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Going Vertical

The biogas sector has built itself a wide base. Now, it’s time for the industry to build upon these successes, share them broadly with the investment community, find and win new industry champions, and go vertical.
By Tim Portz | January 31, 2017

In a sweeping overview of activity and construction currently underway in the biogas sector, the article that serves as the foundation for this issue—completely dedicated to biogas production and use—specifically mentions 26 different projects. That same article identifies 24 different service and technology providers making vital contributions to these projects. Setting aside only the installation of small-scale biomass thermal, I can say, without even looking, that the biogas segment can boast the largest roster of under-development and under-construction projects within the broader biomass-to-energy space.

Still, it remains difficult to absorb the industry’s measure. To go a step further, the frenzied excitement that has marked other biomass sectors when they have experienced similar project counts feels notably absent. A close read of this this page-14 feature, “Biogas Advances in the US,” written by Managing Editor Anna Simet and Associate Editor Katie Fletcher, may well reveal why that is. The article illustrates the incredible variety of biogas deployments currently underway, outlining digesters that have been built at hog farms, dairy operations, landfills, organic waste collection depots, breweries, supermarket chains and wastewater treatment plants. In nearly each case, the reactor design is unique, designed specifically for that project. This lies in stark contrast to other biomass segments, like wood pellet production, that rely on designs that share many common elements. In this way, one of the biogas segments biggest values—incredible flexibility—brings along with it a unique challenge. Investors and lenders crave certainty and predictability, and are looking for technologies that they are confident can deliver repeatable success.

It should also be noted that, unlike many other biomass sectors, the biogas segment is devoid of a clear feedstock champion. Other biomass technologies are championed and propelled by the owners and producers of the feedstocks that end up at the plant gate. The ethanol industry was championed by corn growers. The forest products sector champions wood pellets. For now, biogas has no such clear champion. As a result, biogas is, and for the foreseeable future, will be responsible for its own advocacy and market development efforts. This underscores the importance of financially supporting the trade groups doing the hard work of advocating for this incredible technology. It is unlikely that anyone else will do so on our behalf.

This issue clearly demonstrates the biogas sector has built itself a wide base. Now, it’s time for the industry to build upon these successes, share them broadly with the investment community, find and win new industry champions, and go vertical.


Author: Tim Portz
Vice President of Content  & Executive Editor
tportz@bbiinternational.com