RCGI releases interactive maps of the potential for generating power with biogas in SP

Divided according to three major sources for obtaining natural gas – urban waste, waste created by livestock, and the sugar and alcohol sector – the set of maps is a valuable tool for local energy planning

The FAPESP Shell Research Center for Gas Innovation (RCGI) has released a groundbreaking set of interactive maps, which is available on the internet, called Biogas, Biomethane, and Electrical power in São Paulo. These interactive maps estimate the potential for the production of biogas and biomethane in the State, and the potential electrical power available from biogas, listed by municipality, according three major sources for obtaining natural gas: waste created by livestock, urban waste, and the sugar and alcohol sector.

The data show that the potential for electrical power generated annually from biogas in São Paulo is 36,197 GWh, which corresponds to 93% of the State’s residential consumption. The annual potential annual volume of natural gas from biomethane commercialized could be in excess of 3.87 billion Nm3 or it could substitute 72% of the diesel oil sold.

The professionals responsible for these maps are Professor Suani Coelho, Coordinator of the RCGI’s Project 27, and her team, formed by Dr. Marilin Mariano dos Santos and Dr. Vanessa Pecora Garcilasso, with the collaboration of Master’s degree candidate Diego Bonfim de Souza.

While preparing the maps, the team used data from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), the Energy Research Office (EPE), the Brazilian Biogas Association (ABiogás), Datagro, the International Center on Renewable Energy – Biogas (Cibiogás), SABESP, and Gasbrasiliano. The group generated information from these sources, and the EcoGeo Geoprocessamento e Meio Ambiente company, chosen via a public bidding process, went on to set up the maps.

This set of maps, which run on the ArcGIS platform, is easy to work with and intuitive, and it can be accessed in either Portuguese or English. Users can superimpose layers of types of information desired. The overlays are not only related to biogas and biomethane potential, but they also present, for example, the State’s natural gas pipelines, the electrical power transmission lines, the conservation units, and the existing delivery sites for natural gas, as well as other information important to municipal energy planning.

The total potential of these three major sources for obtaining natural gas is subdivided into several other more detailed maps. For example: the “waste created by livestock” group has maps specific to the swine, cattle, and poultry areas. The “urban waste” group also has separate maps of the potential production from sanitary landfills and sewage treatment plants. And the sugar and alcohol sector presents a map of all its residues (bagasse, filter cakes, and dried sugarcane thatch), and one specifically for bagasse, which represents the major portion of the potential for obtaining biogas and biomethane, and for generating electrical power in São Paulo.

The sugar and alcohol sector presents the greatest potential for the use of biogas and other energy sources, produced from these residues. Taking into consideration the ten main potential production municipalities in the State, for example, one sees a biogas potential of over 3 billion Nm3 in the harvest, corresponding to 22% of the State’s sugar and alcohol potential and, if that is transformed into biomethane, it comes to 65% of the consumption of natural gas in the State. On the other hand, the potential for generating electricity with biogas, totals nearly 32,000 GWh, if all wastes or residues were made use of in the State’s energy plants.

The following figure illustrates the data obtained, showing the enormous potential of the sugar and alcohol sector.

Suani Coelho, Professor of the Institute for Energy and the Environment of the University of São Paulo (IEE/USP) and Coordinator of the IEE’s Bioenergy Research Group (GBIO), says that today’s result is the fruit of work that began a number of years ago. “In 2009, we published the Brazilian Bioenergy Atlas, which we updated in 2012. In it, we estimated the potential use of biomass in Brazil, according to municipalities and by type of biomass. That work was highly fruitful, with the most important feature being its methodology, which many other States used to make their own maps. Today, the brand-new maps for São Paulo are interactive, besides having a broader scope, because we worked with urban and rural waste and the sugar and alcohol sector, the latter having the greatest potential for producing biogas and biomethane in the State.”

According to her, this tool is for the use of decision makers (State and municipal governments), and for entrepreneurs interested in investing in the sector. “When we printed the atlas, we received many requests for information from entrepreneurs who wanted to invest in the sector and did not know where to begin. We believe this tool can help them.”

Methodology and data – The methodology used by the group will be published in an e-book to be released in the coming months. According to Dr. Vanessa Pecora Garcilasso, who is responsible for collecting the data on urban waste, the development of the methodology also involved a meeting of various players that furnished the data. She emphasized that the group had extensive support from its partners, especially from Abiogás.

“We met with a number of the players involved, including the participation of Abiogás, EPE, SABESP, CiBiogás, and others. That meeting focused on calibrating the methodology, because, when you gather data, such as these, each institution has its own scope, method, and scenario. Thus, we needed to deal with several hypotheses regarding our methodology. And those hypotheses were discussed in advance.” An example: the group worked with the hypothesis that all of the waste collected in each municipality would be destined for sanitary landfills.

Dr. Marilin Mariano do Santos, who is responsible for the data regarding the agricultural sector, as well as that of sugar and alcohol, says the methodology sought to minimize the uncertainties that the hypotheses raise. She also states it is difficult to find data that is grouped in the desired manner, or is sufficiently complete. “An example: one may only consider cattle waste for animals kept in confinement. But the data on cattle that we have found does not say whether it deals with confined or range cattle. Therefore, we assume that all cattle spend the last three months of fattening in feedlots. In the case of dairy cows, we assume the same thing, working with the hypothesis that if the cows produce milk above a given quantity, they are being kept in confinement. Below that figure, they must be spending only four hours a day confined. These hypotheses cause uncertainties, but the methodology attempted to minimize them as much as possible.”

Next steps – The group is working toward more advances. “We are doing simulations regarding the injection of biomethane into the pipeline system: for example, what is the impact on costs to consumers? How much will it assist in avoiding greenhouse gas emissions (GGE)? We are also simulating the substitution of diesel oil by biomethane in the sugar and alcohol industry. A test done recently by my guidance student, Manuel Poveda, estimated the cost of producing biogas and biomethane in the Sertãozinho region (R$ 0.25/m3 for biogas from bagasse and R$ 0.65 Nm3 from biomethane), which is a very promising result. A preliminary estimate is that the sector spends one million dollars per year on diesel fuel,” Professor Suani states. “That is without counting the problems arising from the dependence on a single fuel source, as we saw during the truck drivers’ strike. If diesel oil doesn’t arrive, what do you do?” she added.

The group is also beginning a research and development project with the Brazilian Electricity Regulatory Agency (ANEEL) and the São Paulo Power Company (CESP). “The objective is to prepare the Bioenergy Atlas for São Paulo, which will not only focus on biogas and biomethane, but also on solid biomass: sugarcane bagasse, forest residues, etc. An interactive map will be developed regarding the existing potential for generating electricity, which will likely be released in the beginning of 2020,” she added.

Click here to access the interactive map in Portuguese

Click here to access the interactive map in English