2018-07-Offer for a Thesis Allowance Subject : Characterization of biogas and biomethane: analysis and speciation of trace elements

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E2S: Energy and Environment Solutions

What is E2S UPPA?

What is E2S UPPA?

The consortium at the heart of the Energy Environment Solutions (E2S) project is a composed of the University of Pau and the Pays de l’Adour (UPPA) and two national research organisations, National Institute...

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Offer for a Thesis AllowanceSubject: Characterization of biogas and biomethane: analysis and speciation of trace elements

Thesis subject


The research works that will be carried out within this doctoral thesis is part of the context of energy conversion. They will be conducted in close collaboration with TEREGA (64000- Pau), a major company in the energy sector. The main scientific objective is to expand current knowledge of biofuels and focuses on the chemical characterization (identification, quantification, speciation, isotopic signature) of volatile trace compounds present in biogas and biomethane.

Key words: Trace elements, biogas, biomethane, analytical characterization

Working conditions

Hosting laboratory: IPREM https://iprem.univ-pau.fr & IPRA/LFCR

Thesis Director: Prof. Isabelle Le Hécho
Thesis Co-director: Prof. Hervé Carrier

Localisation address: Université de Pau et des Pays de l’Adour, campus of Pau, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, France

Starting date: November 1st 2018

Length: 3 years (November 1st, 2018 to November 1st, 2021)

Employer: Université de Pau et des Pays de l’Adour (UPPA)

Gross monthly salary: 2034 € (montly salary before taxes)


Laboratory expertise

IPREM's research work focuses on the development of instrumentation and analytical methods for trace analysis, speciation (detection, identification and quantification of chemical forms of metals and metalloids) and isotopic analysis in environmental and biological media.

Part of the LFCR's research activities focus on experimental developments necessary to characterize physico-chemical properties of petroleum fluids (oils, gases)


Mission - Main activities

Scientific framework

The work to be carried out within the framework of this doctorate is part of the energy transition framework. The need to reduce our dependence on fossil resources has led in recent years to the development of processes to produce "bio-resources". For example, biogas plants are currently expanding and many companies have specialized in the production of biogas from waste, agricultural or household. There are today about 600 biogas plants in France, the majority of which consume on site, to produce heat and/or electricity (cogeneration). However, some of this biogas is purified in biomethane, to be injected into natural gas transportation and distribution networks. There are 44 biomethane injection sites located on the French territory at the end of 2017. The biomethane injected into the French network must meet gas quality standards similar to natural gas. If it is similar to natural gas in its major compounds (methane, alkanes, CO2, H2S, N2), the biomethane may contain different trace elements. The composition of biomethane trace elements is strongly related to the conditions of methanization and inputs waste used. The parameters of implementation of the biological reaction determine the metabolic orientations and the reaction rates. The operating modes and modalities can also impact the speciation of the trace elements, in particular the volatile metallic trace elements (ETM) initially present in the reaction medium. A better knowledge of chemical properties of the trace elements present in the biomethane, including their speciation, is essential in order to estimate the risk for the gas network and for the end-users, and thus to adapt the specifications imposed on the gas and the associated treatments. One of the major technological challenges to perform these analyzes is the capture of trace elements in gas matrix at high pressures.


The main objective of the research work that will be carried out in this thesis is to improve the knowledge on the characterization of volatile trace compounds present in biogas and biomethane. The work also aims to improve techniques for sampling these compounds in high-pressure gases, including the validation of a specific device currently under development.

Expected results

  • Establishment of an experimental setup to trap (bubbling, adsorption on specific supports) the trace elements present in gaseous effluents, directly usable on site, covering the range of pressures of biogas production, transport and storage networks and bio methane (ie 0.1-10 MPa). Validate at lab scale the sampling of the metals by bubbling on the one hand, and develop new specific adsorption for the other trace compounds on the other hand. Perform experimental studies on representative samples of the operating conditions (synthetic systems) and analyze a broad spectrum of trace compounds.
  • Development of specific analytical methodologies for gaseous effluents and trace species using analytical couplings as mass spectrometry and GC-ICPMS. This characterization will concern halogenated compounds,ammonia, siloxanes, BTEX and mainly metals.
  • Measures on industrial sites and constitution of an extensive database. Methodological developments and analytical refinements will characterize biogas and biomethane of different origins mainly in terms of methanised biomass.
  • Modeling for some elements of interest. Using the analytical results obtained, we will propose an equilibrium model for estimating biomass / biogas exchanges.


Required skills and competences

The candidate must hold a master or equivalent degree with majors in analytical chemistry, solution chemistry, environmental chemistry, plus:

  • Experimental skills / hands on activities
  • Sense of initiative, autonomy, organization and thoroughness, good relational qualities.
  • Good knowledge in English and good writing skills are a plus.


Application - Evaluation criteria

Application file assessment: Selection committee

Candidates will first be selected based on their application file.
Those selected after this first step, will then be interviewed.

Application files will be evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • Candidate's motivation, scientific maturity and curiosity
  • Candidate's knowledge in organic and physical chemistry
  • Grades and ranking during your Master degree, steadiness in your academic background
  • English language proficiency
  • Candidate’s ability to present her/his work and results

Work experience similar to an internship in a laboratory – or likewise; previously achieved research work
(reports, publications).

Application file composition et submission deadline

Application will include: (in a single pdf file)

  • CV
  • Cover letter
  • Master degree grade transcripts and ranking
  • Reference letter
  • Contact details of at least two people, from you work environment, who can be contacted for further reference

Applications must be sent to both of the following email address with the title “Doctoral application”: 
isabelle.lehecho@univ-pau.frherve.carrier @ univ-pau.fr

For more details, please visit our websites: http://e2s-uppa.eu/en/index.html

Submission deadline : September 30th, 2018