april 12, 2021

Cow’s fueling cars

Smallest privately owned biogas upgrading facility for the production of vehicle fuel

Keywords: biogas, biomethane, biogas upgrading, power, renewable energy, vehicle fuel, CNG, renewable energy

Author: Jan Kruit, Marjolein Overbosch

Biogas upgrading at the Hagelsrum farm

Farmers who make biogas from manure are not uncommon, but the Birgersson family on Hagelsrum’s farm goes further than that. With four biogas fueling stations and a fifth one coming up, they are contributing to the circular economy and closing the circle from cow to fuel tank.

At the Hagelsrum’s farm just outside the town of Målilla, 650 dairy cows produce seven million litres of milk annually. The farm of a total of 500 hectares is run by the Birgersson family who also raises calves and grows fodder crops. That this family is innovative, is proven by the fact that as early as 2008 they began to rethink their own biogas production situation and how they could increase their efficiency. To facilitate the efficient use of the farms waste and to be able to use the biogas produced, a small digester of 2300 m3 and CHP were built. As a result, the farm was able to use the electricity and sell the surplus electricity to the national grid. But just months after gas production began in 2011, electricity prices plummeted.

Innovation to secure sustainability and maximize returns

After the electricity prices dropped, they quickly came up with the plan to refine the biogas to produce CNG. This led to the build of a biogas upgrading plant on site in 2018. Currently they have installed another 4600 m3 digester which produces biogas. So far nothing strange. There are plenty of Swedish farms that produce biogas. But they have installed a biogas upgrading plant were the biogas is led through a pipeline, passing several filters, compressors, and biogas upgrading membranes to remove water and carbon dioxide, so the gas comes out has a methane concentration of 97%, vehicle gas (CNG). Acquainted with the technology and quality of the DMT upgrading technology from previous successful projects, Tom Birgersson has asked DMT to deliver his upgrading installation. With a trusted party by his side, he could fully focus on developing the project.

The production amounts to about 10 giga watt hours of biogas annually. Through an agreement with a local energy company, it is sold at the biogas stations along the E22, where Kalmar County Transport has been running most of the traffic on biogas for a few years now. With a little tweaking and tuning, it would be possible to increase production to 14 gigawatt hours.  But to be able to produce more gas, you also need somewhere to sell it. The solution in the Birgersson family’s case is to not only manufacture fuel, but also to sell it at their own fuelling stations.

Supplying the local community with CNG

The first biogas station opened just before Christmas 2019 in Målilla. The other 3 stations, Vimmerby, Högsby’s and Hultsfred’s are completed in 2020. The fifth fueling station for biomethane will be in Eksjö this year. Målilla serves as the mother station and warehouse for the vehicle gas. From the farm, the gas is led there in a pipeline just over five kilometres long. It was a tough job to get it done, but they have managed to get it done and the results are impressive.

Creating a sustainable world

What makes this project special is the passion and mission to create a sustainable world. Tom Birgersson studied for a master’s degree in biochemistry at Linköping University. He was involved in the gas project and has played a key role in the development. When the regional public transport authority started talking about biogas, Birgersson decided to invest. In the summer of 2018, the larger digester and the upgrade facility were completed. The activities of the biogas upgrading plant are beginning to grow and the investment in the plant is profitable. The large investment in the farm was made supportively made possible by the state, who raised close to SEK 13 million through the Klimatklivet plan. An additional SEK 20 million has been received from Klimatklivet in order to be able to build the fueling stations and the gas pipeline.

Collaboration with GEP Group – A DMT Service Partner

For many of the Scandinavian projects, DMT Environmental Technology works together with Gas Engineering & Product Group, the GEP Group in Sweden. GEP Group is DMT’s service provider and an important link/gateway to the Scandinavian gas industry. GEP Group has long experience as Project Managers of industrial gas projects and supplies compressors and CNG fuelling stations for the DMT biogas upgrading projects.