Biomethane/Green Gas

What is it?

Chemically the same as methane, biomethane molecules are made up of a carbon (C) atom bound with four hydrogen (H) ones – hence its chemical formula, CH4. The ‘bio’ bit means that the carbon in the molecules has not been stored for millions of years in a fossil fuel but that it has come from ‘fresh’ organic matter – like plant material, manure, sewage and food waste.


How is it produced?

Through the cleaning up or upgrading of biogas, landfill gas or syngas to remove carbon dioxide and trace contaminants like oxygen and sulphur.

For use in the UK gas grid:

To be injected into the UK gas grid it must meet the specifications set out in the Gas Safety (Management) Regulations Schedule 3 (“GSMR3”) (or a class exemption).

For use as a transport fuel

The gas must meet the specific engine requirements as set out by the manufacturer.


What are the benefits of biomethane?

As biomethane and methane are chemically identical, once biomethane meets the relevant standards it is indistinguishable from methane from fossil fuels. This means that each molecule of biomethane injected into the gas grid or used as a transport fuel displaces the need for a molecule of methane from fossil fuel.

Therefore a consumer that has bought a BMC from the producer can use methane from any source and, by virtue of the BMC, rightly claim that the gas they have used is biomethane.

Thus BMCs allow fossil, or brown, methane consumers to decarbonise their gas supply without having to enter into a specific green gas supply contract. This is the essential feature of the BMCS, the ability to divorce the green element of the gas from the physical supply.


What are the differences between biomethane and natural gas?

Biomethane (biogas that has been cleaned to remove carbon dioxide and trace contaminants – see section on how biomethane is produced for further details) is considered  equivalent to fossil gas.

However in practice the energy value of biomethane is typically lower than standard fossil gas. In some areas, this requires the biomethane producer to enhance the calorific value (CV) of their biomethane to bring it up to the minimum CV that is required by the grid. This is achieved by adding a small proportion of propane to the biomethane before it is injected into the grid. This CV enhancement is clearly achieved with a fossil gas, it is therefore important to note that the amount of propane that is added to the mix is taken away from the energy that is certified on the BMC. Thus the energy value on a Biomethane Certificate is 100% “green”.

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