Future European biogas: Animal manure, straw and grass potentials for a sustainable European biogas production

Significance Statement

In a bid to meet the European Union political target for energy and climate, biogas production will play a critical role owing to its flexibility and storability as an energy carrier, a wide range of biological sources that can be implemented for its synthesis, and its established implementation in an array of applications. The implementation of anaerobic digestion for biogas production is still widespread as a critical bioenergy production path reference to its robustness in design arrangements.

Anaerobic digestion serves several applications. It offers a treatment pathway for minimizing huge amounts of complex organic matter, converting a good number of these molecules into monomers, for example, carbon dioxide and methane, which can be used in the energy sector. Above all, the nutrient-rich digestate produced from the anaerobic processes can be recycled on farmlands as organic fertilizers as alternatives to chemical fertilizers that cause eutrophication of fresh water bodies.

The choice of substrates used in the production of biogas has been discussed extensively, particularly, in relation to the use of energy crops. Negative economic and environmental issues related to the use of cultivated energy crops for bioenergy production has been reported in literature. Therefore, these substrates will definitely fall out favor as primary feedstock considered for biogas anaerobic digestion process, and thus alternative sources are required.

Agricultural production residues can be incorporated with the EU directive on the use of energy from renewable sources sustainability criteria. In contrast to the existing literature on the topic, researchers led by Professor Jens Bo Holm-Nielsen at Aalborg University in Denmark focused on the biomass and biogas energy potential from a collection of particular agricultural residues that have been documented to enhance in biogas yield when co-digested in biogas production. Their research work is published in Biomass and Bioenergy.

The main aim of their study was to forecast and map the biogas and biomass energy potential from particular potentially sustainable agricultural residues that have been documented to enhance in biogas yields when co-digested in the production of biogas for the EU28 in the year 2030. The authors considered residual types including, animal manure, excess grass from permanent and rotational meadows and grasslands, and straw byproducts from cereal production.

The research team projected energy potential from grass, manure and straw to be in the range of 1.2×103-2.3×103PJ/y for the European Union in 2030. The United Kingdom and Germany were identified to have the highest energy potential. The outcomes of the study indicate that there is a huge base for agricultural residues well suited for co-digestion all over Europe that are perfect substitutes to energy crops.

The study found that co-digestion of animal manure incorporating straw and grass is a potential that will enhance the efficiency and economic feasibility of the European Union biogas production in 2030. More technological development and implementation may be necessary if the biomass resources are to be used efficiently. Acquisition and processing of the selected biomasses are challenges that must be addressed before realizing a full potential. However, production of energy based on these residues is a more sustainable and economically viable method for developing the EU biogas industry keeping in mind the potential issues in relation to sustainability.

Future European biogas Animal manure straw and grass potentials for a sustainable European biogas production . Renewable Energy Global Innovations

Future European biogas Animal manure straw and grass potentials for a sustainable European biogas production . Renewable Energy Global Innovations

Future European biogas Animal manure straw and grass potentials for a sustainable European biogas production . Renewable Energy Global Innovations

Future European biogas Animal manure straw and grass potentials for a sustainable European biogas production . Renewable Energy Global Innovations

Future European biogas: Animal manure, straw and grass potentials for a sustainable European biogas production . Renewable Energy Global Innovations

About the author

Name: Jens Bo Holm-Nielsen

Date and place of birth: 31th of March, 1954, Fanoe Island, Denmark Nationality: Danish
Civil Status: Married – Lis Ingemann & 3 Children; Sara, Thomas and Anne
Contact details: e-mail: [email protected]; cell: +45 2166 2511.

1st University Degree 1980. M.Sc.: Agricultural Systems, Crops & Soil Science, from KVL, Royal Veterinary & Agricultural University, Copenhagen, Denmark.

2nd University Degree 2008. Ph.D. degree from Aalborg University – Esbjerg Institute of Technology. Process Analytical Technologies for Biogas Systems. Esbjerg, Denmark.

Languages: Danish and Scandinavian languages, English, (German, French – partial proficiency)

Professional career:

1980-85: Riber Kjærgaard Agricultural College, Lecturer

1985-93: Ribe, Bramming, Esbjerg Farmers Organisation, Farming Advisor

1993-95: University Center South Jutland, Esbjerg; Senior Project Manager

1995-00: University Center South Jutland, Esbj.; Head of Bioenergy Section

2000-08: University of Southern Denmark, Esbj. Head of Bioenergy Depart.

2002-08: University of Aalborg, Esbjerg: Senior lecturer & Ph.D. researcher

2008-2010: University of Aalborg, Esbjerg: Assistent Professor & Head of Center for Bioenergy and Green Engineering.

2010 – …..: Aalborg University – Esbjerg Campus: Associate Professor & Head of Energy Section – Department of energy technology & & Head of Center for Bioenergy and Green Engineering.

Years of experience in the field of Biorefinery concepts and Biogas production – Anaerobic Digestion. Implementation projects of Bioenergy Systems. Experience of a variety of EU and UN projects. Organiser of international conferences, workshops and training programmes in Europe, Central Asia and China.

Awards, honors

2000: Honorary Bioenergy Center, SDU, Denmark and partners – Best National Renewable Energy Partnership. Awarded by DG TREN – EU Commission

2010: D.L. Massart Award in Chemometrics. Awarded by the Belgian Chemometrics Society for the best world-wide Ph.D. thesis in the research field during the period of 2008-2010.

Field of research, teaching & supervising:

Research: Managing research, development and demonstration programmes in integrated agriculture, environment and energy systems solutions.

Fulfilled biomass and bioenergy R & D projects. Main focus in biofuels, biogas and biomass resources. New focus since 2008 – Biomass pre-treatment platforms for 2. and 3. generation biorefinery production

Lecturing and graduate supervision: Courses and project supervising in fermentation processes, anaerobic digestion processes and systems. Biogas purification, Nutrient management and balances and upgrading technologies. Agricultural and environmental projects. Biomass resource studies. Optimal utilization of biomass resources and conversion technologies. Bioenergy and Renewable energy system integration.

Training programmes: International courses, training programmes and supervision for academic staff, governmental bodies and experts in bioenergy systems and integrated solutions. Core competences in bioenergy technologies and biomass ressourse conversion to biogas or biofuels.

www.energy.aau.dk; www.vbn.dk; (Search JBHN)

Center for Bioenergy and Green Engineering, AAUE

Established at SUC 1995, transferred to SDU 2000, and as a joint group at SDU/AAUE from 2002-2008. Centre for Bioenergy and Green Engineering established at AAUE 2009. Biomass resource studies. Specific research on anaerobic digestion systems. Biomass and organic waste system analysis and optimisation. Ongoing several Liquid Biofuels projects and Biorefienery studies.

Selected Publications:

  1. Holm-Nielsen et al.; Joint biogas plant – agricultural advantages, circulation of N, P and K. Report made for the Danish Energy Agency, Ministry of Energy, 1.th.Edition 1993, 2.nd. Edition 1997. Downloads from www.sdu.dk/bio;
  2. Holm-Nielsen; participated in UN-China conference with the lecture; Rapid Commercialisation of Renewable Energy Systems. Danish and European experience of Biogas Systems. Workshop and strategy planning for biogas technology in China. UNDP/GEF Project, Beijing, China 2-7.04.2000
  3. Holm-Nielsen J.B., al Seadi T.: Manure-based biogas systems – Danish Experience. Chapt. 17; p 377-394 in Resource Recovery and Reuse in Organic Solid Waste Management. IWA Publishing, 2004. ISBN 1 84339 054 X
  4. Holm-Nielsen J.B., Dahl C.K., Esbensen K.H.: Representative sampling for process analytical characterisation of heterogeneous bioslurry systems – a reference study of sampling issues in PAT. Chemometrics and intelligent laboratory systems vol. 83, 114 – 126 (2006) ScienceDirect, Elsevier. DOI: 10.1016/j.chemolab.2006.02.002
  5. Holm-Nielsen J.B., Andree H., Lindorfer H., Esbensen K.H.: Transflexive embedded near infrared monitoring for key process intermediates in anaerobic digestion/biogas production. Journal of Near Infrared Spectroscopy vol. 15, 123-135 (2007) ISSN 0967-0335. DOI: 10.1255/jnirs.719
  6. Holm-Nielsen J.B., Lomborg C.J., Oleskowicz-Popiel P., Esbensen K.H.: On-line Near Infrared monitoring of glycerol-boosted anaerobic digestion processes – evaluation of Process Analytical Technologies. Biotechnology and Bioengeneering, Vol. 99, No.2, 302 – 313, (2008), Wiley Periodicals inc. – InterScience. DOI: 10.1002/bit21571
  7. Holm-Nielsen J.B., Madsen M., Oleskowicz-Popiel P.: Predicted Energy Crop Potentials for Bioenergy Worldwide and for EU-25. Proceedings World Bioenergy 2006, Conference on Biomass for Energy, Jönköping, Sweden, 30. May – 1.June 2006.
  8. Holm-Nielsen J.B., Oleskowicz-Popiel P., al Seadi T.: Energy Crop Potentials for Bioenergy in EU-27. Proceedings 15.th European Biomass conference, Berlin, Germany 7-11 May 2007. ISBN 3-936338-21-3.
  9. Holm-Nielsen J.B. and Oleskowicz-Popiel P. 2007: The Future of Biogas in Europe: Visions and targets until 2020; Proceedings: European Biogas Workshop – Intelligent Energy Europe, 14- 16 June 2007, Esbjerg, Denmark.
  10. Holm-Nielsen J.B.: Process Analytical Technologies for Anaerobic Digestion Systems. – Robust Biomass Characterisation, Process Analytical Chemometrics, and Process Optimisation. Ph.D. Thesis. ACABS-Research Group, Esbjerg Institute of Technology, Aalborg University, August 2008, ISBN 978-87-7606-030-5
  11. Holm-Nielsen et al.: Biogas technologies and further treatments steps of co-digestion of animal manure. International Workshop – OECD & USDA; Livestock Waste Treatment Systems of The Future: A challenge to environmental quality, food safety, and sustainability. April 2008, USA, Bioresource Technology 100 (2009) 5478 – 5484. Doi: 10.1016/j.biotech.2008.12.046
  12. Holm-Nielsen: Key Note Speaker. Renewable Energy and Climate Change Policies in Denmark and Europe. Bioenergy and Biogas as case examples. Conference: Growing the Margins – Green Energy and Economy, March 10-11, 2010, London, Ontario, Canada.

Full Bibliography and publication list since 2004 can be found at:

www.vbn.dk; – search; Jens Bo Holm-Nielsen.

Earlier bibliography and publication list can be achieved by mailing to: [email protected];

Contact details:

Jens Bo Holm-Nielsen, M.Sc., Ph.D.

Head of Esbjerg Energy Section
Department of Energy Technology,

Head of Center for Bioenergy and Green Engineering

Aalborg University – Esbjerg Campus
Niels Bohrsvej 8, DK-6700 Esbjerg, Denmark. www.et.aau.dk
Phone: +45 21 66 25 11,  e-mail:  [email protected]

About the author

A.Katharina P. Meyer, PhD, M.Sc.
[email protected]
2012-2015: PhD. Sustainable Biomasses. Department of Energy Technology, AAU Esbjerg.
2009-2011: M.Sc. in Environmental and Resource Management, AAU & SDU Esbjerg
2006-2009: B.Sc. in Environmental and Resource Management, AAU & SDU Esbjerg
2017 – now: Danish Energy Agency, EUDP
2015-2017: Postdoc, Department of Energy Technology, AAU Esbjerg.
2012-2015: PhD student, Department of Energy Technology, AAU Esbjerg.
2011-2012: Esbjerg Kommune. Department of Climate and Sustainability.
Research​ ​projects​ ​and​ ​key​ ​tasks
2016-2017: Large Scale Bioenergy Lab. EU funded Interreg5A Project.
Project coordination and management.
2015-2016: Demonstration af AD Booster systemet for øget biogasproduktion (AD Booster).
EUDP project.
Representative sampling of liquid and solid manure samples on biogas plant.
Characterization of manure samples in lab
Analysis of mass flow and efficiency for screw press
BMP tests of samples
2012-2015: Large Scale Bioenergy Lab. EU funded Interreg4A Project
Screening of sustainable resources for biogas in the regions.
Spatial analyses of availability and growth yields of biomass resources
Analysis of energy balances when utilising new biomass substrates for biogas in the project
Research​ ​competences
Biomethane potential tests (BMP), Spatial analyses, Data management and visiualisation
Characterization of biomasses, Representative sampling (TOS), Multivariate dataanalysis
Energy balances (Net Energy Gains and Energy Returns on Invested Energy)
– Future European biogas : Animal manure, straw and grass potentials for a sustainable
European biogas production. / Meyer, A. K.P.; Ehimen, E. A.; Holm-Nielsen, J. B. In: Biomass
and Bioenergy, 06.2017. Journal article
– The potential of surplus grass production as co-substrate for anaerobic digestion : A case study
in the Region of Southern Denmark. T/ Meyer, A. K. P.; Schleier, C.; Piorr, H. P.; Holm-Nielsen,
J. B. In: Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems (Print), Vol. 31, No. 4, 08.2016, p. 330-349.
Journal article
– The energy balance of utilising meadow grass in Danish biogas production. / Meyer, A. K. P.;
Raju, C. Sangaraju; Kucheryavskiy, S. V.; Holm-Nielsen, J. B.. In: Resources, Conservation and
Recycling, Vol. 104, No. Part A, 11.2015, p. 265–275. Journal article
– Bioenergy production from roadside grass : A case study of the feasibility of using roadside
grass for biogas production in Denmark. / Meyer, A. K. P.; Ehimen, E. A.; Holm-Nielsen, J. B.
In: Resources, Conservation and Recycling, Vol. 93, 2014, p. 124-133. Journal article
– Sustainable Biomass Resources for Biogas Production : Mapping and Analysis of the Potential
for Sustainable Biomass Utilization in Denmark and Europe. / Meyer, A. K. P. Department of
Energy Technology, Aalborg University, 2015. 89 p. Ph.D. thesis.


A.K.P. Meyer, E.A. Ehimen b, J.B. Holm-Nielsen. Future European biogas: Animal manure, straw and grass potentials for a sustainable European biogas production. Biomass and Bioenergy, Available online 1 June 2017.

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