“Pacchetto Natura”: our commitment to sustainability
Families that sign up for the nature package option, provided on all of Hera Comm’s free market rate plans, support electricity generation from renewable sources without incurring additional costs, contribute to reduce paper consumption by using electronic billing, and are on the road less since they use direct debit to pay bills. Pacchetto Natura has been chosen by about 75,000 customers (8.7% of all of Hera Comm’s customers).
Biomethane from waste
From organic waste to biomethane that can directly reach homes after being fed into distribution networks. The project consists in producing methane from renewable sources, specifically by anaerobically biodegrading the organic fraction of separated waste, to be done at the Sant’Agata Bolognese composting plant.
Hera has already been producing biogas for years, using biodigesters and landfills, to produce electricity; the next big step is to refine it to make biomethane like the gas that flows in household pipes. And this system is an initial embodiment that will use the organic fraction of the separated municipal waste as raw material to obtain biomethane and will also become fuel for methane-powered vehicles for local public transport.
The process begins with a semi-dry, continuous flow anaerobic biodigester where the organic waste is anaerobicically digested, producing biogas and the digestate. The digestate is then sent to the subsequent composting step that comprises oxidation and final screening, to obtain high quality compost. The biogas is sent to an upgrading section to remove undesired components and obtain methane gas that it meets the specifications to make it suitable for being fed into the network. This process is the foundation of a perfect circular economy in which food waste makes natural gas that can be used to cook more food or possibly be used for heating and for vehicles.
The biodigester will be able to process 100,000 tonnes per year of organic waste and 35,000 tonnes of green waste from separated waste collection, and starting in 2018 it will produce about 7.5 million m3 per year of biomethane and about 20,000 tonnes of compost. The total investment is expected to be just under Euro 30 million.
The construction phase of the plant started in March 2017 and is progressing rapidly. The plant is therefore expected to start up and feed the first biomethane into the grid by the end of 2018.
The project was included among best practices in the SDG Industry Matrix report published by the Global Compact and KPMG in 2017, which reports the business opportunities linked to the Sustainability Development Golas of the UN Agenda.
Biorefinery 2.0 to produce biomethane from pruning material
Hera started targeted research to analyse the technologies to produce advanced biofuels obtained by processing mowing and pruning material collected in the area. These waste materials are currently used in composting processes or are used for energy recovery but in the future, they could be used to produce bioethanol and biomethane. Both of these fuels can be considered advanced because they are produced from waste materials and not from dedicated energy crops which use land which can potentially be used for human food or animal feed. To be able to obtain these fuels from ligno-cellulosic waste, pretreatments are required, such as steam explosion (a particular thermal treatment with high pressure steam) that makes the material readily degradable by bacteria, enzymes or yeasts, in anaerobic digestion processes or alcoholic fermentation.
The positive results of the tests carried out in 2017 have reinforced the possibility of the production of biomethane from mowing waste, while the idea of production of ethanol has been discarded due to the low yield. Two continuous anaerobic digestion tests will be conducted in 2018, which will provide the necessary confirmation of the feasibility of biomethane production and the technical and economic feasibility of a full-scale plant to be built in the future.
Since 2017 Hera has been using only renewable energy
The Hera Group has decided to accept a new challenge which, in line with the EU objectives and the UN’s 2030 Agenda, adds to the important efforts it is already making in the field of energy efficiency. Starting in 2017, only energy from renewable sources has been be used for Hera Spa’s operations in Emilia-Romagna. The decision places the Hera Group among the leaders in Italy in terms of saving energy resources and fighting climate change, able to anticipate and exceed the guidelines set by the National Energy Strategy, by the “Climate-Energy Package” and by the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development.
The activities that Hera Spa manages in Emilia-Romagna (waste management, energy and water) determine an annual total consumption of about 315 GWh, equivalent to that of 117,000 families or 85,000 petrol fuelled cars, about 90% related to the water cycle business. This consumption determines the emission of 146,000 tonnes of CO2.
From 2018 also Marche Multiservizi and AcegasApsAmga plan to use only renewable energy.
Energy recovery from methane decompression with General Electric
The project involves the exclusive development, construction and installation of an experimental system, based on a patented technology, to recovery energy from the pressure drop in regulation and measuring stations. It is a small to medium sized turbo expander (330 kW electric) installed in the medium sized regulation and measuring stations, in combination with a heat pump that uses CO2 as a heat carrier fluid, designed to use part of the electrical energy to preheat the gas used in the process.
A contract was signed with the General Electric Group for prototype testing of the system and in 2017 the design of the prototype and the complementary works necessary for its installation in the “Ducati” regulation and measuring station in Bologna were completed. Authorization activities and the construction of the machinery were started, and installation is scheduled for spring of 2018.