Anaerobic digestion of agricultural and other substrates – implications for greenhouse gas emissions

Publication from Life
Klimaneutrale Energiesysteme und Lebensstile

Pucker J., Jungmeier G., Siegl S., Pötsch E.M.

Animal Volume 7 Issue s2: Greenhouse Gases & Animal Agriculture Conference (GGAA 2013), 2013


The greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, expressed in carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2-eq), of different Austrian biogas systems were analyzed and evaluated using life-cycle assessment (LCA) as part of a national project. Six commercial biogas plants were investigated and the analysis included the complete process chain: viz., the production and collection of substrates, the fermentation of the substrates in the biogas plant, the upgrading of biogas to biomethane (if applicable) and the use of the biogas or biomethane for heat and electricity or as transportation fuel. Furthermore, the LCA included the GHG emissions of construction, operation and dismantling of the major components involved in the process chain, as well as the use of by-products (e.g. fermentation residues used as fertilizers). All of the biogas systems reduced GHG emissions (in CO2-eq) compared with fossil reference systems. The potential for GHG reduction of the individual biogas systems varied between 60% and 100%. Type of feedstock and its reference use, agricultural practices, coverage of storage tanks for fermentation residues, methane leakage at the combined heat and power plant unit and the proportion of energy used as heat were identified as key factors influencing the GHG emissions of anaerobic digestion processes.

Keywords: greenhouse gases, life-cycle assessment, biogas, anaerobic digestion