogas
- Biomethane from Dairy Waste: A Sourcebook for the Production and Use of Renewable Natural Gas in California – Chapter 4: Storage and Transportation of Biogas and Biomethane
- Farm Energy – Anaerobic Digesters and Biogas Safety
- U.S. Energy Information Administration – Natural gas explained