As part of the Green Deal, the European Commission presented its Methane Strategy in October 2020. Following carbon dioxide, methane is the second biggest contributor to human-caused global warming. Consequently, tackling methane emissions is crucial to achieving the EU’s 2030 climate target and the goal of climate neutrality by 2050. The Methane Strategy proposes measures to mitigate methane emissions in the energy, agriculture, and waste management sectors and recognizes the pivotal role biogas and biomethane play herein.

Current efforts and the future potentials of the biogas and biomethane industries are recognised by the European Commission in the Methane Strategy. The methane emission mitigation potential of biogas and biomethane is twofold: first methane emissions are avoided when methane emitting feedstocks, such as manure from animal farming and biowaste, are brought to the closed and controlled environment of a biogas plant. In the biogas production facility, methane is captured and utilised instead of released into the atmosphere during feedstock storage. Second, methane emissions are avoided by mitigating fugitive emission at the plants themselves. The Methane Strategy is suggests implementing incentives for both mitigation routes.

Following the publication of the Methane Strategy, the European Biogas Association (EBA) held an workshop in January 2021 dedicated to the role of biogas in mitigating methane emissions. The online event was organised in the framework of the research project EvEmBi (Evaluation and reduction of methane emissions from different European biogas plant concepts), which aims at evaluating different biogas plant concepts in the EU with regards to their fugitive methane emissions.

The responsible official of the European Commission, Mr. Malcolm McDowell, provided insights into the future EU methane emission policy during the online discussion. Fugitive methane emissions from biogas plants are not a significant source of emissions in the energy sector, according to McDowell. Nevertheless, the occurring emissions should be avoided. He emphasised the value of research results from measurement campaigns on operational plants, which could provide an important basis for the revision of reference values. Mr. Malcolm McDowell also stated that the revision of the Renewable Energy Directive (RED II) could incorporate the fugitive methane emissions in the sustainability criteria for biogas and introduce default values as well as a methodology to calculate actual values.

The EvEmBi project was completed in March 2021 and provided comprehensive results from actual measurement campaigns at numerous operational plants. In addition, minimum requirements for voluntary systems for methane emissions monitoring and mitigation at biogas and biomethane plants were established. The final results of the project were presented at the International Conference on Monitoring & Process Control of Anaerobic Digestion Processes, in a special EvEmBi session. The project will be presented as well during the European Biogas Conference 2021, taking place from 26 to 28 October in Brussels.