Biogas: a waste-to-energy solution

by Jay Bragdon

 

Our Vermont communities face a series of related ecological and economic challenges. These include: managing our wastes, reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, generating employment in sustainable industries and stabilizing our municipal tax rates. Although as a state, we are green leaders, we nevertheless have a lot to learn from countries, such as Finland, which have addressed these issues in ways that are both eco-friendly and profitable.

 

Here’s an example. The Finnish company BioGTS has developed a dry anaerobic digester that converts diverse organic waste streams into bio-fuels and electricity. The waste streams it can process include sewage sludge, household (Act 148) wastes, institutional food waste, manure and other farm wastes. Outputs include bio-diesel, bio-gas and dry organic-grade fertilizer that can be sold to farmers and home gardeners.

 

The wonderful thing about BioGTS technology is that it’s modular. Mills are custom made in Finland and built to scale, depending on the needs of a community. This enables BioGTS to create diverse solutions, from farm-scale units to large metropolitan ones. Their largest order to date is for a Chinese mill that will process 31,000 metric tons of agricultural biomass into bio-gas for the regional gas grid.

 

BioGTS technology enables profitable biogas production – even with smaller amounts of waste. Their dry anaerobic process is odorless, requires no process water and is more efficient than wet anaerobic processes now in use locally. With better economic performance, the cost of buying a mill can be recovered more quickly. For this reason, BioGTS is today one of Finland’s fastest growing companies.

 

Vermont municipalities should be able to afford these mills because they can be acquired via lease/purchase arrangements. In our region, a consortium of towns – perhaps Woodstock, Hartford and others – could purchase a district mill to the benefit of all. Revenues in excess of lease payments could go to stabilizing the local tax base, funding road repair or upgrading other public services. Once a mill is completely paid for, the revenue stream should make a significant impact on town budgets. In short, BioGTS technology could be a multiple win for us.

 

Modules can be delivered via ocean freight and trucked to selected sites, where they can be quickly assembled into local mini-mills. All mills are automated and remotely monitored, which should simplify local operation. A district mill in our region could be managed by public employees or farmed out to a private company with the marketing skills to optimize revenue from the sale of bio-fuels and fertilizer. Such public-private partnerships are common practice in Finland and work well for all parties. For more info, visit biogts.com.

 

In the interest of full disclosure, I have no personal economic interest in BioGTS, nor do members of my family. I discovered the company in the course of writing a book and simply wish to share my knowledge. Should our community develop a strong interest in BioGTS solutions, the company has offered to do an open Skype session on the economics of a mill designed around the volumes of waste we can generate as feedstock.

 

Jay is a semi-retired investment advisor and a board member of the Academy for Systems Change (www.academyforchange.org). 

biogts diagram

BENEFITS OF THE BIOREFINERY

  • Low investment and operating costs
  • Compact reactor structure
  • High process efficiency
  • Wide range of suitable raw materials
  • Scalability
  • Modular structure
  • Quick plug-in installation
  • The process does not use any water
  • Easy to use, continuously operated, fully automated and remotely monitored
  • Minimizing the expensive on-site installation

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a BioGTS mill in Finland. The site is compact and clean.

 

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