Biogas could replace nearly half of the fossil gas Germany currently uses for electricity generation, a new study by the German Biomass Research Centre claimed.

Biogas is a mixture mostly consisting of methane, carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide that is produced from plant material and agricultural byproducts, manure, or various other types of waste – and therefore considered a renewable energy source.

Upgrading biogas to biomethane that can be used in the same way as fossil gas – for applications beyond electricity production such as heating – is a complex process, which currently isn’t widely available in Germany yet, but in the medium term could replace 3% of the nation's overall gas consumption (instead of 1% currently), the Short study on the role of biogas for a climate-neutral, 100% renewable power system 2035 found.

However, if biogas is used directly for power generation where it is produced, it could replace up to 46% of the electricity output of German fossil gas-fired power stations, the study claims.

Germany during the first quarter of this year produced 15.2% of its electricity from fossil gas – which often is used in power stations also producing district heating – and is facing an energy crunch in the coming winter in the wake of Russian gas curtailment.

The study was commissioned by Leipzig-based energy trader Energy2market and consulting firm DWR eco.

Germany’s centre-left government last month had said it plans to increase the production of biogas to help substitute fossil gas, in particular by suspending annual output limits for plants. Berlin in recent years had limited the expansion of biogas amid a fierce public debate on food-vs-energy production on domestic fields.

Biomass in total (not just biogas, but also solid components) during the first quarter accounted for 7.6% of the country’s electricity generation, while all renewable sources combined accounted for 45.7% (gross) or 49.9% (net) once electricity exports to other countries are factored in.

Energy2market argued that biogas is urgently needed as a back-up option for a future power generation that is 100% based on renewables in order to provide electricity in times of little sun or wind.

Kremlin pretext for cutting gas flows

Russia in reaction to sanctions against its invasion of Ukraine has throttled gas flows to Germany, triggering fears Europe’s largest economy in the coming winter may not have sufficient gas to both cater for key industries such as chemicals, heating and power generation.

State-owned Russian gas monopolist Gazprom in recent weeks has reduced the gas flow through the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea to Germany, alleging that due to western sanctions it hadn’t received a key gas turbine back from Siemens Energy, which had been shipped to Canada for scheduled maintenance work.

Canada has meanwhile released the gas turbine, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was photographed in front of it in Germany on Wednesday, saying the Kremlin is falsely using the turbine as a pretext for cutting gas flows. The real reason for not getting the turbine back is that Gazprom in Sankt Petersburg intentionally isn’t filling in the paperwork of Russian bureaucracy, Germany insists.

“It is obvious that nothing, absolutely nothing, stands in the way of the onward transport of this turbine and its installation in Russia,” Scholz said.

“It can be transported and used at any time.”