Temporal and spatial availability of cereal straw in Germany : Case study: Biomethane for the transport sector
Background: By 2030, the German transport sector needs to achieve additional greenhouse gas savings of 67 million tonnes CO₂-eq. and further progress requires swiftly implementable solutions. The fermentation of cereal straw is a promising option. Returning the digestate to the farmland can close agricultural cycles while simultaneously producing biomethane. The world's first large-scale, mono-digestion plant for straw is operational since 2014. The temporal and spatial biomass availability is a key issue when replicating this concept. No detailed calculations on this subject are available, and the strategic relevance of biomethane from straw in the transport sector cannot be sufficiently evaluated. Methods: To assess the balance of straw supply and use, a total of 30 data sets are combined, taking into account the cultivation of the five most important cereal types and the straw required for ten animal species, two special crops and 12 industrial uses. The data are managed at district level and presented for the years 2010 to 2018. In combination with high-resolution geodata, the results are linked to actual arable fields, and the availability of straw throughout the country is evaluated using a GIS. Results: During the analysis period and based on the assumption that in case of fermentation up to 70% of the straw can be utilised, the mobilisable technical biomass potential for future biomethane production is between 13.9–21.5 Tg fm a−¹. The annual potential fluctuates considerably due to weather anomalies. The all-time maximum in 2014 and the minimum for the last 26 years in 2018 are separated by just 4 years and a difference of 7.6 Tg fm. However, large parts of the potential are concentrated only in a few regions and biomethane from straw could provide 57–145 PJ of a low-emission fuel, saving 3–12 Tg CO₂-eq. in case of full exploitation. Conclusion: Despite the strong fluctuations and high uncertainties, the potential is sufficient to supply numerous plants and to produce relevant quantities of biomethane even in weak years. To unlock the potential, the outcomes should be evaluated and discussed further with stakeholders in the identified priority regions.