Italy, the first European country to use natural gas as a vehicle fuel with currently more than 800.000 vehicles (some 75% of the total European NGV running park), recently introduced a law encouraging the production and use of biomethane.

Last December, the Italian Government published the long-awaited decree '05 dicembre 2013', which provides incentives for the production of biomethane. This document implements what has been foreseen by the previous decree 'n.28 of 03/03/2011' that introduced a national definition of biomethane and anticipated what the different ways are to obtain the incentives: biomethane injected into the natural gas grids; biomethane used as a biofuel; and biomethane used in high efficiency cogeneration plants.

In the next months, technical conditions will be specified by GSE, AEEG and Ministry of Agriculture. After that, biomethane will be promoted for the injection into the natural gas grid, for usage in transport and electricity production.

This decision will certainly encourage the use of methane produced by over a thousand plants connected to Italian farms, not only for electricity but also for direct feed-in into the network as a fuel for road transport. The new rules will apply to different kinds of facilities: new upgrading plants that are to be built, as well as already existing biogas plants to which units for upgrading biogas to biomethane will be added.
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The Italian NGV industry advocated strongly for acknowledgment of the great potential biomethane has with regard to the process of implementing the EU’s Directive on renewables into national law. Hence, NGVA Europe’s 14 Italian members welcome the decision of the Italian authorities and look forward to boosted application of the renewable fuel in transport.

NGVA Europe members NGV System Italia (the country’s Association of natural gas for transport) and Assogasmetano (National CNG Distribution Companies Association) contributed constantly to the process, pushing for the decree to get passed. The “Working Group for development of biomethane in Italy” of the Italian Biogas Consortium for instance, in which NGV System Italia and Assogasmetano also participate, pleaded the case of methane produced from renewable resources by delivering its ‘Position Paper for the development of biomethane in Italy’ in March 2012 among other activities.

"We are excited to be among the first countries to embrace biomethane as a fuel. Today we can consider it as one of the most effective and readily available responses to the need for sustainable mobility. In line with our association, I will provide full support to make its wide spread use a reality. Biomethane, with its advantages regarding ecology and affordability, will be the real winning vehicle fuel for the coming years. Powering a cleaner future is the mission of NGV Italy," said Mariarosa Baroni, President of NGV Italy.

Furthermore, the European GreenGasGrids Project, in which NGVA Europe participates, provided substantial support to the cause, too. Following the announcement of the Italian authorities, the project partner Italian Biogas Consortium for example organised a successful workshop last 16 December in Bologna with more than 220 attendees. The event delivered highly valuable information regarding the decree’s contents and opportunities, available biomethane upgrading technologies, and the opportunities held for gas-powered vehicles.

The potential for biomethane in Italy is huge, especially for biomethane obtained from farms, food processing companies and landfills. According to experts’ studies it could amount up to billion cubic meters a year. This potential will certainly be tapped, now that the decree finally enters force and a comprehensive regulatory framework has been established.

The Italian Biogas Consortium estimates that, thanks to biomethane, the new scenario in Italy by 2018 could be the following: 1,4-2 billion Euros invested in biomethane plants; 500 new gas refuelling stations; increase in number of CNG vehicles 70,000 - 90,000 year (1300000 by 2018); biomethane production 40,000-60,000 Nm3/h; share of biomethane in the NGV fuel share 20-35%.

Biomethane as a fuel

The fuel burnt in a natural gas engine mainly consists of methane. The gas is either fossil ‘natural gas’ (NG) or ‘biomethane’ produced from renewable resources. Both gases can be used in existing internal combustion engines with no limitation to blending thanks to the same molecular composition.

Biomethane is cleaned, upgraded and conditioned biogas derived from anaerobic digestion of organic waste, industrial waste as well as purposefully grown energy crops. The upgrading process includes gas pre-treatment (gas drying, removal of contaminants) and CO2 removal. For all steps proven technology is available.

Source: NGVA Europe, Italian Biogas Consortium, NGV Italy, GreenGasGrids

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