BioLPG ready for the off

gas tank

Equal pegging for bioLPG and renewables in newbuilds

Liquefied petroleum gas derived from biomaterials has been legally recognized as a green compliance option in the German heating sector for over two years. Also known as biopropane, bioLPG could play a vital future role particularly in rural areas. What’s more, there are also many pilot projects with synthetic LPG that can be manufactured using green hydrogen. This article provides an overview.

Uwe Thomsen, entrepreneur and director of family-run Propan Rheingas, can now see his name in print. Together with two co-authors, he has brought out a new book which is published in German by VDE VERLAG and entitled “LPG and BioLPG in the Energy Transition.” In his view, LPG is a highly underrated fuel that is forever battling prejudices and lack of recognition, he commented when the book launched in May 2020.

BioLPG has been used in the German heating sector since 2018, Thomsen explained, where it can be deployed in energy-efficient heating appliances such as condensing boilers or combined heat and power CHP units. BioLPG can be made from biomass e.g., residual plant-based material and waste products, and reduces carbon dioxide emissions by up to 90 percent compared with conventional LPG. In addition, pilot projects examining the production of emission-free synthetic LPG which is made using green power, hydrogen and carbon dioxide, are ready for the off, Thomsen was pleased to announce. In his words, LPG is now getting green.

By contrast, propane and butane – the main constituents of fossil-based LPG – arise either as a byproduct from the crude oil or natural gas production process, or as a refinery gas. “From ecological and economic standpoints, it’s worth not wasting these energy resources and instead refining them into high-value LPG,” explained Markus Lau, head of the technical department at the German LPG association, DVFG. LPG is currently being used for heating and cooling purposes, as autogas, in industrial and agricultural applications, and in the leisure sector, according to Lau. An energy carrier which reduces carbon dioxide emissions and is low-polluting when burned could, in his opinion, be utilized in hard-to-abate sectors such as mobility and heat – if it becomes totally green in the future.

BioLPG as autogas?

The German government’s stated aim is to replace all fossil-based raw materials with renewable alternatives as far as possible by 2050. Carbon-based fuels are essential wherever storable energy is needed in decentralized applications, stressed Lau. “Renewable LPG will play a dominant role as a storable form of energy due to its essential properties, for example in the heating sector in those largely rural areas that are not supplied with natural gas – for the very reason that it is not tied to a pipeline. Furthermore, climate-neutral fuels generated using renewable power, or e-fuels – including renewable LPG serving as autogas – will in future complement the battery electric offering available,” he predicted.

In many synthetic processes, such as the Fischer-Tropsch process, the synthetic manufacture of carbonaceous fuels using green hydrogen generates short-chain hydrocarbons that can then be supplied to the market as LPG, Lau expected. Here, it’s impossible to estimate specific volumes, according to the DVFG, since the hydrogen-based industry is still in development and the legal framework for incentivizing hydrogen-based energy carriers is still being formulated.

… Read more in the latest H2-International e-Journal, May 2021

Author: Niels Hendrik Petersen

Leave a Reply