India's bright green idea: compressed biogas for cars

Read the full post at Biopact.

We have been making the case for the use of compressed biogas (CBG) as an automotive fuel for a long time now. A recent EU well-to-wheel study showed that of over 70 different automotive fuels and fuel paths, biogas is by far the most environmentally friendly and yielding considerably more well-to-tank energy than any other biofuel including second generation fuels like cellulosic ethanol, methanol or BTL-diesel (earlier post). Biogas can be produced in a decentralised manner from a wide range of organic waste streams (municipal, agricultural or industrial waste) making feedstock supplies highly dynamic. But more and more producers are using dedicated energy crops (such as sorghum and sudan grass, or specially bred biogas ‘super’ maize and hybrid grasses) to increase yields. The anaerobic fermentation of biogas maize, for example, yields some 4000 liters of petro-diesel equivalent energy. In Europe, several countries are betting big on using CBG, with Sweden, Norway, Germany and Austria all recently opening CBG pumps for cars. Three car manufacturers have CBG-compatible vehicles on the market, often in a bi- or tri-fuel configuration (earlier post).

Meanwhile, several developing countries have demonstrated that it is possible to introduce compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles on a massive scale. Pakistan for example succeeded in getting over 1 million CNG cars on the road, in a crash-program that lasted two years and that consisted of building compressor outlets and tank stations (earlier post).

In a very important development, India is now going a step further and is taking concrete action towards realising the vision of using compressed biogas to fuel its rapidly growing car fleet. Over 70% of the world’s longterm (2030) growth in demand for automotive fuels will come from rapidly developing countries like India, which is why this news is so important. If a country like India succeeds in proving the viability of CBG, then other countries in the Global South will follow (see the argumentation on this mechanism in professor John Mathews’ Biofuels Manifesto).

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