Selling biogas to municipals
German bioenergy association Fachverband Biogas says revisions to the country's Renewable Energy Act in 2012 hurt the sector more than they helped. And the situation is expected to worsen further in 2013. Arcanum Energy is apparently an exception, however. The firm's success is based on cooperation with municipal utilities and the marketing of biomethane.
While the bioenergy sector generally faced a tough year in 2012, Arcanum Energy, a provider of consulting and other services in the bioenergy sector, finished the fiscal year in the black. According to the latest figures, five times more biogas units were newly installed in 2011 than in the previous year, when 1,415 systems were added with a total capacity of 706 megawatts including repowering. The trend was a major setback for the sector. In a press release for Eurotier 2012 in November, Fachverband Biogas stated that a lot of firms only stayed in business in 2012 because 2011 had been so good. The Association said current business was sobering; the backlog of orders, a catastrophe.
But business went well for Arcanum Energy. In 2012, the firm put three biogas production facilities into operation with an annual production capacity of 90 gigawatt-hours of biogas, equivalent to 4.2 megawatts of electrical output. Overall, the German now operates five biogas processing facilities with an annual production volume of 150 gigawatt-hours within its biogas pool for municipal utilities. Here, Arcanum brings farmers and municipals together. The utilities can improve their portfolio by taking part in the pool without having to do business as an operator themselves. And the farmers can enter another market by selling energy. Two of these pools are now in operation, and a third expects to begin selling biogas to natural gas lines in 2013.
Arcanum says that this approach is the reason why it did so well during the downturn. In addition, it also manages the "Bioerdgas-Zentrale," an online marketplace for bio natural gas. Essentially, raw biogas is purified to reach natural gas quality so it can be fed directly to natural gas lines, allowing the product to be traded across the country. Farmers produce the biogas locally, and Arcanum sells the refined bio natural gas as a networker.
Vera Schürmann, the firm's managing director, says the outlook for 2013 is also good: "in 2013, we will launch Germany's first spot market for bio natural gas and set new standards by complying with the requirements for mass balance sheets in our own independent system." (Melanie Vogelpohl / Craig Morris)