Give them credit-the greenhouse gas performance of regional biogas systems
Anaerobic digestion to produce biogas is an important decentralised renewable energy technology. Production varies extensively between different countries and within countries, as biogas production is heavily dependent on local and regional feedstocks. In Germany, distinct regional differences can be observed. Therefore, understanding the kinds of biogas systems operating within a region is crucial to determine their greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation potential and carbon neutrality. This is the first study to conduct an integrated life cycle assessment of biogas configurations in the landscape (biogas plants and their biomass catchments) for an entire region. RELCA a ‘REgional Life Cycle inventory Assessment’ approach was used to model the GHG mitigation potential of 425 biogas plants in the region of Central Germany (CG), aggregated to nine biogas clusters, based on feedstock mix (e.g. animal manures and energy crops) and installed capacity. GHG emission profiles were generated to compare and to identify the role of GHG credits and size of installed capacity on the mitigation performance of the regional biogas clusters. We found that smaller scaled slurry dominant clusters had significantly better GHG mitigation performance (−0.1 to −0.2 kg CO ₂ₑq kWh ₑl −¹ ), than larger energy crop dominant (EC dₒm ) clusters (0.04–0.16 kg CO ₂ₑq kWh ₑl −¹ ), due to lower cultivation emissions and larger credits for avoided slurry storage. Thus, for the CG region larger EC dₒm clusters should be targeted first, to support GHG mitigation improvements to the overall future electricity supplied by the regional biogas systems. With the addition of GHG credits, the CG region is producing biogas with GHG savings (−0.15 kg CO ₂ₑq kWh ₑl −¹ , interquartile range: 0.095 kg CO ₂ₑq kWh ₑl −¹ ). This infers that biogas production, as a waste management strategy for animal manures, could have important ramifications for future policy setting and national inventory accounting.