Professor from Sweden’s Linköping University looking for a partnership in biogas cooperation

He visited the RCGI and is interested in a Brazil-Sweden consortium involving biogas and biomethane studies; a new visit will likely occur in December

During a recent visit to the FAPESP Shell Research Centre for Gas Innovation (RCGI), Professor Alex Enrich Prast, from the Department of Thematic Studies (Climate Change) of Linköping University, in Sweden, showed great interest in developing projects jointly with teams of different RCGI projects. To start with, his objective would be to assemble a network of cooperation for biogas and biomethane. Prast works with biogeochemistry, especially Carbon and Nitrogen cycles.

“My research focuses on the main factors that regulate anaerobic processes related to the operation of biogas reactors, in terms of their performance. The better we understand the mechanisms that are behind the production of biogas, the greater our chances of improving the yield of methane and the reuse of waste,” stated the Professor, who is a Brazilian.

He came to the RCGI through the efforts of Professor Suani Coelho, who is the Coordinator of the only project of the institution that focuses on biogas and biomethane, and is a Professor at the Institute for Energy and the Environment (IEE).

“Professor Prast’s objective, besides assembling a network of cooperation for biogas and biomethane, is to organize a Brazil-Sweden biogas consortium. He is interested in Brazil, because he noticed that we have produced good results. The initial plan is to generate joint projects, open opportunities for student exchange, etc. After all, we are still studying the type of cooperation we can maintain,” Suani explained.

Prast gave a brief presentation on the subject, followed by a presentation by Professor Suani Coelho. Those present, besides RCGI researchers, were Professor Marcos Tsuzuki, of USP’s Polytechnic School (and Coordinator of one of the RCGI projects), and Marilin Mariano, also a researcher of the Centre and Professor of the IEE.

Prast will probably return to Brazil in December for a new round of visits to research centers and universities.

“CCS is becoming an integral part of the oil and gas industry in Brazil,” states Engineering professor from Japan, on a visit to the RCGI

Professor from the University of Tokyo presented a CCS project in a saline aquifer in Japan; in his opinion, Brazil cam become a leader in the storage of CO2 in salt caverns

On Wednesday, October 17, the FAPESP Shell Research Centre for Gas Innovation (RCGI) was visited by the engineer and professor in the area of oceanic technology, policies, and the environment of the University of Tokyo, Toru Sato. He was in Brazil for an international conference, in Rio de Janeiro, and took advantage of the opportunity to come to the RCGI, in São Paulo, and speak about a pilot project for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) in the city of Tomakomai, which is the first of this type on the island of Hokkaido, located in northern Japan. Japan CCS Co. is responsible for the technology of the project, and Professor Sato is involved in the environmental assessment of the initiative.

“Tomakomai is a project being implemented by the Ministry of Economy, Commerce and Industry of Japan. Before the injection of CO2 began in 2016, there was a preparation period, with surveys and studies that took around seven years. It is the world’s first CCS initiative in an urban area,” Sato states. The reservoir is a deep saline aquifer and the CO2 comes from a plant that produces hydrogen. It is captured by chemical absorption and the recovery rate is 99.9%. Every day, 600 tons (200,000 per year) of CO2 are captured. And the purity of the stored CO2 is 99%.

“The Ministry of the Environment requires that the purity be 99%, because it fears leaks of toxic gases. In Japan, we have earthquakes and other extreme types of events the you do not have in Brazil,” he said.

Sato’s biggest concern is the leakage. “The probability is very low, but if CO2 leaks, maybe some of the marine organisms will be impacted. We have to monitor and know how marine life would react to a leak, if it should take place.” He says that there are two possible types of leakage: in the injector well and via geological faults. “Storage must be avoided where there are faults, because with the earthquakes, the faults grow.”

The Tomakomai project is rigidly monitored, including both onshore facilities (to measure the microseism caused by natural phenomena and offshore facilities, which, besides the two previous measurements, also come from parameters caused by the temperature and pressure of the reservoir. “This is the last year for CO2 to be injected into the reservoir. It will continue to be intensely monitored over the next five years.”

Social license – According to the Professor, the public acceptance of the projects of this type is very important, and this brings up the relevance of the environmental assessment. “It is also good to take note that there is a difference between local acceptance and global, or national, acceptance, in the case of a CCS project. Sometimes, the local population could even accept it, inspired by the fact that it is doing something about global warming. But, generally speaking, local acceptance is more complex, in terms of compensations in the case of offshore reservoirs, involving negotiations with organizations representing the interests of fishermen who fear that their fishing areas would be jeopardized by a leak, for example.”

Sato says that, in the case of the Tomakomai project, there was good local acceptance. “Paper industries are located there, as well as petroleum refineries. They are good taxpayers for the city, create jobs, and much more, and they need to capture and store CO2. So, the local population accepted the idea.”

The engineer believes that, regarding public acceptance of the practice of capturing and storing CO2, Brazil and Japan have distinctive profiles. And that, in his country, the function of the Ministries is to inform people regarding CCS – remembering that Japan also made commitments in Paris, and must fulfill them. “But there, we do not produce petroleum and natural gas, we only burn them. It is different in Brazil: CCS is becoming an integral part of the oil and gas industry. I imagine that Brazilians, in general, do not know the details of Petroleum and natural technologies. Therefore, they might not need to know the smallest details about CCS technologies.”

The RCGI’s Director of Human Resources, Karen Mascarenhas, says that the experiences reported by Sato are valuable for the group that is working at the Centre with the public perception of CCS. “It is a success story. The care that they have taken and the actions they developed for communicating with the community have a lot to teach us,” she says, after also having visited the pilot project in Tomakomai. The RCGI leads a group that is studying public perception and the social license for operating CCS initiatives in Brazil.

Salt caverns – Sato was enthusiastic after the presentation of the RCGI project that focuses on separating CO2 and CH4 gravitationally in salt caverns and storing CO2 in those reservoirs. “Storage in saline rock is an excellent solution and it is very safe. In the United States, in Russia, and in the Middle East, they use this type of reservoir to store fuels.”

According to the Japanese engineer, about 70% of the total cost of CCS operations has to do with the capture and separation of CO2 from other gases. “That is done chemically, today, and not physically. If Brazil is able to perform the separation of CO2 from other cases more cheaply and be successful with this technology, it can be the leader in CO2 storage in offshore salt caverns.

Biomethane has the smallest carbon footprint among various available energy sources

In a workshop organized by the RCGI and the ICDK, Brazilian and Danish experts discuss technologies for obtaining fuel in Brazil, whose production potential is 80 million m³ per day

Brazil’s potential production of biomethane is 80 million m³ per day, according to the Brazilian Association of Biogas and Biomethane (Abiogás). If it is feasible, the use of this gas would be the equivalent of 24% of the country’s total demand for electrical power and 44% of the total demand for diesel oil. These figures were presented during the workshop “Dialogues between Brazil and Denmark regarding the benefits of producing biogas/biomethane, and their applications”, coordinated by Professor Suani Teixeira Coelho, of the Energy and Environment Institute (IEE) and researcher for the FAPESP Shell Research Centre for Gas Innovation (RCGI). Organized by the RCGI in a partnership with the Innovation Centre Denmark (ICDK) and with the Innovation Network For Biomass (INBIOM), the event brought together experts from the two countries in the IEE auditorium, on the 24th.

“We believe that biogas from biomass has enormous potential. It is an area that is still developing. In Denmark, we have 40 years of experience in producing biogas from biomass. We hope to be able to share experiences and collaborate in stepping up the debate on the subject in Brazil,” stated Stina Nordsborg, Director of the Innovation Centre Denmark, which is linked to Denmark’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In that country, biogas is used mainly for generating electricity and for heating. “Denmark will probably be the first country in the world to definitively ban the use of fossil fuels. And biomass is the major driver of renewable energy in the next ten years,” said Jens Bo Holm-Nielsen, the University of Aalborg.

According to him, most of the biogas used in his country (65%) comes from agriculture, with sugar beets being the main origin of the energy source. Another 53% come from effluents from sewage treatment plants, 28% from sanitary landfills, and 6% from industry. “Brazil’s potential for generating biogas from biomass is enormous, because you are huge agricultural producers.” Just to get an idea of that potential, Brazil annually produces 150 million tons of sugarcane straw, which could be used to produce biogas. That does not count the food production sector.

Sources of biomass – In Brazil, the biggest potential for producing biogas is in the sugarcane industry (56 million m³/day). That is followed by the food processing industry (17 million m³/day) and, finally, the sanitation sector (7 million m³/day). “São Paulo has the largest potential for producing biogas and biomethane from the sugarcane industry, especially from vinasse, waste left from the production of ethanol. Based on the 2015/2016 harvest, it would be possible to produce biogas at the rate of 302,848 m3/h and biomethane at 151.424 m3/h, with the potential of generating 4,133 GWh/year,” calculated Suani Coelho, who coordinates a project at the RCGI for the purpose of mapping the potential production of biogas and biomethane in the State of São Paulo.

As the Undersecretary for Renewable Energies of São Paulo, Antonio Celso de Abreu Júnior, sees it, biogas and biomethane can help maintain the renewable profile of the State’s energy matrix. “In São Paulo, 58% of the energy matrix is renewable. Today, we have an estimated volume of biogas production that could supply 20% of our demand for electrical power. Therefore, the State is highly interested in having biogas in its energy matrix.”

Suani Coelho emphasized that this is a propitious moment for discussing biomethane; in fact, policies are being established for injecting this energy source in the lines of the natural gas system. Furthermore, there is now greater dialogue between academe, the productive sector, and the government. “We have been involved with bioenergy for 20 years. And at first, we were fearful of dealing with the companies, and they with us. Now things are changing: we talk with the companies and with the governments. There is a whole network of players that are thinking with us, there is collaboration.”

Regulations – The result of these joint efforts is more vigorous, in terms of the norms generated for the sector. In June, the National Petroleum, Natural Gas, and Biofuels Agency (ANP) finally set long-awaited regulations for controlling the quality and specifications of biomethane originating from sanitary landfills and sewage treatment plants for vehicular, residential, industrial, and commercial use.

In São Paulo, at the end of July, The State Sanitation and Energy Regulatory Agency (ARSESP) decided to regulate the conditions for distributing biomethane in the natural gas system of the State of São Paulo (Decision no. 744/2017). This measure establishes the rules for inserting biomethane supplied by producers in the public natural gas pipeline system. In the coming weeks, the State of São Paulo will define and publish the percentage of biogas that should be injected in its network. “We are preparing a bill that makes it mandatory to have a percentage of biogas in the State system. This will probably be done by phases, beginning in 2020 with X% and increasing every four years,” Abreu Júnior explained.

Carbon footprint – The Scientific Director of RCGI, Julio Meneghini, stressed the possibilities for cooperation between Brazilian and Danish researchers for a prime objective. “I believe it is possible to share research objectives and that the collaboration between the two countries can help us do our best to reduce carbon emissions.”

Alessandro Gardemann, President of Abiogás and Director of Geoenergética, reminded that the carbon footprint of biomethane is one of the smallest among the know energy sources. “I am certain that we have one of the lowest carbon footprints among the available fuels. When analyzing the carbon footprint of the life cycle of several energy sources, we conclude that, while diesel emits more than 100 gCO2eq/MJ and vehicular natural gas more than 80 gCO2eq/MJ, biomethane presents a negative emission factor: something around-20 gCO2eq/MJ.” The comparison includes diesel, vehicular natural gas, electricity generated by natural gas, biodiesel, and electricity generated by the sun and by the wind.

He emphasized the importance of biomethane in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. “The substitution of biomethane for 47% of the diesel burned in 2015 would have reduced the emissions from the burning of diesel, during that year, by 74%. That corresponds to 17% of Brazil’s emissions reduction goals.”

Integrated biorefineries – Jin Mi Trioli, of the University of Southern Denmark, pointed out that biogas can be produced from the bagasse of any type of crop. “We have identified 92 types of biomass from plants that have the potential for generating methane. But that potential diminishes during storage: after ten months, the potential for generating methane is reduced by 19%.”

She also presented the concept of integrated biorefineries. “We are proposing integrated mills, with zero emissions, which could be very useful for Brazil, where the production of ethanol has the emissions footprint of methane and the use of vinasse as a fertilizer emits NO2.” The idea of integrated mills has to do with the sequential production of biofuels and biofertilizers, thus reducing GHG emissions. “An integrated biorefinery would avoid the emissions from ethanol production,” Trioli stated.

The event, which ended with the presentation of a number of case studies, also had lectures by Rikke Lybeak, of the University of Roskilde; Pietro Sampaio Mendes, of the National Petroleum, Natural Gas, and Biofuels Agency (ANP); Claudio Oller, one of the Directors of the Physicochemical program of RCGI; Gilberto Martins, of the Federal University of the ABC District (UFABC); Bruno Carmo, Vice Scientific Director of RCGI; Alastair James Ward, of the University of Aarhus; Samuel Melegari, of UNIOESTE; Pedro Paixão, Manager of Applications of Cabot Brasil; Michael Støckler, of the Agro Business Park; Aurélio de Souza, of Usinazul; and Felipe Souza Marques, of CiBiogas.

Workshop for Brazilian and Danish biogas experts

Organized by RCGI, the event discusses policies, production, and applications of biogas in both countries

This Thursday, August 24, the workshop “Dialogues between Brazil and Denmark regarding the Production of Biogas/Biomethane and Applications” will be held in the auditorium of USP’s Energy and Environment Institute (IEE/USP). The event is coordinated by Professor Suani Teixeira Coelho, who teaches at the IEE and is a researcher for the FAPESP Shell Research Centre for Gas Innovation (RCGI), where she heads up the project “The Perspectives for Biomethane’s Contribution to Increasing the Offer of Natural Gas”.

The workshop is free and open to the public, via a limited number of registrations. It will be held in English (with no translation). Registration can be made at Professor Julio Romano Meneghini, RCGI’s Scientific Director, will give the opening words of welcome to attendees at 9:30 a.m., followed by Professor Colombo Tassinari, Director of IEE/USP; Stina Nordsborg, of Innovation Centre Denmark; and Professor Raul Machado, Director of International Relations for USP. The Undersecretary of Renewable Energy of the State of São Paulo, Antonio Celso de Abreu Junior, will round out the first half hour of the opening moments.

From 10:00 a.m. to 10:40 a.m., the subject “Biogas Status and Policies” will be discussed. The panel will be formed by Professors Suani Coelho, Jens Bo Holm-Nielsen of the University of Aalborg, and Alessandro Gardemann, of the Brazilian Association of Biogas and Biomethane (Abiogás).

After a brief coffee break, Professor Virginia Parente (IEE/USP) will lead the session that continues the debate regarding “Biogas Policies”. This time with Professor Rikke Lybeak, of the University of Roskilde, Pietro Sampaio Mendes, of the National Petroleum, Natural Gas, and Biofuels Agency (ANP), and Luciano Oliveira, of the Energy Research Company (EPE).

The public will have from 12:00 p.m. to 12:30 p.m. to discuss with the experts the points brought up in the first two sessions. After lunch, Marilia Fanucchi, from the Department of Renewable Energy Sources of the State of São Paulo, will be the moderator of the session on the “Production of Biogas”. The invited guests will make short presentations. Professor Jens Bo Holm-Nielsen, of the University of Aalborg, will present an overview of the availability of biomass for producing biogas in Denmark and in Europe (“Sustainable Biomass for Biogas – a Danish and European Perspective”). The subject continues with a presentation by Professor Soren Ugilt Larsen (“Danish Examples of Agricultural Biomass Resources for Biogas Production”).

Vinasse, which is being exhaustively studied by Professor Suani Teixeira Coelho, is the subject of the presentation by Professor Jin Mi Trioli, of the University of Southern Denmark (“Optimization of Mono-digestion of Vinasse in the Biorefinery Chain”). After him, Professors Claudio Oller, one of the Directors of RCGI’s Physicochemistry Program, and Gilberto Martins, of the Federal University of the ABC (UFABC), will speak.

“Biogas Upgrade” is the subject of the next-to-last discussion session of the event, with the Chairman being Professor Bruno Carmo, Vice Scientific Director of RCGI. The panel will be composed of Professors Alastair James Ward, of the University of Aarhus, and Samuel Melegari, of UNIOESTE, as well as Pedro Paixão, Manager of Applications for Cabot Brazil.

Finally, in the last session, case studies will be presented by Michael Støckler, of the Agro Business Park; Aurélio de Souza, of Usinazul; and Felipe Souza Marques, of CiBiogas. The event will end at 6:00 p.m.

Workshop: Dialogue between Brazil and Denmark on Production of Biogas/Biomethane and Applications

When: August 24, 2017, from 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Place: Auditorium of the Energy and Environment Institute (Av. Professor Luciano Gualberto, 1,289 – Cidade Universitária – São Paulo, SP).


RCGI will diagnose the behaviour of the demand for natural gas in Brazil

The study will take into account the reaction of the demand for natural gas when the GDP varies, when the price of NG changes and also the case of variation in the prices of competing fuels.

Knowing how the demand for natural gas in Brazil behaves faced with different circumstances in sectors in which this fuel plays a major role. This is the main goal of the project Estimation of price and income elasticities of natural gas in Brazil: modelling the demand segments taking into account the industrial sector evolution, the electricity generation and the policies for carbon abatement, an initiative of the Research Centre for Gas Innovation (RCGI). The analysis will be target mainly four segments that have had a major impact on the demand for natural gas (NG) in Brazil: the industrial one, which has historically been the largest NG consumer in the country; the electric power segment, due to its use in thermopower plants, which at some moments overcomes the industrial segment; the residential segment, with an upward trend; and the transportation segment, in which the NG is used to power various vehicles.

The studies on elasticity generally aim to understand how a variable behaves in relation to another.

[custom_blockquote style=”green”] “In our case, we are dealing with three types of elasticity: income elasticity, investigating how the demand NG reacts when the GDP increases or decreases; price elasticity, regarding the reactions of demanded quantity due to variations in the price of NG; and also the cross elasticity, which shows how the demand for NG reacts when there is change in the price of a competing source of energy, such as fuel oil or electric power,” explains the coordinator of the project, Professor Virginia Parente, from the Institute of Energy and Environment of the USP (IEE). [/custom_blockquote]

According to her, the income elasticity for energy sources in developing countries has usually been greater than 1, that is, for every 1% of increase in the GDP, the demand for energy has grown over 1%. In the case of the competition with other sources of energy, the direction of the reaction is generally known: “If the competitor fuel price increases, the demand for the other – in this case, natural gas – will increase. However, we want to more accurately know how this occurs. For example, for each percentage point of increase in fuel oil, by how many percentage points does the demand for gas grow? Knowing these relations is important for the decision making process of the agents in the sector, especially those supplying natural gas. Not only these, though. The government is interested in knowing the profile and the reactions of the demand in more depth to design a better planning and to balance incentives,” she states.

Taking into account the point of view of industrial demand, especially for companies in which energy has an important burden in the final cost of their products, it is usual for planners to have to choose, for example, between fuel oil and natural gas as sources of energy for the coming months. “Therefore, this would be the most important relation to study, in the ambit of cross elasticity. This would be followed by the natural gas versus electric power relation, once there are also companies that compare these two production inputs. In the power generation segment, in turn, it is worth establishing the relation between the oil-fuelled and gas-fuelled thermopower plants, since the presence of gas has considerably grown in this segment”.

The expert in energy planning says that there are some researches on the theme in Brazil, but they do not always follow the best practices and, even if they do, those researches always have to be updated. According to her, the studies on elasticity applied to energy examine the behaviour of a relatively recent past, aiming to identify the trend of a near future as regards the convergence or divergence among the variables studied. “For more robust mathematical analyses, a certain amount of data is necessary over time. In our case here, the aim is to observe, on average, the last 15 years to foresee the trend for the next five.”

Social cost – Besides examining the behaviour of the natural gas demand in more depth, Professor Parente and her team – composed by researchers Solange Kileber, Javier Toro, Rinaldo Caldeira and Igor Cesca – intend to suggest public policy measures that could be adopted to differentiate natural gas from the other fossil fuels. “Since natural gas is the least pollutant among the fossil fuels, the idea is to consider its emission potential to differentiate the social cost of using NG, as compared to the high social cost of using oil or coal” she explains.

An example: if the price of (fuel) oil decreases, an entrepreneur may migrate to oil, thinking exclusively about the reducing the individual costs for his company. “Yet, if in the environmental impact is computed into the oil price, the comparison is not solely that of the energy cost, but it also internalizes the social costs of the environmental impact,” she ponders. Natural gas, according to studies in the area, emits from 21% to 25% less greenhouse gases (GHG) as compared to fuel oil and to coal, to deliver the same amount of energy.

In the analysis, the team will also incorporate scenarios concerning the restrictions to GHG emissions. “We will investigate the situation of the demand for natural gas if the international pressure on Brazil for reducing emissions is intensified.”

Virginia Parente explains that, to analyse all these relations, econometric as well as portfolio optimisation methods can be applied. “The portfolio optimisation methods deal, for example, with the following question: What should the participation of the different energy sources be in the composition of the Brazilian energy matrix to maximise safety (minimizing the risks of lack of supply) and to minimise costs? Here the idea is also to analyse the relations of the different sources of energy available in Brazil. In other words, knowing that oil prices oscillate in a certain way, as do those of electric power generated by hydropower plants, those of natural gas, of sugar cane bagasse, of wind and solar power etc., how should Brazil structure its energy mix to ensure the maximum safety at the lowest cost? As we are working within the RCGI context, we are also interested in knowing what specifically can be hypothesised for gas.”

The team coordinated by Prof. Virginia Parente has been working together with the team accounting for another RCGI project coordinated by Prof. Celma de Oliveira Ribeiro (Poli/Production Engineering), integrated Professors Oswaldo Luiz do Valle Costa (Poli/ Electrical Engineering); Julio Stern (IME – Institute of Mathematics and Statistics); and Erik Eduardo Rego (Poli/ Production Engineering). These two teams of USP researchers have been jointly conducting their investigation aiming to provide contributions to the energy planning of Brazil and its developments regarding natural gas.