Aarón Martínez
COO
CIAM Servicios Ambientales
Sergio Martínez
CFO
CIAM Servicios Ambientales
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View from the Top

Mexico is Biogas-Ready

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 12:49

Q: What is CIAM’s comparative advantage compared to household names like Veolia?

AM: Our size allows better customer service. We have come across cases where biogas installations use European equipment, such as Jenbacher or Guascor, to name a few. When this equipment fails, the aftersales services tend to take a long time. Our response time is usually no longer than 24 hours, even during holidays. Another advantage is our turnkey project portfolio, covering project design, execution, operation and maintenance. We are sensitive to our clients’ investment plans, usually spread over three to four years, where we design the project’s phases based on their financial capability. Also, our flexibility allows us to meet a client’s particular needs. Whether they just want equipment advice or only require project design, we can adapt to these specific needs.

Q: How has biogas development in Mexico changed since the reform was launched?

AM: Originally, biogas expanded thanks to the Kyoto Protocol’s carbon credits, not from a national clean-energy policy. This allowed the arrival of foreign capital invested directly in biogas projects in Mexico to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, as those investments became carbon credits that could be used in Europe. Between 2005 and 2007, close to 320 biogas projects nationwide saw the light of day in the farming sector.
This stepping stone created a window of opportunity to capitalize on the generated biogas by directing it toward more energy-efficient mechanisms. Monterrey spearheaded this shift for the rest of the country as it installed the first biogasbased engines to generate energy for self-supply schemes.

From a regulatory standpoint, administrative and permitobtainment procedures are more complex for large biogas projects because CRE is more involved now. For instance, 
the first major biogas-based project was launched in Chihuahua, and it got stalled for two years as the regulatory framework was not solid enough to allow the producer to trade energy surpluses with CFE. This case sent a negative message to the biogas market, putting on hold Mexico’s biogas industry between 2008 and 2010.

Q: How does developing a biogas project differ from developing other renewable energy projects?

AM: For the farming sector in particular, as a would-be biogas producer, you need permits, land ownership and readily available manure. The approximate cost for a biogas-producing system varies between US$300,000 and US$500,000. There are several additional benefits derived from implementing this technology. Primarily, the first step prior to biogas production is to treat residual waters, enriching it as a natural fertilizer. Also, bio-digesters eliminate manure’s negative externalities like odor and flies. Simply put, farming production’s vicious cycle turns virtuous. 

Q: What is CIAM’s long-term objective for the biogas industry?

AM: We are looking to provide the best technical solutions for our clients. This means inserting the latest top-tier equipment and technologies to our projects to ensure their success and obtain increased replication. In Central America, our strongest market, we virtually have no competition. Mexico is a more complex market given biogas’ standing in the energy mix. Our goal is to become the national reference in everything related to biogas for Mexico and the regional measuring stick for Central America. 

In Mexico, we hope that our work since we started operations in 2005 will spur the government to pay more attention to this technology by creating a specialized government agency. This government body could ideally be backed by a federal program or policy. We want to shift the prevalent mindset surrounding biogas by bringing to life a pilot project on a pipeline to adapt biogas for residential solutions. Also, it is fundamental to raise awareness in general about the benefits and virtuous cycles of this particular technology.