German startup close to increasing biogas yields by turning leaves into fuel
A German startup reportedly is on the verge of industrialising a process that can increase biogas energy yields by 40 percent – and even turn leaves into fuel, the Berliner Zeitung reports. LXP, based in Teltow, uses a patented lignin extraction process to vastly increase the amount of plant material that can be used in biogas plants. For example, the cobs and upper part of maize plants – the most common biogas feed – are currently the only useable parts. But the LXP method breaks down woody parts, such as stalks, which are usually composted or burnt, to extract energy-rich cellulose, the article says. The resultant ‘wood sugar’ increases yields in biogas plants by 30 to 40 percent, with the energy requirements of the process reducing this by about 10 percent. The process is said to also work with leaves, branches and small trees.
LXP opened a demonstration plant near Regensburg in February and is now working with forestry, agricultural and recycling firms to industrialise the process. It aims to open its first large-scale lignin extraction plant in one to two years, initially supplying municipal utilities with at least 10,000 tonnes of wood sugar a year, eventually rising to up to 50,000 tonnes. In the future, it could also be possible to convert extracted lignin into synthetic fuels or renewable plastics.
Biogas plants use plant-based material to produce green methane, and have proved a popular sideline for German farmers since the introduction of feed-in tariffs in 2000. Today, about 3.5 percent of the electricity generated in Germany comes from maize. But feeding the country’s 10,000 plants has resulted in 7 percent of its entire surface area being turned over to maize production, adversely affecting agriculture and prices.