Biogas - Established Sustainable Technology in A Circular Economy

Unique methane fuel cell & the biggest gaseous filling station in Baltic states

19 April 2024
The third study trip took us to Estonia and an inspiring smorgasbord of biomethane plants, and a world unique fuel cell providing electricity power and excess heat from biomethane.
Technical details

Our study visit to Estonia in March 2024 brought stakeholders from Sweden, Finland, and Latvia to see three biogas plants that used pulp waste water, agricultural waste and biodegradable waste as substrate. We also got to see a world unique fuel cell that has the capacity to convert biomethane directly to electric power without combustion and the largest biogas filling station in the Baltic states.

– The fuel cell was very interesting, I have actually already looked for prices online for a similar solution for my production plant. / Jānis Višņevskis, Biogas producer, Latvia

Cleaning the wastewater from aspen pulp production

Estonian Cell pulp mill in Kunda have produced biogas since 2014 and started upgrading it to biomethane since 2018 and injecting it into natural gas grid. Estonian Cell is the biggest producer of biomethane in Estonia reaching 50GWh of annual production. The biomethane is used in Tartu and Pärnu City transport. Biogas production started to treat wastewater to the level, it could be directed back to nature and thereby improve their enviromental impact significantly. Research for next steps in circular economy are ongoing.

Unique fuel cell for electricity from methane

The Biometaan OÜ biomethane plant produces about 15GWh biogas per year from manure, silage residues, whey, potatoes etc since 2018. The biomethane is utilized in Pärnu City transport, gas network in the town of Viljandi and through the local filling station.

What makes this plant different and worthy of a visit is the worlds first Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) generating electricity out of biomethane with electrical efficiency of 60% and up. This SOFC unit was produced and designed by Estonian-Finnish joint venture between Elqogen and Convion. This technology is groundbreaking for the reason that compared to low-temperature fuel cells it does not have a need for expensive precious metals and once it will reach mass production, the price should become more affordable for more clients. Generated excess heat can be used in biogas plant heat circuit to bring down expenses on thermal energy

study visit at bus filling station in Tallinn

Study visit at gas filling station for buses in Tallinn

Filling up the buses of Tallinn

The final visit took us to Tallinn City transport filling station, operated by Bioforce Infra OÜ, which was opened in 2021 and which is the biggest gaseous fuel filling station in Baltic states. It is capable of filling over 200 buses per day using mainly biomethane. Filling station is also connected with the natural gas grid which can be used if there is a shortage of biomethane. Buses running on biomethane have been proven themselves to be reliable and Tallinn City Transport is willing to use them as long as possible.

A growing market for biomethane

Estonian biomethane production has grown from 0GWh in the end of 2017 to 210GWh in the end of 2023. There are around 8 upcoming biogas plant projects under development, which can continue this growth to nearly 700GWh. At the moment, most of produced biomethane is used in transport sector.