Biogas production potential and cost-benefit analysis of harvesting wetland plants (Phragmites australis and Glyceria maxima).

University essay from Högskolan i Halmstad/Akademin för ekonomi, teknik och naturvetenskap

Abstract: Biogas production from energy crops grown on arable land often competes with food and feed production. Wetland plants offer an alternative source of biomass as well as offering a number of environmental benefits such as nutrient removal from wastewaters, carbon sequestration and reducing the use of mineral fertilizer. The aim of this study is to investigate the effect of harvest time on biogas production of Phragmites australis and Glyceria maxima and to perform a cost-benefit analysis of using these wetland plants as a substrate for biogas production. The results of the batch experiment show that the overall biogas production and specific methane yields of biomass harvested in June was higher than biomass harvested in September due the increased lignocellulosic nature of the more mature September plant. The cost-benefit showed that in Sweden it is not currently profitable to solely use wetland plants for biogas production. For both species the highest costs were seen in the June harvested biomass, this was due to the much higher fresh weight and increased transportation costs. For both species the highest revenues generated were the June harvested biomass, this was due to the higher specific methane yields. It was found that the harvest time that was closest to profitability from both species was the June harvest for Phragmites australis. Although the costs were higher for harvesting in June, this was outweighed by the higher amount of electricity produced for this scenario. If transportation distance was to be increased it could result in September being the favourable harvest time. Therefore, individual circumstances of the farmers could decide which is the optimal harvest time. Although solely using wetland plants for biogas production is not currently profitable, co-digestion and pre-treatment are options to investigate that could change this. Also if a greater financial value is put on the socioeconomic benefits such as increased biodiversity, aesthetic value and global warming mitigation it may be financially viable in the future.

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