What is the most energy efficient route for biogas utilization: Heat, electricity or transport?

Rawan Hakawati, Beatrice Smyth, Geoffrey McCullough, Fabio deRosa, David Rooney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Citations (Scopus)
1029 Downloads (Pure)


Biogas is a renewable energy source that can be used either directly or through various pathways (e.g. upgrading to bio-methane, use in a fuel cell or conversion to liquid fuels) for heat, electricity generation or mechanical energy for transport. However, although there are various options for biogas utilization, there is limited guidance in the literature on the selection of the optimum route, and comparison between studies is difficult due to the use of different analytical frameworks. The aim of this paper was to fill that knowledge gap and to develop a consistent framework for analysing biogas-to-energy exploitation routes. The paper evaluated 49 biogas-to-energy routes using a consistent life cycle analysis method focusing on energy efficiency as the chosen crtierion. Energy efficiencies varied between 8% and 54% for electricity generation; 16% and 83% for heat; 18% and 90% for electricity and heat; and 4% and 18% for transport. Direct use of biogas has the highest efficiencies, but the use of this fuel is typically limited to sites co-located with the anaerobic digestion facility, limiting available markets and applications. Liquid fuels have the advantage of versatility, but the results show consistently low efficiencies across all routes and applications. The energy efficiency of bio-methane routes competes well with biogas and comes with the advantage that it is more easily transported and used in a wide variety of applications. The results were also compared with fossil fuels and discussed in the context of national policies. This research resulted in the development of a flexible framework for comparing energy efficiencies which can provide the basis for further research on optimizing the sustainability of biogas-to-energy systems across a range of indicators.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1076-1087
JournalApplied Energy
Early online date20 Sep 2017
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2017


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