Following the call for projects “Physical devices and software for intelligent supervision of biomethane production facilities” launched by GRDF in May and June 2020, some 50 innovative companies, Research and start-up laboratories made proposals for improving monitoring of methanisation sites. 9 projects were selected following the analysis of the files, and continue the selection process.
Three categories were created, three “sensor” projects, three “man-machine software or interfaces” projects and three “predictive maintenance” proposals. We invite you to discover each of these innovative companies in a series of articles.
THE SOLUTION as you would explain it to your grandmother
We offer a control service dedicated to methanisation facilities, with a special focus on reducing operating costs and increasing energy production by helping the operator to better manage their supply strategy.
To do this, we offer a suite of solutions able to:
- characterise organic material in 5 to 7 business days to estimate the methane production and the risks of inhibition; this is IR-SCAN,
- measure inhibitors in the process thanks to a sensor called SNAC, which allows an on-site analysis with the accuracy of an external laboratory, providing a result within two hours and providing maximum autonomy for the operator
- immediate interpretation of data, thanks to a software simulation tool called Memo, which not only lets you track what is happening, but also anticipate what will happen next, to better control the feed composition and the operating parameters.
Our solutions give the operator full autonomy to control their feed composition and reach their performance targets. In addition, the operator can consult an expert remotely or in situ to refine the analysis, learn to use the tools, etc.
- The key word (concept) to understand
We offer a complete service involving solutions that improve the profitability of methanisation units, optimise the management of the resources available on the sites, and finally guarantee the safety of the digester and boost biomethane production.
We generally say that €1 of initial investment will generate a profit of €4.
- The key selling point, THE real difference in the market
The real different is the real-time management of performance: whilst other solutions take 1 to 2 months to analyse a feedstock that will no longer be available by the time the results arrive, our IR-SCAN solution takes 5 to 7 days, including transportation of the samples. In a classic model, experts visit every 2 to 6 months to support the operator, but when an operating error can halt the process in less than a week, that is insufficient… The nearly real-time concept of BioEnTech’s optimisation service is an advantage in terms of cost as well as efficiency, and we still offer remote consultation with experts who have access to the data. BioEnTech comprises 13 responsive people who are used to dealing with continual improvement issues in the field, and have been doing it since 2013.
- Their guiding challenges
BioEnTech’s business is 90% biomethane and activities on biowaste and water treatment (plant, composting, insect farming).
The company was founded following an innovation contest run by ADEME. The aim was to optimise the management of industrial water treatment plants. The starting point was the observation that huge quantities of resources are wasted on manufacturing sites (which either generates pollution or, due to the fact of remaining unused. leads to the consumption of other energy sources). The idea was then to try to optimise this process from day to day for the operators. The founder of BioEnTech had the opportunity to meet the LBE (Laboratory of Environmental Biotechnology) of Narbonne (INRAe), which is a global authority on biomethane, and they formed a very enthusiastic duo to design this solution and help to reduce emissions.
- The team and what drives it
Jérémie Miroux, CEO, was originally a VP Sales in the agri-food industry; more specifically in the sugar industry. He saw and became aware of the tremendous amount of wastage that this unused waste represented.
The management of waste is a significant lever contributing to reducing the environmental impact to combat climate change.
Cyrille Charnier, CTO, came on board just a few months after the start. As a green chemical engineer (Supagro Montpellier/ENSCM) who is also motivated by a desire to contribute to the environmental revolution, he was writing his biotechnology thesis in partnership between INRA and BioEnTech, which led to the development of IR-SCAN and SNAC.
Shortly afterwards, the team was completed by the arrival of Francesco Novellis, CIO, expert IT engineer (Milan Polytechnic Institute / University of Illinois), which allowed BioEnTech to make a quality leap, thanks to the development of a distributed software solution oriented towards the cloud and Industry 2.0.
- Journeys, associates, partners, etc.
BioEnTech still works closely with INRAe and European universities on modelling the process, material analysis, deployment of sensors to continually improve its solutions and make an ever-increasing impact on the management of organic waste and waste water…
The company is based on two foundations: the first is a business close to the field with very concrete economic impacts, for which BioEnTech works in partnership with InnoLab, a Belgian ‘laboratory of excellence’ that works on the analyses that are required to control methanisation units.
The second is research, an important foundation for the company. We currently have four R&D projects and two doctoral theses in progress or completed.
Finally, BioEnTech was awarded a PIA with ADEME and chosen as a ‘partner of excellence’ by BPI France.
- What excites him
What excites me is innovation, meaning research work that deploys the use of cutting-edge technologies with a useful and durable application for our customers and significant ecological impact.
- The popular misconception that irritates him
In fact, there is always a grain of truth… The biomethane sector is in a structuring phase. The network must continue to build its structure for large-scale optimisation. The brake that needs to be released is to organise the resource market to give users/buyers visibility on the availability and quality of feedstock, etc. This will require mapping the resources in the territory, and we have begun this work with Akajoule, ENGIE, and INRAe through the MAPPED project (PIA Ademe), by setting up cooperative platforms to source the available materials to facilitate contacts and referrals to the needs.
So, the misconception I would like to change, is to get people to stop seeing organic waste as waste, but to view it as an energy-producing resource.
- What selection by GRDF means
GRDF is an essential player in the renewable gas sector with, in fact, a significant impact to accelerate the ecological transition.
For our part, we have developed these tools because we are convinced that the production of green gas, virtuous gas, is a path to the future, produced by the territory and for the territory.
So, this selection by GRDF represents a label of quality for BioEnTech, a recognition of our expertise, the values that we believe in, and an opportunity to participate in the acceleration of the transition to a large scale. Our solutions are mature. Deployment should speed up the feedback from user experience, qualified with good visibility of the benefits.
- The main challenges in the sector as a whole, and their own challenges more specifically, for the future?
For BioEnTech, the main challenge is the large-scale deployment of our solutions, marketed Europe-wide. We currently have 10 to 20% of sites abroad, representing around forty customers.
– either in agricultural methanisation: farmers equipped with digesters to recover their waste in the form of energy and digestate
– or those in the waste industry who collect waste and sometimes methanise it in their own units (Suez, Veolia, Saria, Victoria Group, etc.) > territorial methanisation
– or, finally, the industries themselves, agri-food or chemicals and paper, for example, which produce waste in the form of waste water and treat it on site in their methaniser to eliminate the pollution and purify the water, and even to produce their own energy.
Our European deployment will tend to be in densely populated areas with a maturely organised existing market, particularly the capability to collect and sort. Northern Europe, for example, has a more mature network
RAPID-FIRE QUESTIONS // THE ENTREPRENEURIAL EXPERIENCE
- They are soon going to pitch in front of the GRDF panel; no doubt it’s not the first time. Any stories to share about some past experiences?
Even though we are used to doing it, there is always that nervous feeling about whether you will succeed in getting the message across, and above all sharing your enthusiasm for the project and the desire to participate in the challenge.
- Your first thought each morning?
It would be a bit sad to have the same thought every morning, but I enjoy my routine of a workout followed by breakfast with the family.
- Your first real professional satisfaction
My thesis! I always wanted to follow through on ideas, right to the end. Maybe I took it a little too far; my thesis supervisor kept me in suspense, and right up until the defence I didn’t know if his judgement on my work would be positive or negative.
Finally, when he spoke, it was to congratulate me and tell me that I was undoubtedly his best doctoral student. What a nice surprise!
- The best pep talk you have ever received?
Innovation is important, but so are people! Progress doesn’t occur thanks to technology alone, but also thanks to human beings and collaboration.
- A mantra?
Innovation must serve society; it is pointless unless it brings real benefits to people.
- A personal quality?
Innovative and human, I hope!
- A short message to convince the panel?
Our tools are not at all a luxury for the operators. On the contrary; a process can be destabilised in a day to a week, so the immediate reaction is a sign of quality that satisfies the need for stability and optimisation. It’s very concrete, and GRDF now has the opportunity to help us deploy them on a larger scale. Let’s activate the ecological transition together!