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Renewable Gas Panorama 2020 - good times ahead for French biomethane?

Friday, 09 April 2021

On 1 April 2021 the major French gas distribution operator, GRDF (Gaz Reseau Distribution France) released their annual Gas Panorama, which includes detail over the development of the biomethane industry in the nation in 2020.

The annual publication, now in its sixth iteration was also authored by the TSO GRTgaz, as well as gas industry group SPEGNN, renewable energy syndicate SER and infrastructure solutions company Terega. The report highlighted the rapid growth of the French biomethane industry, almost doubling production capacity between 2019 and 2020.

The number of sites injecting into the grid rose from 123 to 214, with the injection capacity reaching 3917 GWh/year, up from 2157 GWh/year in 2019.

France currently sits in the fourth position amongst European countries with regards to biomethane injection capacity, with only Germany, Denmark, and the UK injecting larger volumes of biomethane.

The nation has attracted much attention from the European biomethane market of late; while some European nations have biomethane production capacity and have set production targets for the future, the French government has codified this into law, with renewable gas consumption targeted at 10% of total consumption by 2030.

Furthermore, while the country has an operating biomethane register via GRDF no appreciable international exports or imports were registered in 2020 - this is likely to change once the RED II is implemented into local laws by mid-2021 at the latest. As such, the French biomethane sector offers the opportunity for European biomethane players to establish themselves at the ground floor of a burgeoning market.

However, there are signs of some concern - the decree governing the multi-year energy program (PPE in French) revised its targets in April 2020. The production target for 2023 was lowered to 6 TWh/year from the previous 8 TWh/year target. The president of the SER, Jean-Louis Bal, lamented this downward revision noting the new target is "not ambitious enough and inconsistent with the objectives of the energy-climate law".

Sector observers have already alerted to the decline in projects beyond 2024-2025, likely a consequence of the lack of certainty in government support towards the end of the decade.

Nevertheless, the short-term outlook appears bright for French biomethane, with the report also highlighting efforts to diversify biomethane production technologies beyond anaerobic digestion, including pilot trials on pyrogasification technology, which would allow biomethane production to expand to more regions of the country.

Sources (in French)

Connaissance des Energies

GRDF press release

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