Production and use of biogas in Europe: a survey of current status and perspectives

  • Massimo Raboni Politecnico di Milano - Department of Chemistry, Materials and Chemical Engineering "G.Natta" - Via L.Mancinelli 7, I-20133, Milan (Italy)
  • Giordano Urbini University of Insubria - Department of Biotechnologies and Life Sciences - Via G.B. Vico 46, I-21100, Varese (Italy)
Keywords: natural gas, biofuels, renewable energies


The article presents the results of a survey carried out in the European Union (EU) regarding the production and use of biogas from different sources. The EU is a world leader in the field of biogas, with a production of 10,085.8 ktoe y-1 (in 2011) in terms of primary energy, accounting for about 60% of the world’s production. Germany is the EU country that has made the greatest progress in this field with a production of as much as 5,067.6 ktoe y-1, of which a share of 4,414.2 ktoe y-1 results from anaerobic digestion (and co-digestion) processes of selected organic matrices. UK is the second largest producer with 1,764.8 ktoe y 1, determined for 84% by landfill biogas and the remainder by biogas produced in sewage treatment plants (sludge digestion). Italy (1,095.7 ktoe y-1) and France (349.6 ktoe y-1) follow in the list of the largest producers. The trend of biogas production, in accordance with the action lines of the EU, is characterized by a progressive increase from anaerobic digestion (and co-digestion) of selected organic matrices and a progressive decrease from landfills. Production in 2020 is estimated at 28.0 Mtoe y-1 in accordance with the EU Renewable Energy National Plans. The uses of biogas are mainly directed to the production of electricity and heat. There are, however, several cases of conversion of biogas into biomethane injected into the natural gas grids or used as biofuel in vehicles. In this last direction, worthy of note are a few north-central EU countries which have implemented an effective policy to promote the use of biomethane for public and private transport.

Author Biographies

Massimo Raboni, Politecnico di Milano - Department of Chemistry, Materials and Chemical Engineering "G.Natta" - Via L.Mancinelli 7, I-20133, Milan (Italy)
He earned his Master degree in Environmental Engineering in February 2006 at Pavia University, after the discussion of a thesis on the "Analysis of the fluid dynamic behaviour of a control valve using the numerical simulation”. In May 2006 he won a fellowship at the University of Pavia - Hydraulic and Environmental Engineering Department - on a research project about the “Fluid dynamics characterization and modelling of oxygen dissolution in plants with activated sludge systems”. In July 2010 he defended his PhD thesis in Civil Engineering on “Numerical and experimental analysis of multiphysics phenomena” at University of Pavia. The subjects deal with: (i) the study of hepatic thermal ablation with RF wave and its control; (ii) the analysis of two-phase (water-oxygen) flows and the oxygen mass transfer in wastewater treatment plants equipped with turbulent jets. He won a 2-year of post-doc fellowship at the Hydraulic and Environmental Engineering Department of the University of Pavia, where he deepened experimental techniques regarding the issued studied during the PhD programme. From November 2011 to October 2013 he was at the University of Insubria – Science and High Technology Department with a 2-year fellowship. From January, 2014 he is post-doc fellow at Politecnico di Milano at the Chemistry, Materials and Chemical Engineering Department on the topic “Study and development of a electrocoagulation process for the removal of phosphates from freshwater”. Teaching assistant since 2006 in various courses (hydraulics, fluid mechanics, applied ecology, environmental impact assessment, occupational health and safety, relevant accidents and risk analysis).
Giordano Urbini, University of Insubria - Department of Biotechnologies and Life Sciences - Via G.B. Vico 46, I-21100, Varese (Italy)
He graduated in Chemical Engineering at the Polytechnic of Milan in 1969, where he trained as a Researcher at the Institute of Sanitary Engineering . He later worked at the University of Pavia where he was named Full Professor of Sanitary and Environmental Engineering, since 1980. In 2002 he moved to the University of Insubria, with the aim of developing a core of research and teaching activities related to engineering. In particular, he found the degree course in "Engineering for Occupational Safety and Environment" (2003) and also the Department “Environment-Health-Safety "(2004), assuming the position of Director until 'year 2011. In the period 2005-2008 he worked as a Member of the Academic Senate of the University of Insubria. Currently he held at the University of Insubria the course of Sanitary and Environmental Engineering: process and plants and since a few weeks is member of a newborn department of Biotechnologies and Life Sciences. During his university career he has held prestigious positions among which the followings can be mentioned: - Member of the High Council of Public Works of Italian Government; - Member of the Scientific Committee of the Ministry of Environment; - Member of the Expert Group of the UNDP-United Nations Development Programme; - Point of reference for Italy of World Health Organization for the Environmental Health Professional sector; - President of ANDIS –the Italian Association of Sanitary and Environmental Engineering. The main areas of research are wastewater treatment, waste disposal and biofuels. For the scientific expertise gained in the latter sector and environment, the Italian Government called him in the Intergovernmental Council for cooperation Italy-Brazil (Brasilia, November 2007) and called him to report at the intergovernmental meeting on strategic cooperation between Brazil and Italy organized by the Embassy of Italy (São Luis, in November 2008). During the academic career he has developed several cooperation projects for developing countries mainly in Brasil with funding of the Lombardia Region and Ministry of International Affairs of Italy. He has published over 260 papers on national and international scientific journals and conference proceedings.