Industrial Development of China’s Biomethane Sector Has Long Way to Go

According to experts, China has particularly favorable conditions for the development of the biomethane sector due to its abundant resources and market potential. However, the country still has a difficult road to travel before the sector can be considered industrialized. Several obstacles remain that could hinder development.

Farmers are the backbone of production, and the country’s biogas projects are mostly undertaken by farmers with small production capabilities. The country has established some large and medium-sized biogas projects and is home to essential equipment manufacturing and construction firms, the sector remains small and hasn’t formed a complete industry chain.

Farmers have built biogas facilities solely for their own needs and not as profit-making ventures. The sector lacks the necessary infrastructure and support mechanisms for commercialization. Most of the gas and power produced by biogas plants is not connected to the relative pipelines and grids — and are not available to users. 

Several reports suggest, unconnected development between rural and urban areas has adverse effects on industrial scale and technology level. Over the last few years, some bio-methane firms have emerged in China’s urban areas to deal with the developing urban refuse crisis. Despite reports of improved technology and larger production scales, these firms have limited their development to within urban areas and have not linked with rural household biogas producers. 

Industrial analysts see a future in the sector and are pushing for development. These analysts propose that the Chinese government provide support for the establishment of a complete industry chain and related support facilities. They give top priority to the development projects in specific areas that include cogeneration, grid connected power generation, urban-rural integration, bio-methane as a fuel for vehicles and biogas fuel cells, among others. In support of these initiatives, the responsible authorities should increase research and development investment in the sector, in a move to improve the efficiency of bioconversion technologies.

Analysts also propose that government launch a carbon-trading pilot program in the country’s bio-methane sector. They explain that government could entrust banks and other financial organizations to set up foundations that buy carbon credits and guide companies in the establishment of low-carbon unions. At the same time, analysts believe that these companies should be educated on how to adopt a clean development mechanism and should also join the international carbon trading system so they can apply for carbon credits from leading international organizations and developed countries.

According to these analysts, it is also important to develop a pool of expertise in the field. There are currently 38,000 energy technicians and 227,000 biogas artisans in China. However, high-tech research and the mechanisms to develop this expertise are few and far between with only a few universities establishing biomass as a major. As a result, this last proposal calls for the Chinese government to encourage firms to entrust universities to recruit and train high-end talent for the biomass sector. The government should also provide these universities with the necessary capital and project support.