Biogas, including renewable natural gas (RNG), is primed for some strong growth over the next decade through a combination of societal initiatives for waste management, reducing greenhouse gases and shifting to more renewable sources of energy, according to a new report from Navigant Consulting’s Boulder, CO-based Pike Research.

As a result of what the report characterized as strong growth the past 10 years, global production of biogas has reached the 800 Bcf level annually, and Pike’s analysis projects that volume will grow to 1.6 Tcf annually by 2022. Pike acknowledged that biogas was fast growing but still relatively small in the overall bioenergy sector. Nevertheless it reached $17.3 billion in revenue globally last year and is projected to reach $33.1 billion in 2022.

The report, “Renewable Biogas,” concentrates on methane recovery and use in landfills, anaerobic digesters using municipal solid waste, agricultural waste, industrial waste and wastewater treatment. The analysis concentrated on major geographic regions, along with specific nations: the United States, Canada, Brazil, Germany, China, Japan and South Africa.

“Germany remains the outright leader in biogas utilization, and with the domestic [U.S.] market becoming increasingly saturated, firms are expected to continue venturing abroad to seek low-hanging opportunities in markets with significant upside,” said Pike Senior Analyst Mackinnon Lawrence.

Noting that the real buildup in biogas development likely will be across Europe and Asia-Pacific, Lawrence said the United States still has “substantial potential” for biogas growth. A number of factors, including continued low domestic prices for conventional natural gas, are current stumbling blocks. An “unstable policy and a challenging regulatory environment” also are working against big biogas growth in the United States, said Lawrence, noting that biogas today is used predominantly for power generation and in combined heat-power plants.

Pike estimated that 576 landfills were capturing biogas from decomposing municipal solid waste this year, while more than 7,000 on-farm anaerobic digesters were operating across Germany. Collectively the biogas sources were producing more than 2,200 MW of electricity.

Labeled as a growth segment, RNG should see an additioinal 11 Bcf of capacity online worldwide by the end of this year, the report said. “While opportunities abound for high-Btu RNG in gas-to-grid injection and vehicle fuel applications, low [wholesale] natural gas prices are expected to impede market growth,” Lawrence said.

The projections for growth over the next 10 years include reaching an installed generation capacity of nearly 30 GW annually and 86 Bcf of RNG fuel, the Pike report said.

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