BIOGAS, THE MULTI-TALENT
According to the German Biogas Association, 31.9 billion kilowatt hours of electricity were generated from biogas in Germany in 2019. This may sound like a lot at first, but according to the German Renewable Energies Agency (AEE), it corresponds to less than 5% of Germany’s total energy demand. And that’s despite the fact that biogas is a true all-rounder. It is produced during the fermentation of organic material, such as plant parts and manure, and is thus classified as a renewable energy. This is because the raw materials needed for its production grow back. The main component of the colorless and odorless gas mixture is methane, as is the case with natural gas. Unlike its fossil counterpart, however, biogas is 100% carbon-neutral. Regardless of whether the plants end up in the fermentation tank directly or first pass through the digestive tract of cattle and pigs, when biogas is burned, only the amount of carbon dioxide that was previously bound in the biomass used is released.
It is produced in large plants, often operated directly by the farmers themselves. This has advantages for farmers: Plant residues, manure, and slurry can be processed very efficiently. What remains is high-quality fertilizer for the fields. If the principles of the circular economy are followed, biogas plants are therefore an almost indispensable step in the agricultural production cycle.
Biogas plants and the partnerships resulting from them bring benefits for farms, companies, and the environment
REGIONAL COLLABORATION, GLOBAL IMPACT
By operating their biogas plant in Oberderdingen, the Meerwarth family was able to establish a second line of business.. The idea was to use the biological waste that farms produce anyway to generate energy. The partnership with E.G.O. at the Oberderdingen site began in 2010. The subgroup initially used the local heat from the neighboring biomass power plant to heat its development and technology center, now called Vertex. The existing biogas plant of Meerwarth GbR was expanded in 2019/2020 so that all E.G.O. buildings in Plant II at the Oberderdingen site now use its waste heat.
A PARTNERSHIP THAT BENEFITS EVERYONE
The heat is generated no matter what, but this means that it is harnessed. At the same time, it is sourced from a company in the region so there are no long transport routes. The fuels are produced locally in the region. As a result, the E.G.O. companies at the Oberderdingen site were able to reduce their CO2 emissions by a total of 776 metric tons. The plant’s fermenters process about 30% corn, 30% green waste, and 40% manure and slurry from the farm’s dairy cows. That means, to a large extent, these are agricultural by-products that would be generated anyway. Instead of needing to dispose of them, they are used to generate energy, which protects the environment and saves fossil fuels. Operating the plant contributes to the expansion of renewable energies. This is also an important aspect with respect to Germany’s energy independence. Despite all its advantages, biogas still plays a subordinate role as an energy source here. The collaboration between E.G.O. and Meerwarth shows how holistic concepts can be used for economically sensible and ecologically exemplary initiatives.
How a biogas plant works
STRIVING TO BECOME A CARBON-NEUTRAL GROUP
Careful use of resources and energy remains the key factor in achieving global climate targets. The collaboration with Meerwarth GbR is an example of a dynamic, holistic approach with measures and projects that benefit everyone involved, on both a small and large scale.
“Climate change really does affect everyone. It is fundamentally changing the economies of individual countries, affecting our lives, and can cost people, society, and countries dearly both today and in the future. Counteracting this global problem is both an obligation and an opportunity for companies,” explains Dr. Johannes Haupt, Chairman of the Management Board of BLANC & FISCHER Family Holding. All companies in the Group are working on their own projects to implement the ambitious sustainability targets.
One of these goals is to become carbon-neutral, which means recording, reducing, and avoiding CO2 emissions. When it comes to energy management at the Family Holding, there is a central department that takes care of any energy-related issues: Energy and Environment in Corporate Global Processes on the BLANC & FISCHER level. We work together across the subgroups and sites to find ways of using energy even more efficiently. For example, the entire Group has switched to energy-saving LED lighting technology.
Corn can also be used as a substrate for biogas production
However, emissions cannot be avoided entirely. Being a carbon-neutral business therefore also means offsetting unavoidable CO2 emissions with climate protection projects. The E.G.O. global tree planting campaign is an example of such a project. 5,600 trees are being planted – one for each employee. 1,600 are already standing tall in the Oberderding forest, and 730 at the E.G.O. site in Turkey. More will follow in 2021.
But two of the most important factors when it comes to the CO2 balance are the use of heating and electricity. This is precisely why the biogas project in partnership with Meerwarth GbR is especially important, because it shows that any regional action makes an important impact. Since the plant was commissioned, over two million liters of heating oil have already been saved at the Oberderdingen site. A modern cruise ship could cross the Atlantic almost four times with this amount!
A DECADE OF HEAT - THE MEERWARTH GBR BIOGAS PLANT
BACK IN MARCH 2011, THE FIRST E.G.O. BUILDING WAS ALREADY ABLE TO BE HEATED WITH WASTE HEAT FROM THE NEIGHBORING BIOMASS POWER PLANT OF THE AGRICULTURAL BUSINESS DIETER AND KURT MEERWARTH GBR INITIALLY, ONLY VERTEX, THE DEVELOPMENT AND TECHNOLOGY CENTER IN OBERDERDINGEN, WAS CONNECTED, BUT THE NUMBER OF USERS KEPT GROWING. THE SECOND PLANT, WHICH OPENED IN OCTOBER 2020, IS ABLE TO MEET THE HEATING NEEDS OF COMPANIES AT THE SITE TO AN EVEN GREATER EXTENT. TOGETHER, THE TWO SYSTEMS HELPED THE COMPANY SAVE NEARLY 300,000 LITERS OF HEATING OIL IN 2020.
BUT THE E.G.O. COMPANIES IN OBERDERDINGEN AREN’T THE ONLY BENEFICIARIES. THE MEERWARTH FARM IS ALSO PLEASED TO HAVE FOUND A RELIABLE BUYER.
THE PROJECT AT A GLANCE:
- BIOGAS IS THE RENEWABLE AND CARBON-NEUTRAL ALTERNATIVE TO NATURAL GAS.
- ITS PRODUCTION IS PART OF AN AGRICULTURAL CYCLE SYSTEM.
- IT REMAINS IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD: MINIMAL TRANSPORT ROUTES
- FUEL “MADE IN GERMANY” PROMOTES GERMANY’S ENERGY INDEPENDENCE
- WASTE HEAT UTILIZATION REDUCES CONSUMPTION OF FOSSIL FUELS AND CO2 EMISSIONS
- AN IMPORTANT STEP FOR THE BLANC & FISCHER FAMILY HOLDING COMPANIES ON THE WAY TO CARBON NEUTRALITY