Finnish renewable energy
Biogas is a renewable and environmentally friendly fuel made from 100% local feedstocks that is suitable for a diversity of uses including road vehicle fuel and industrial uses. How is biogas produced?
A look towards the future – what kind of solutions are Gasum’s research and development team creating?Share:
Due to Gasum's consistently forward-looking vision in the field of gas and energy, the company invests in the research and development (R&D) of future technologies and energy system solutions. Research and innovation advances are key when building a sustainable gas ecosystem. As a result, new solutions are being constantly developed to further increase the production of renewable gas and to expand the gas network.
Gasum continually invests in the discovery of new solutions and innovations via its R&D work. Gasum's R&D is focused on three subject areas: renewable gas, the energy system and new possibilities for gas, as well as the uses of gas and energy efficiency. In these areas, Gasum is developing solutions for renewable energy storage and the gas supply chain, along with breakthroughs that are made possible by utilising new technology.
In fact, R&D played a central role in the production and commercialisation of the environment-friendly fuel, biogas. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Gasum's biogas unit continues its R&D work in different areas.
Biogas and recycling nutrients
In the biogas R&D unit, the research can be divided into three different focus areas: recycled nutrients and processing feedstocks, increasing biogas production, and supporting the existing biogas production and infrastructure. At the moment, R&D is focused on recycled nutrients, in particular.
"During the putrefaction process, biogas is not the only thing that is produced," explains Viljami Kinnunen, Gasum's research and development engineer. "From the economic and environmental point of view, the greatest value of producing biogas is that we can separate nutrients from the waste and refine them so they can be used again. We are continuously developing new solutions to make the nutrients even more recyclable."
Biogas is a completely renewable and domestic energy source that can be used as vehicle fuel, as well as to produce heat and electricity. Biogas can be produced from almost all biodegradable feedstocks – only unprocessed wood-based materials are currently unsuitable for the production of biogas. However, the possibility of using new raw materials – such as wood – in future biogas production, is subject to ongoing tests and analyses.
"We are trying to find different ways to add gas production. At the moment, we are investigating the production of bio-SNG that could be produced from wood-based biomass with new technology that combines gasification and methanation. This type of biomass is usually created by the forest industries," Kinnunen explains.
To advance the production of renewable energy, Gasum is involved in multiple projects, such as the Power-to-Gas concept that aims to convert surplus power from wind generation to gas.
Partnerships are essential in research work
Research has a significant role to play in building a carbon neutral future. The projects that Gasum supports include Raki2, a programme to promote the recycling of nutrients and improve the ecological status of the Archipelago Sea, as well as the work of CLIC Innovation Oy, that aims to create breakthrough solutions in bioeconomy, circular economy and energy systems.
In addition to projects and corporate co-operation, Gasum supports researchers with yearly grants. The Gasum Gas Fund is one of the special funds run and administered by the Finnish Foundation for Technology Promotion (TES). The objective of the fund is to develop gas-based energy solutions and to produce information that supports the development of the gas industry.
"The Gas Fund increases the sector's prominence and encourages students to research gas. In addition, the research that we fund is important for us since there are multiple nuances in gas production that need to be researched. Furthermore, basic research is also always needed when creating new innovations," states Kinnunen.
The fund supports full-time research and grants are awarded mainly to postgraduate students working on their doctoral thesis. In 2018, Gas Fund Grants were given out to seven researchers, with the grants totalling €40,800.
More solutions to be discovered
Even though Gasum's R&D work has uncovered a number of important new solutions, there is still work left to be done. Kinnunen believes that by researching gas in its entirety, new innovations will be discovered in the future. For example, there is the fact that more than just methane is being produced during the putrefaction process in gas production, such as different types of volatile fatty acid combinations (VFA).
"It is possible that the VFA combinations are even more valuable than biogas. To that end, there is a chance that they could be used as raw materials in bioplastics or even in medicines. However, these are only preliminary ideas and we have to do considerably more research on the subject," concludes Kinnunen.