The rate at which new biogas facilities are coming online has slowed in recent years, says Annex. The EU is planning to spend €4 billion over the next two years to boost biogas production by 15 million metric tons of oil equivalent (mtoe), a unit of measurement used to compare different types of oil and gas products. That’s a small fraction of 400 mtoe of natural gas consumed in the EU annually, but seven times as much biogas as was produced in 2018, according to the European Biogas Association.


Another gas that could get a boost in the EU’s recovery plan is hydrogen. Hydrogen burns at very high temperatures and produces only water as a byproduct, making it a possible zero-carbon solution to high-emitting industries such as steel-making, heavy transport, and chemicals manufacturing, none of which can operate on solar or wind alone.

Currently the bloc uses 8 million metric tons of what’s known as “gray hydrogen,” which is derived from natural gas in a process that releases carbon dioxide. When that carbon is captured and buried, the result is called “blue hydrogen.” When renewable electricity is used to split hydrogen from oxygen in water molecules, that’s called “green hydrogen,” which is both the cleanest and the most expensive to make.

“You need both routes”—green and blue hydrogen—“if you’re really serious about decarbonizing all the use cases,” says Oliver Bishop, general manager of hydrogen at Royal Dutch Shell Plc. Bishop has worked on hydrogen-related projects at the oil company for eight years, but he still hasn’t worked on a large-scale project.

Unlike biomethane, hydrogen production can’t be scaled up by small startups or entrepreneurs, says Annex. Each method is far more complex than the anaerobic digester, and requires much more upfront capital. The EU’s draft proposal shows that it plans to spend more than €50 billion on research into cheaper technologies to produce hydrogen, as well as the wider deployment of current technologies. It aims to produce 1 million metric tons of clean hydrogen annually.

Cubina, Guerra, Bermingham, and Bishop have all seen their businesses grow over the years due to the generally increasing awareness of the dangers posed by climate change. While there’s still a long way to go to recover from the shock of the coronavirus, the enormous sums of money flowing from governments could provide the stimulus these small businesses need to take their practices mainstream.

--With assistance from Will Mathis.

This article was provided by Bloomberg News. 

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