Perspectives on spatial decision support concerning location of biogas production

PhD defence

Mikkel Bojesen


Biogas production is a contemporary important topic in many agri-intensive countries, among these Denmark, where biogas has received increasingly political and scholarly awareness during recent years. The Danish government has set an ambition that 50% of the livestock slurry should by 2020 by used in biogas production. This ambition requires that more than 20 new large scale centralised biogas plants are built. The location of these plants is associated with a number of externalities and uncertainties and the existing biogas sector struggles to establish itself as a viable energy producing sector. Meanwhile planners and decision makers struggle to find sustainable locations that comprehensively balance the multiple concerns the location of biogas facilities includes.

This PhD project examines how spatial decision support models can be used to ensure sustainable locations of future biogas plants whilst safeguarding a transparent and informative decision making process. Through the PhD thesis spatial temporal issues regarding slurry biomass resource availability is analysed together with the aspects of spatial competition in order to achieve national biogas policy ambitions. We find that slurry biomass resource availability is expected to decline by 10% until 2020 but with regional variation. We find that large scale biogas producers enjoy 16% lower transportation costs than small biogas producers. It is argued that biogas producers need to see themselves as agro-based retailers and accordingly, understand the industrial economic aspects of such a role.

Through the use of spatial multi-criteria evaluation models stakeholder preferences to decision criteria are included in a sustainable biogas facility location analysis. By the use of these models it is demonstrated how overall biogas production costs can be reduced by 3% while also environmental and social concerns are appreciated. Spatial decision support models offer great potential for enhancing transparency and qualifying the basis for decision making with regard to location of future biogas plant. The spatial decision support
tools, which are developed through this PhD project, may be combined into integrated spatial planning and decision support systems with a human expert based user interface.

Principal Supervisor

Professor Jens Leth Hougaard, Department of Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen

Assessment Committee

Associate Professor Jørgen Dejgård Jensen, Department of Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen (chairman);

Professor Bernd Möller, University of Flensburg, Germany;

Professor Mette Termansen, Department of Environmental Science - Environmental social science, Aarhus University, Denmark.