There is a lot to be proud about in our region. In September 2017, production of biogas in the world’s largest horizontal thermophilic plug flow plant for dry fermentation started in Forsbacka, five kilometers west of Sandviken.
The biogas produced in Forsbacka mainly includes waste from households and gardens. The gas has very high quality and can be used as vehicle fuel, and also as an excellent high-nutrient fertilizer that farmers can use instead of the fertilizers used today.
The process is called a plug flow. This means that each batch passes through the process as a plug in a controlled flow. In many other plants, waste batches in different phases are mixed, which doesn’t provide the same fine results.
Fermentation breaks down the waste and creates methane. The bacteria that break down the waste in the Forsbacka plant work best at relatively high temperatures (around 52-55°C). This is what makes them thermophilic. The fermentation is relatively dry, which results in less residual water and lower energy consumption, amongst other advantages. The Forsbacka plant is one of very few dry fermentation plants in Sweden.
Today, ten thousand tons of leftover waste is collected, but there is more to get. The plant has the capacity to produce 2.7 billion cubic meters of biogas. It is used both as transportation and industrial gas. Thanks to the agreement with Sandvik, all the biogas that is produced is sold. There are also plans to establish eco stations in the area, which would mean additional biogas stations for transportation.
For the industry in the region, biogas can replace parts of the liquid gas used today, both in the steel industry and for processes such as roasting of coffee beans. This means that the environmental impact from the industry is reduced by using locally produced renewable energy sources.
Biogas can also be used for heat and electricity generation, which doesn’t require such a high level of methane as for vehicle fuel. You then avoid the upgrading, or cleaning of the gas after the fermentation phase.
Since waste is used in the production, the biogas is a part of the lifecycle. The production is carbon dioxide neutral and cars that run on biogas emit significantly less nitrogen, soot and sulphur than petrol and diesel cars – less, also compared to so called environmental cars. From a financial perspective, you also save money as biogas costs approximately 20 percent less than diesel and petrol.
The tank of a regular Passat holds about 21 kilos of biogas, which means about 400–500 kilometers of driving. We are at the forefront in Sweden when it comes to biogas and from Stockholm and south, you will find several gas stations. There are fewer stations in the north, with the nearest station in Sundsvall. There are also stations in Östersund, Härnösand, Skellefteå and Boden, so you can drive wherever you want with a bit of planning.
New gas and eco stations are planned in Gävle, Söderhamn and Sandviken. More and more stations are opening every year. In the rest of Europe, Italy is the country with most stations, closely followed by Germany.
Biogas takes up a lot of space, and the production is still expensive. The biogas from Forsbacka is compressed from 3–4 bar to 200 bars before transporting the gas to the fueling station in Sörby Urfjäll. Forsbacka also owns a liquid methane tank that holds a temperature as low as -160°C. It’s a fairly expensive handling, but the gas takes up about 600 times as much space as in liquid form. The tank is used as backup in case of problems in the regular production.
When wise people from all over the world in industry, academia and the public sector interact exciting things happen. Sandviken is such a place in the field of fossil free and climate neutral energy.
Sandviken PurePOWER is an open communication concept administered by Sandvikens Kommun. Here, people that want to contribute to making Sweden one of the world’s first fossil free countries meet. Sandviken is the place where it all happens. Right now.