Chile's Metrogas turns to biogas

Nov 10, 2007 01:00 AM

Chile's natural gas distributor Metrogas has launched a ground-breaking venture with municipal water company Aguas Andinas to produce biogas from a treatment plant in Santiago. The $ 5 mm project will produce biogas from the La Farfana water treatment plant, sufficient to supply over 10 % of Metrogas' gas customers in Santiago, from the second half of 2008.
"This innovation serves to compensate for the lack of Argentinean gas," general manager Eduardo Morande says.

The project would offset only a tiny portion of the natural gas that Argentina routinely shipped to Chile before 2004 -- when Buenos Aires started restricting exports. But it could set a precedent for future ventures.
La Farfana treats 50 % of Santiago's water. Metrogas plans to install a 13.5 km pipeline from La Farfana to an existing cracking plant, where the biogas will be used to produce city gas -- which is produced from naphtha. Metrogas and Aguas Andinas are also studying the possible installation of biogas technology in El Trebal, the city's second-largest water treatment plant.

Argentina's deepening restrictions on gas exports this winter jeopardised supplies to residential and commercial customers in the Santiago metropolitan region. All gas supplies were cut on several occasions, leaving only reserves still in the GasAndes pipeline and back-up propane-air to cover the gap. But these measures are sufficient for only a few days. And next winter is likely to prove even more challenging because of rising domestic demand in Argentina.
Metrogas has been fighting a legal battle to install a new propane-air facility in the Santiago neighbourhood of Penalolen that would cover the gap in back-up supplies to residential commercial customers. The municipality opposes the plant's location, but construction has resumed after the company appealed against a ruling to revoke its permit.

Morande points out that the new biogas project does not negate the need for the new Penalolen plant, which is scheduled to start up before next winter.
Spain's Agbar Group owns 50 % of Aguas Andinas. The balance is owned by the government's development agency Corfo and pension funds.

Energy from waste
Metrogas is studying the production of biogas from the capital's municipal waste facilities. Privately-owned Lepanto, whose San Bernardo facility was closed in 2002, signed an $ 8 mm deal with Japan's Mitsui in November 2005 to offer carbon bonds from the elimination of methane gas under the UN's clean development mechanism programme.
Spain's Endesa, Chile's largest power generator, signed an agreement in April 2006 with the private-sector Santa Marta Consortium to purchase 100 % of the carbon credits from the production of biogas. In both cases, the gas is flared. Biogas is mostly methane produced by the breakdown of organic matter.

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