Optimisation of biomass utilisation

Project description

Title: Renewable energy: optimisation of biomass utilisation
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: China
Lead executing agency: Ministry of Agriculture (MoA)
Overall term: 2009 to 2013


Compared with other renewable energy sources, the development and distribution of large-scale biogas plants in China is lagging far behind. The Chinese Government aims to produce around 3 gigawatts of electricity from large-scale biogas plants by 2020. However, the quality of the existing plants is poor and they are not integrated into the country’s power grid, which means that they cannot be run cost-effectively. This makes investing in biogas production less attractive.


Biomass energy production is more attractive for public and private investment. The technical standards in and operational performance of medium and large-scale biogas plants is improved.


The project works closely with a biogas programme that is being implemented by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture. The aim is to construct biogas plants for energy production in line with international technical standards. The project is providing technical advice, training measures and policy advice in cooperation with the German and Chinese biogas industry, engineering firms, plant operators and research institutions.

Results achieved so far

The training and advice provided through the demonstration projects and the 118 biogas plants funded by the ADB have raised awareness among project developers of the potential of biogas. The plants do not just play a role in the environmentally responsible disposal of waste. With the right business models and technology, they also contribute to improving energy supply. Plant designs now increasingly include plans for the combined processing of biogenic agricultural and urban waste in central biogas plants. Planners are also looking at different technologies, such as temperature-controlled CSTR digesters (continuous stirred tank reactor), dry fermentation plants, high-efficiency gas engines with high availability, and converting biogas into biomethane for use in vehicles and to feed into the power grid, and also using flares to safely burn off surplus gas. In addition, more importance is being attached to process monitoring, safety systems and using digestion residues in agricultural processes. There is now greater awareness that biogas plants can also function in northern China’s colder climates and that biomethane can be used as an alternative to fossil fuels.

A number of fact-finding trips to Germany have been organised to provide information about German biogas policy and the international best practices for designing and operating biogas plants. They also satisfied Chinese decision-makers that the project is taking the right technical and policy approach. The demonstration projects aim to make use of German and international technology and equipment.

Moving away from large investment grants, policy-makers are currently considering promoting plant operation in future through incentives for co-processing of biomass and higher feed-in tariffs, as well as lowering the threshold for connection to the power grid from 500 kilowatts to 150 kilowatts.