Territorial methanisation : Albigensian opportunities.

Geotexia : a territorial biogas plant (France).
Published by Isabelle Meiffren on 14/05/2013

Forty local officials, farmers, operators of energy, ... interfaced at the end of 2012 on the development potential of methanisation in the Albigensian territory (PAB). Preceded by training, study tours, this meeting extended the demands for depth expressed by the agricultural sector in the Territorial Energy Climate Plan, the current plan for improvement through 100-Res Communities. The seminar was particularly appropriate as the Midi-Pyrenees had just announced a plan to support the development of methanisation 2011-2014, with a budget of € 8 million.

The objective of the Midi-Pyrenees Plan: structure and support, from design to construction and operation of facilities, operational and sustainable regional industry, by strengthening the conditions of eligibility of projects.

Its principal originality? Demanding in terms of the justification of the  biodegradable sources (wastes, effluents, by-products), the regional system also provides, after feasibility studies, support for legal studies to define the partnership structure for project management  for territorial projects. Too often forgotten, this legal study, given the multiplicity of stakeholders is a way to control those involved, when the real problems begin!

The potential for regional biogas is important: It could reach up to 2,200 GWh per year in Midi-Pyrenees, equivalent to one quarter of the gas consumption (residential and commercial) in the Region. And if this potential "really" was actually recoverable this would avoid the use of 200 million liters of fuel, while creating hundreds of jobs. 16 development zones, mainly located in the foothills areas have been identified as the most promising approaches for collective and territorial.  So the Albigensian and Bastides territory.

At the level of the PAB mapping deposits (type, quantity, energy potential) crossed with the mapping of potential consumers of biogas (heat, biomethane injection into the grid) a zoning has been made according to the type of projects . Which is also  well differentiated:

  • favorable areas for collective and territorial projects
  • favorable areas for methanisation on farms, individual or small collective
  • favorable areas for all types of projects
  • areas a priori less favorable for anaerobic digestion

In the Albigensian territory, given the importance of livestock - cattle, sheep, ... - and many workshops and dynamic food industry, the prospects for biogas projects territorial average power - between 350 kWe and 1 MWe are real.

The SWOT analysis shows, however, that the PAB does not accumulate assets.

The project will therefore study rigorously to fully understand the constraints in particular:

  • A relief of rolling hills and valleys which does not facilitate the collection of waste or spreading the mostly  liquid digestate,
  • A "cultural" individualism of breeders, although the area has several CUMA (cooperative use of common equipment) dynamic
  • The sluggishness of the agricultural world .

Until very recently, the context was not really picked up in France for biogas.

This has resulted in :

  • very inadequate mechanisms to support biogas, just recorded in May 2011, ...
  • inability to inject biogas into the grid for several decades (unlike other European countries) a recently lifted ban, thus increasing the chances of biogas, including agricultural projects of significant size
  • legal and regulatory framework not suitable.

The French context : a large gap to fill !

At the end of 2012, there were 90 agricultural biogas plants in France (against 7500 in Germany).

France has launched in late March 2013, the national plan Energy Autonomy Anaerobic nitrogen. Centered around a target of 1,000 agricultural biogas plants nationally in 2020, it combines three objectives: control of fertilization, limiting imports of nitrogen fertilizer, the production of renewable energy.

This plan shows the awareness of the powers that be of the economic vulnerability of our agricultural industry to importation of fossil fuels and fertilizer .

All the ingredients are now in place to encourage the emergence of collaborative projects in the Albigensian territory namely:

  • a national positioning which legitimizes the initiatives of elected officials and project developers
  • financial support of the Region during all key phases: feasibility, investment, bank lending and legal assistance to the project management,
  • support for animation and mobilization of actors by region and dissemination of best practices,
  • farmers, collectives invested heavily on these themes .

Farmers have to be alerted to the key points of successful projects:

  • The existence of an organic deposit which could be mobilised over time. Deposits with very high energy potential, coveted, should not be included in calculations of profitability. They are at most possible "bonus" sources. Another field to consider carefully: crop residues. Indeed, they are likely to return to the livestock industry, or be buried to preserve soil fertility. Finally, the Midi-Pyrenees has decided not to fund projects that mobilize dedicated energy crops, emphasizing the value of existing resources not to intensify the use of the best land for energy production.
  • Opportunities for energy provided throughout the year, without significant seasonal variations,
  • The willingness of farmers to recover the digestate as an amendment, and therefore stay "stakeholders" of the project also in the long term,
  •  A wise site location, integrated locally in consultation with local residents.

The signing of supply contracts, ideally over several years, is essential to secure the deposit entering collective projects and consolidates the file for  bank loan application.

Failing to achieve this in the study phase, the project supporters must be gathered by  letters of intent. Involving suppliers of raw materials in the project financing is another way to secure the supply of digesters in layers.