Thought Leaders

Sustainable Solutions in Biomethane: An Interview with CycleØ CEO Laurence Molke

Thought LeaderLaurence MolkeChief Executive OfficerCycleØ

In this interview, AZoCleantech speaks with Laurence Molke, Chief Executive Officer of the pan-European biomethane platform CycleØ about the company's role in sustainable biomethane production and advancing decarbonization efforts.

Can you please introduce yourselves, your professional backgrounds, and the respective companies that you work for?

My name is Laurence Molke, and I am the Chief Executive Officer of the pan-European biomethane platform CycleØ – an integrated producer of compressed and liquified biomethane that captures methane and CO2 emissions from the agri-food sector and transforms them into green gas to decarbonize energy grids, as well as the transport and maritime sectors.

I have over 25 years of experience in the clean technology sector as both an owner/operator and private equity professional. I have developed, built, and operated more than a dozen greenfield projects in Europe with Capex in excess of €500 million in the biogas, biomass, CO2-recovery, co-generation, grid-support, and wind sectors.

Fossil fuels are arguably becoming increasingly stigmatized in our environmentally conscious society. Why is this, and how do you see the role of renewable energy companies like yours in addressing this concern?

In the past, fossil fuels have enabled technological, social and economic development. However, the greenhouse gas emissions that come from fossil fuels have also been shown to be the primary cause of the climate crisis.

While much of the conversation to date has focused on carbon emissions, methane has 80 times the warming power of CO2 over a 20-year period and is a key driver behind the formation of harmful ground-level ozone, which is linked to one million premature deaths each year.

The recent launch of MethaneSAT, a methane-tracking satellite, demonstrates the growing realization of the threat posed by this particularly potent gas.

CycleØ facilities capture methane from waste via anaerobic digestion. Our recent acquisition of Biogasclean enables us to also capture the circa 60 percent naturally occurring, biogenic CO2 contained in raw biogas and convert it into e-methane, increasing green gas production by as much as 70 percent. This innovation transforms carbon emissions into a new resource to help solve the climate crisis.

By focusing on small and medium-sized projects – as opposed to large, centralized hubs – we can localize plants in rural farms, unlocking additional, much-needed sustainable feedstocks. A key differentiator, this approach enables us to play a vital, bottom-up role in decarbonizing energy and transport systems.

As well as the developer of a novel green gas solution, we are an end-to-end biomethane producer, which means we have the economic, human and technical resources to develop, build, own and operate biomethane plants – making us uniquely well-suited to accelerating green gas production.

CycleØ Group Limited recently acquired Biogasclean. What motivated this acquisition, and how does it align with the company’s strategic objectives in advancing clean energy solutions?

Despite the increasing discussion around capturing and utilizing the naturally occurring CO2 contained in biogas, most biomethane facilities have yet to do so. This represents a major untapped opportunity – for gas grids, the transport and maritime sectors, farmers, and the environment in general.

The acquisition of Biogasclean enables us to capitalize on this opportunity, significantly boosting green gas production by closing the biomethane carbon loop. As such, it represents an important piece of the puzzle in terms of creating an end-to-end biomethane platform. The increase in production capacity enabled by our fully circular green gas solution is a significant milestone for the sector.

The acquisition of Biogasclean is described as a significant milestone for CycleØ. How does this acquisition position CycleØ at the forefront of synthetic green gas innovation, particularly through carbon capture and utilization (CCU)?

The acquisition of Biogasclean positions CycleØ at the forefront of synthetic green gas innovation. We are rolling out a fully circular green gas solution that captures and utilizes the naturally occurring CO2 contained in raw biogas via a process known as biological methanation.

Specifically, we are integrating our end-to-end biomethane approach with Biogasclean’s biological methanation technology, which produces green e-methane, a clean alternative to natural gas.

As well as the technological innovation that the acquisition enabled, CycleØ is leading the way in terms of integration – we control the entire process to deliver consistently high-quality Renewable Natural Gas for our end-users.

CycleØ now offers a fully circular biomethane solution capable of capturing methane emissions and CO2. Can you explain how this solution works and its significance in advancing sustainability goals, especially in the context of circular economy principles?

CycleØ is a fully integrated biomethane platform, which means we have the technical, operational, and financial means to develop, build, own and operate biomethane projects, both greenfield and brownfield. Through FNX, our Spain-based manufacturing subsidiary, we have developed our own biogas upgrading and biomethane liquefaction technology. 

Per our end-to-end biomethane approach, we are integrating Biogasclean’s methanation technology with our own tech, utilizing green hydrogen to capture the naturally occurring CO2 contained within biogas to increase the production of Renewable Natural Gas.

Image Credit: CycleØ

CycleØ is poised to play a crucial role in advancing sustainability goals through rapidly scaling this novel solution to the massive challenges of decarbonizing energy systems, the transport and maritime sectors, and agriculture.

In Europe alone, green gas could replace up to 40 percent of the EU's total natural gas consumption, which would keep more than 1 billion metric tonnes of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere – equivalent to the emissions of over 133 million homes.

Our solution empowers agri-food producers to join the circular economy by repurposing emissions from their waste. It also provides a range of additional benefits in the form of new, local jobs and the significant decarbonization of energy grids and transport.

Biogasclean is noted for pioneering a biological methanation process. Could you provide more insights into this process and how it enhances CycleØ’s capabilities in producing renewable natural gas with minimal environmental impact?

Biogasclean is one of a handful of companies in the world that have developed a biological methanation process at a commercial scale. Our novel green gas solution captures biogenic CO2 from biogas and combines it with green hydrogen to produce synthetic, renewable methane, which, like biomethane, can directly replace fossil natural gas.

As its name suggests, biological methanation is different from chemical-based processes. It employs purely biological processes that use bacteria to produce methane. We have honed our process to be able to run at lower pressures and temperatures than incumbent processes, which reduces our operating costs and enhances the positive environmental impact that we are able to drive.

By capturing and utilizing the naturally occurring CO2 contained within biogas, our solution increases biomethane production by ~70 percent.

Biogasclean eFuel

Video Credit: https://vimeo.com/528316518

Biomethane production is projected to potentially replace up to 40 % of the EU’s total fossil natural gas consumption by 2050. How does CycleØ contribute to this projection, and what role does its technology play in achieving such ambitious targets?

As you say, sustainable biomethane could replace up to 40 percent of the EU’s total fossil natural gas by 2050, with an estimated production of at least 1,000 TWh.

Our target for 2030 is to produce enough to deliver 2.5 TWh per year, with the objective of reaching 16 TWh/Year in 2050. By implementing biological methanation, we could increase renewable natural gas production by an additional 0.5 TWh by 2030.

We are an ambitious business that strives for continuous improvement – enabling us to set and surpass ever-greater goals. This attitude even permeates the design of our technology, whose modular nature gives us the flexibility required to learn from each deployment and the ability to rapidly scale our offering to meet demand. We are continually investing in methods to increase its efficiency and enhance its positive environmental impact, as well as to deliver more carbon-negative solutions for the biomethane sector.

Laurence Molke, CEO of CycleØ, mentioned deploying Biogasclean’s patented biocatalyst technologies. Can you elaborate on how these technologies contribute to producing more carbon-negative fuels for various sectors and their potential impact on global decarbonization efforts?

Integrating this patented biological methanation technology into biomethane plants can increase biomethane production by ~70 percent. This represents a significant increase in efficiency per plant, which can help meet ambitious international biomethane production targets, enabling the rapid decarbonization of energy and transport systems, and the maritime sector. 

CycleØ’s technology involves modular, membrane-based biogas upgrading systems. How does this technology contribute to the efficiency and effectiveness of biomethane production, especially in comparison to traditional methods, and what advantages does it offer in terms of scalability and environmental sustainability?

Modular, membrane-based upgrading systems are ideal for small to medium-scale applications as they enable us to localize plants, unlocking additional, much-needed sustainable feedstocks.

Our technology offers several benefits over other methods in terms of efficiency, effectiveness, scalability, and sustainability. As a modular solution, it supports incremental capacity expansion, making it easier to rapidly scale up biomethane production in response to increasing demand while reducing upfront costs.

Additionally, membrane-based biogas upgrading systems have high selectivity for methane, which means they are highly efficient. Our technology utilizes a three-stage process that produces biomethane with a methane purity of 99 percent, which fully satisfies the criteria to be injected into the gas grid.

Our processes work at lower temperatures and pressures than incumbent chemical alternatives, such as pressure swing adsorption (PSA) or amine scrubbing – so it requires much less energy and, thus, entails lower operating costs.

Finally, the use of membranes for biogas upgrading systems eliminates the need for chemical solvents or adsorbents, further reducing operating costs while also establishing our process as the most environmentally friendly option on the market.

Can you discuss some specific end uses of biomethane produced by CycleØ’s technologies and how they contribute to sustainability and decarbonization efforts in sectors such as transportation, industry, and agriculture?

As biomethane and e-methane possess nearly identical chemical compositions to fossil natural gas, they can function as a sustainable, ‘drop-in’ replacement for it. As such, its deployment requires no additional infrastructure investment in the energy, transport, and maritime sectors.

Biomethane and e-methane can be directly injected into the gas grids to power homes. businesses and industry. It can also be used to fuel and, thus, decarbonize transport, notably including Heavy Goods Vehicles and ships, as well as the wider maritime sector.

The agri-food sector generates a huge amount of methane-emitting waste. According to the International Energy Agency´s 2024 global methane tracker, agricultural activities represent the largest anthropogenic source of global methane emissions at ~142 Mt annually (IEA) – about 40 percent of all human-caused emissions.

CycleØ’s integrated green gas solution can transform these emissions into biomethane and e-methane, providing key resources that help solve the climate crisis while also generating additional income for farmers.

CycleØ aims to build, own, and operate at least 50 plants across Europe by 2028. How does your company plan to leverage your technology and expertise to achieve this ambitious expansion goal, and what impact do you foresee this having on the broader renewable energy landscape in Europe?

We have the technology, technical expertise, and financial backing to accelerate the development of biomethane projects globally. We have our own technology and a wide, multidisciplinary team of experts working on every aspect of our business, from engineering and chemistry to operations, finance and project development.

CycleØ’s mission is to decarbonize energy and transport by accelerating the production and widespread adoption of biomethane – a green gas that has been gaining prominence, as shown by the IEA, including an entire section dedicated to this critical resource in its most recent annual Renewables report.

As a mature technology that’s proven and readily available today, biomethane has an important role to play within the renewables mix – it can be used anywhere fossil natural gas is currently being used. Notably, it can play a vital role in decarbonizing hard-to-electrify transport, such as heavy-duty vehicles and ships.

Considering the projected growth of the biomethane market, what market segments does CycleØ prioritize for expansion, and how does the company tailor its solutions to meet the specific needs of these segments?

We partner primarily with agri-food producers and the municipal waste sector to support their business and climate goals through capturing (and monetizing) their emissions and fuelling their operations.

We also provide biomethane to end users. Specifically, we inject it directly into the gas grid and generate green certificates for corporate buyers seeking to decarbonize their activities. In addition, we sell Bio-CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) and Bio-LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) to the transport and maritime sectors.

Our solutions provide a range of benefits for each of our priority market segments.

For instance, biomethane production benefits farmers by providing:

  • A sustainable solution for waste management;
  • Secure supplies of organic fertiliser; and
  • Additional revenue streams.

It also provides a range of wider benefits for the agricultural sector, notably through supporting rural development and creating new, green jobs.

Injecting biomethane into the gas grids contributes to national and international decarbonization goals and decreases countries’ dependence on fossil fuel imports. Our doing so generates green certificates, also called Guarantees of Origin (GoOs), which benefit climate-positive corporates who purchase them by enabling them to clearly demonstrate their commitment to decarbonization.

As for the transport and maritime sectors, biomethane can be used as a direct, renewable replacement for CNG and LNG, which power internal combustion engine vehicles and marine engines.

It benefits these sectors by drastically lowering their emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, and other harmful pollutants – improving air quality while also helping solve the climate crisis.

How does CycleØ engage with policymakers and regulatory bodies to advocate for favorable policies and incentives that support the growth of the biomethane industry, and what impact do these efforts have on your commercial strategy?

We are dedicated to maximizing the benefits for the communities in which we operate. We developed our decentralized, small to medium-scale approach with this in mind, ensuring we effectively support rural development, create new local jobs and help establish circular economies.

We work closely with local and regional governments to realize these benefits, and we actively collaborate with trade associations to accelerate the deployment of biomethane internationally to rapidly scale our positive impact.

Can you share insights into CycleØ’s vision for the future of renewable energy and its role in the global transition towards sustainable energy solutions?

CycleØ sees a bright future for the renewables sector, with ever greater numbers of governments setting ambitious targets and companies working to address key sustainability challenges through solutions based around circular economy principles. As a company at the cutting edge of this, we see ourselves playing a leading role in the biomethane sector, co-developing novel strategies with local communities and stakeholders to realize the significant potential of this nascent market.

About Laurence Molke

Laurence Molke has over 25 years of experience in cleantech sectors as an owner/operator and private equity professional. He has developed, built and operated more than a dozen greenfield projects in Europe with Capex in excess of €500 million in the biogas, biomass, CO2-recovery, cogeneration, grid-support services and wind sectors. He has founded several alternative energy companies, including Fugitive Compliance, Global3, Carboneco, Arclem Energia, and CycleØ.

 

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited (T/A) AZoNetwork, the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and Conditions of use of this website.

Bethan Davies

Written by

Bethan Davies

Bethan has just graduated from the University of Liverpool with a First Class Honors in English Literature and Chinese Studies. Throughout her studies, Bethan worked as a Chinese Translator and Proofreader. Having spent five years living in China, Bethan has a profound interest in photography, travel and learning about different cultures. She also enjoys taking her dog on adventures around the Peak District. Bethan aims to travel more of the world, taking her camera with her.

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