Since 2011, Biogas Bree BVBA, located in Belgium, has been committed to the annual processing of 85,000 tons of organic waste to provide 7,500 local households with green electricity. They recently invested in a new installation, a fluidized bed dryer, which is used to dry digested organic manure grains. We will link this innovation with five UN Sustainable Development Goals. These are the blueprints for a better and more sustainable future for all. We will discuss the five Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) SDG 7: Affordable and clean energy, SDG 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure, SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Clean Energy, SDG 14: Life Below Water, and SDG 15: Life on Land.
Marie Van Dyck
Ten years ago, the company settled up in Bree, Belgium, with a capacity of 2,4 megawatts of green and grey electricity. Nowadays, the company produces 3,6 megawatts of green and grey electricity. “We can produce energy for a city with a similar amount of citizens as Heusden-Zolder for a year,'' said a co-owner proudly. Now they make green gas, that gas goes to the pipes and motors which produce electricity in a 100% circular way, which means that the company doesn't produce any waste. In a couple of years, they will want to put electricity on the grid. The renewable energy and the 100% circularity of the company and its plant align with UN Sustainable Development Goals 7: Affordable and Clean Energy, Goal 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure. These sustainable ways to source energy are precisely what the planet needs. We need to get rid of the dangerous nuclear power plants globally, which is a big step forward to achieve it.
Besides the increase in production, Biogas also developed a brand new product two years ago. After many investments and trial and error with the fluidized bed dryer, they produce two million tons of organic manure grains. The organic manure grains are made from organic waste after being heated up to produce green gas. Biogas sells it in large quantities to agriculture, but they will sell it in local markets after a while.
This production method aligns with Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production using organic waste and food residues. These manure grains are a better alternative than chemical manure grains, which pollute the water and the ground. The organic manure grains align with UN Sustainable Development Goals 14: Life Below Water and Gal 15: Life on Land.
At the moment, the company's primary goal is to extend the range of the manure grains in the short term. It must be the second important business of the company after producing energy.
“My father wanted a business that could help and change the world,” said a co-owner.
Farmers cannot spread all their manure on their crops. There is an extensive regulation about how much manure they can spread and how much nitrogen can be in the soil to protect life below water (SDG 14) and on land (SDG 15). So, the farmers had the problem that they ended up with too much manure. Biogas Bree is the perfect solution to process excess manure into power, gas, and manure grains.
Bio Gass Bree is a 100% circular company: ‘Everything that enters the company will be processed to power, gas, manure grains, fluid or a thicker fraction like compost.’
The manure grains are the innovation. They can be used in, for example, vineyards to make the soil more fruitful. Previously, they had mainly fluid as residue. Now it is easier to transport the residue to their clients, which is better for the environment. In the future, they want to commercialize it to households and suchlike so that they can manure their lawn in a 100% sustainable and organic way instead of all the artificial nitrogens.
The main innovation of Biogas Bree is that they are constantly seeking new opportunities to develop a better and more cost-effective end product. That way, they can create better products for their clients in the long run, which can be used in more applications like different types of manure and generate more and more efficient power.
The generation of electricity, gas and manure grains based on a circular process can be seen as something good for the environment in general, both at the local and national levels. On top of that, they export their manure grain to neighboring countries like France, where winegrowers use it to fertilize their plants. We can already conclude that they also have a positive international impact.
Another exciting, positive impact of biogas is collecting as much organic waste as possible from local farmers. This is very important to the area around Bree because of the strict nitrogen regulations. As we mentioned before, farmers were required to reduce their emissions. Biogas collects organic waste for farmers so they can reduce nitrogen emissions. In general, we can say that Biogas Bree also contributes to achieving SDG 13 (Climate Action), as its innovation helps create a better climate.
However, all this organic waste generates a lot of odor nuisance. This could be somewhat disturbing for the neighborhood. But Bio Gass Bree found a solution for this problem: they use an air washer that removes the ammonia odor from the manure. This is the reason why they seldom or never receive complaints from neighbors.
The latest investment is the new drying facility for their fertilizer pellets. This created a sustainable and more efficient way of creating their fertilizer granules, which led to them having even less residual waste after their green gas production and granule creation. However, they had some setbacks during the system's integration last year. There were a couple of complications in linking their new drying facility to their existing production line. These minor setbacks did also translate into a lowering of their yearly revenue last year. However, they did still close out the year with an average turnover of about eight million euros.
There is, however, the idea of expanding to a second site in Wallonia, which could potentially double their turnover since the creation of green gas is still a blue ocean market. For now, the growth strategy has been put on hold.
However, it is clear that this local initiative can be scalable to other locations and be quite profitable as well. Doing good for the environment as for the business.
The parties that experience a significant impact from Biogas Bree are farmers and the food industry. The regulations regarding biological waste are becoming stricter; they cannot return the organic waste to their fields. As mentioned before, Biogas Bree collects this waste and makes manure grains and manure from it. Their production depends on the quantity of organic waste generated and the quantity of waste delivered to them. Consumers can then buy them to spread on the field or in the garden.
Biogas Bree sees sustainability as converting something back into something useful for as little money as possible. In addition, Biogas Bree strives to keep its physical footprint to a minimum. That is important because climate change has devastating consequences for the planet. This is why projects such as Biogas Bree, which are scalable, are essential to protect the planet.
Michel Schelfhout, Co-owner
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Business Website: https://biogasbree.be/
Year Founded: 2011
Number of Employees: 2 to 10
Since 2011, Biogas Bree BVBA has been an agricultural company that creates electricity, gas, and fertilizer grain out of organic waste from local farmers. Every activity within the company occurs circularly; sustainability is the central concept. The company is a family business in the second generation as three brothers took over the company from their father.