(739a) Superstructure Optimization Approach for the Optimization of Biogas Upgrading into Biomethane

Martín-Hernández, E., Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, hosted by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, National Risk Management Research Laboratory
Guerras, L. S., University of Salamanca
Martín, M., University of Salamanca
The amount of residues generated by society represents a challenge in terms of treatment but, at the same time, it is also an opportunity towards the production of sustainable resources and energy within the circular economy concept (Korhonen et al., 2018). Among the technologies, anaerobic digestion is deemed as an interesting and promising alternative (Fehrenbach et al., 2008). The biogas generated in the anaerobic digestion has traditionally been used as an energy source. It is possible to directly use biogas in gas turbines (Somehsaraei et al., 2014), or in generators (Reddy et al., 2016). However, the large infrastructure available for the shipping of natural gas in Europe (Entsog, 2015) or the US (EIA, 2018), suggests the purification of the biogas to achieve a composition similar to natural gas, also referred to as upgrading, as an alternative for the generation of renewable energy to be evaluated. There are several paths to achieve this purpose. On the one hand, it is possible to hydrogenate the CO2 within the biogas into methane (Curto and Martín, 2019). The main issue is the need for large amounts of renewable energy for the generation of hydrogen in order to avoid the generation of negative environmental impacts. On the other hand, CO2 capture technologies can be used. A number of reviews have been presented comparing different technologies for CO2 capture in general (Angenlidaki et al., 2018), but no systematic comparison and techno economic analysis has been developed for biogas upgrading.

A hybrid heuristic-mathematical optimization approach has been proposed to select the technology and the operating conditions for the upgrading of biogas into biomethane produced from different wastes sources including manure, urban food waste and sludge. First, a prescreening or heuristic stage evaluates various technologies including water scrubbing, physical and chemical absorption, pressure swing adsorption, cryogenic separation, and membrane separation systems. In a second stage, alkali solvents, adsorbent media and membrane materials are selected. Finally, a superstructure of technologies is formulated to select among three different amines, MEA, DEA and MDEA, two different zeolites, 13X and 4 A and three membrane materials, cellulose acetate, polyimide and polycarbonate. The entire process is modeled from the digester to the production of synthetic biomethane using mass and energy balances, experimental data, thermodynamic models, industrial rules of thumb, etc. We optimized the upgrading process for the different waste sources considered: cattle and pig manure, food waste, and sludge.

The optimization results show that among the amines, DEA is preferred. Among the zeolites, the 13 X and among the membrane materials, the polyimide is selected. The best technology among them all is pressure swing adsorption using zeolite 13X as adsorbent. Food waste is the most promising waste due to the largest organic matter content, resulting in an investment of 67 M€ and a production cost of 0.36 €/Nm3 for the processing of 10 kg/s of waste. The comparison of the upgrading of biogas using CO2 capture technologies with the direct CO2 hydrogenation (Curto and Martín, 2019), or the direct production of synthetic methane from CO2 hydrogenation (Davis and Martin, 2014), is in favour of the direct hydrogenation of biogas for areas of large availability of solar or wind energy. However, for higher electricity costs, CO2 capture is suggested. Scale up/down studies are carried out to evaluate the effect of city and farm size on the investment and production costs of biomethane production


Angenlidaki, I., Treu, L., Tsapekos, P., Luo, G., Campanaro, S., Wenzel, H., Kougias, P.G., (2018). Biogas upgrading and utilization: Current status and perspectives Biotechnology Advances 36, 452–466.

Curto, D., Martín, M. (2019). Renewable based biogas upgrading. J. Cleaner Prod. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2019.03.176

Davis, W., Martín, M. (2014). Optimal year-round operation for methane production from CO2 and water using wind and/or solar energy. J. Cleaner Prod. 80, 252-261.

EIA. (2018). Natural gas pipelines. Available at https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/index.php?page=natural_gas_pipelines

Entsog. (2015). The European Gas Network. Available at https://www.entsog.eu/sites/default/files/2018-10/ENTSOG_CAP_MAY2015_A0FORMAT.pdf

Fehrenbach, H., Giegerich, J., Reinhardt, G., Schmitz, J., Sayer, U., Gretz, M., et al. (2008). Criteria for a sustainable use of bioenergy on a global scale. Federal Environment Agency Germany, prepared by the Institute for energy and Environmental research (IFEU), Heidelberg.

Korhonen, J., Honkasalo, A., Seppala, J. (2018). Circular Economy: The concept and its limitations. Ecological Economics. 143, 37-46.

Someharaeri, HN., Majumerd, MM, Breuhaus, P., Assadi, M. (2014). Performance analysis f biogas fuelled microgas turbine using a validated thermodynamic model. Appl. Therm. Eng. 66, (1-2), 181-190.

Reddy, KS., Aravindhan, S., Mallick, TK., (2016). Investigation of performance and emission characteristics of a biogas fueled electric generator integrated with solar concentrated photovoltaic system. Renew. Energ. 92, 233-243.


This paper has an Extended Abstract file available; you must purchase the conference proceedings to access it.


Do you already own this?



AIChE Members $150.00
AIChE Graduate Student Members Free
AIChE Undergraduate Student Members Free
Non-Members $225.00