Small-Scale Biogas Upgrading with Membranes: A Farm Based Techno-Economic and Social Assessment for Sustainable Development
Membrane technology can help alleviate problems of matching supply and demand associated with upgrading on a small-scale level through its flexibility in operation. This paper provides a techno-economic assessment of the use of membrane technology via a quantitative and partial qualitative analysis at farm-based level. The purpose of the analysis is to investigate how the economic and environmental utility of the membranes can be maximised, along with outlining the possible reasons to its lack of diffusion. It combines an applied system research method by way of linear programming with interviews and the use of the innovation-decision process theory. A framework was set out to deliver hard and soft data that could also provide contextual in-depth analysis and discussion. It was found that membranes could provide good compatibility with farm based upgrading systems with desirable outcomes for both an economic and environmental viewpoint. More specifically, upgrading to 80 percent (which is below natural gas standards of 96 percent), was found to be more favourable than to upgrade to 96 percent. However, in addition to much further research and deliberation needed before 80 percent biogas can be used commercially in tractors, the study also outlined priority that needs to be given to the local market demand as well as for the need to introduce closer, more personal engagement with the farmers and make trialing and observing membrane technology better facilitated and funded so as to increase its adoption.
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