Renewable gas becomes key instrument in the sustainable and circular economy

  • Valladolid played host to a new environmental seminar by the Naturgy Foundation, at which representatives from the regional and local government examined the potential of renewable gas as a vector in the circular economy alongside experts from the sector.

In partnership with the Regional Government of Castile and Leon, the Naturgy Foundation organised a conference in Valladolid this morning on renewable gas and its role as part of the circular economy in the energy sector. Institutional, business and university experts from various fields shared experiences and knowledge on the use of renewable gas and its role in the circular economy.

The Director-General of Energy and Mines of the Regional Government of Castile and Leon, Ricardo González, officially opened the event by reminding people that the raw materials needed for most production processes are limited. Hence, the Regional Government of Castile and Leon is committed to “accelerating the transition from a linear economy to a circular economy” as this will allow costs to be reduced for the public and companies, as well as the environmental cost of human activity on the environment. Ricardo González also highlighted the regional government’s commitment in July 2015 to “promote the circular economy in our region”, leading to two strategies: one specific to this issue and another on fostering energy efficiency and renewable energies.

The General Manager of the Naturgy Foundation, Martí Solà, also spoke at the opening ceremony to stress that, “in the current energy transition context, renewable gas from organic waste is a perfect example of the circular economy in the energy sector”. He went on to say that, “if we truly wish to commit to a more sustainable economy, this new energy vector has a great deal of potential and we should work together from all the sectors involved to develop it”.

The closing ceremony was hosted by the Councillor for Public Works and Environmental Affairs of the Regional Government of Castile and Leon, Juan Carlos Suárez-Quiñones, who said that “the regulatory framework we find ourselves in at the moment offers new opportunities to encourage the use of biogas in our region, and this means that companies and public authorities can improve their competitiveness, and also contribute to minimising the waste they generate and fighting climate change within a circular economy scenario”.

he circular economy and the potential of renewable gas

Julio Lequerica, Strategy Manager of Accenture Strategy, explained “how the circular economy generates value by attacking the sources of resource inefficiency, possible business models and the main action elements of the European Union in this field”. He believes that “the European Union has recognised the potential of the circular economy to transform the way in which societies and companies create value, jobs and well-being for their citizens, removing ties to a growing pressure on resources that are becoming increasingly scarce”.

In turn, Jesús Diez Vázquez, Programmes Director of the Natural Heritage Foundation of Castile and Leon, reaffirmed the commitment by the Regional Government of Castile and Leon to the regional economy through a specific circular economy strategy. “The goal for the Circular Economy Strategy of Castile and Leon is to build a competitive, innovative and carbon emissions-free region that bases its economy on efficient use of natural resources, optimising endogenous resources and minimising the consumption of raw materials and energy”, he said. “We have to return to the natural or industrial production cycle for materials at the end of a product’s useful life, giving ourselves a 2030 deadline for achieving a highly circularised economy”, said Jesús Diez Vázquez. Promoting a new innovation model that prioritises global efficiency and the development of industries and services tied to waste prevention are two of the strategic objectives for the plan.

The role of renewable gas within the circular economy was the topic discussed by the Full Professor of the Polytechnic University of Catalonia and Professor Emeritus of Agri-food Engineering and Biotechnology, Xavier Flotats. He said that “biogas production systems based on biodegradable waste are the most widespread at the moment and have shown themselves to be an essential tool in the fight against climate change”. The expert echoed studies that estimate Spain has an accessible potential primary energy source of 2.3 Mtep, of which only 10% (0.23 Mtep) was produced in 2016 at a single biomethane production facility in Valdemingómez (Madrid). “This country still has a long way to go”, concluded Xavier Flotats.

Business success stories based on the circular economy

The conference also included a round table discussion on “practical success stories in the circular economy”, involving experts from several sectors.

Óscar Hernández, Institutional Relations Manager at Calidad Pascual, believes that the circular economy has consolidated its position as a major cornerstone of the new paradigm leading inexorably towards an environmentally-friendly transition, especially in the agri-food sector. “We need to commit to a restorative and regenerative economic model so that products, components and resources in general maintain their usefulness and value over time”, he said. Calidad Pascual has integrated the circular economy across the board and its Environmental Impact Management Plan (2013-2020) refers to the reuse of packaging waste and the use of food waste as a raw material”.

Marcelino Chacón, Managing Director of Grupo Empresarial Huertas, presented the success story of a family company that has committed to the circular economy. “We produce electricity and thermal energy from renewables, co-generation and waste, lending importance to the processing of all the by-products generated in manufacturing the consumer products we work with, such as grape juices and wines, among others”, he said.

The Manager of HTN Biogás, Rubén Rodríguez, spoke about power generation based on agri-farming waste at the Caparroso plant in Navarre. He presented a practical case of biomethanisation of purines in codigestion with other waste (agri-food, sludge, gases and urban waste separated at source). “This plant provides the sector with a chance to produce biomethane and inject it into the natural gas network instead of burning it to produce electricity”, he explained.

In turn, Francisco Torres, New Business Development Manager at Nedgia, explained the project launched by the company at the Bens WWTP in La Coruña, where waste is turned into a resource, as an example of urban mobility based on the waste generated by the city itself. “Renewable gas is a decisive factor in the solution to the waste treatment and re-use problem, whether from the public, industry or farming. It also supports the circular economy and reduces global emissions of CO2”.

Raúl Muñoz, a professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Environmental Technology at University of Valladolid, presented an innovative biomethane project that uses microalgae technology.

he Naturgy Foundation and its mission to train and raise social awareness

This seminar is one of the training activities that the Naturgy Foundation is carrying out in different Spanish cities about issues relating to energy and the environment. Its main goal is to promote the rational use of energy resources and foster sustainable development.

Set up by the power company in 1992, the Naturgy Foundation is also engaged in social action programmes both nationally and further afield, by influencing particular initiatives aimed at alleviating energy vulnerability. In terms of culture, it promotes initiatives geared towards both preserving and communicating the historical heritage of the gas and electricity sector.