28 May Impact of Natural Gas prices on Thermal Hydrolysis
One of the key advantages of the thermal hydrolysis (TH) pre-treatment is the improved biogas yield of the downstream anaerobic digestion. Typically, that additional biogas displaces natural gas, a fossil fuel, bringing obvious economic and environmental benefits.
In these circumstances, the natural gas price is critical to justify the economic viability of thermal hydrolysis plants: let´s take a closer look at this essential parameter.
A great source of information when it comes to energy prices is BP´s Statistical Review of World Energy. Since 1952, this comprehensive report has provided objective, global data on energy markets. Extracting data from their latest issue (BP´s Statistical Review of World Energy 2014, downloadable from http://www.bp.com), we have created the below graph showing historical natural gas prices for three very representative countries: Japan, Germany and USA.
With slight peaks and troughs, up until 2007 the three countries showed similar patterns and the price of natural gas was perceived as that of a global commodity. From that year on, however, the behaviours were decoupled: while Japan and Germany showed price increases, the US price experienced a very significant drop.
Since then, markedly different regional markets emerged, a fact with obvious repercussions in the thermal hydrolysis market. In Japan, the high prices resulting from expensive LNG imports make TH the ideal technology to extract as much biogas as possible from organic wastes such as sewage sludge. In contrast, the low US prices derived from the shale gas and fracking boom make the biogas a lot less valuable, and TH is attractive to transform sludge into an EPA Class A fertilizer-grade product. Generally speaking, Europe falls in between these two extremes and benefit equally from both advantages.
Long story short, regions with very different economic backgrounds and looking at things from different angles are reaching the same conclusion: TH is the technology of choice to squeeze more out of your sludge.