This Guest Blog is by Lucy Hopwood, Head of Biomass and Biogas at leading international Bioeconomy Consultants NNFCC and looks at the UK AD market trends
Over the past decade the UK anaerobic digestion (AD) industry has moved beyond its traditional use in the sewage treatment sector, with the number of plants utilising food waste and agricultural feedstock rising from just a few to well over one hundred. With almost 350 projects planned, a recent report from NNFCC entitled ‘Anaerobic Digestion Deployment in the United Kingdom’ shows that the development pipeline for AD in the UK remains strong.
The report demonstrates that we are approaching 140 operational AD plants in the UK, just over half of which are using predominantly food and industrial waste feedstock, with the remainder using mostly farm-based feedstock such as energy crops and animal slurries. There are a further 341 sites undergoing development around the UK, the larger share of which are farm-based.
In 2011, the UK Government published the ‘Anaerobic Digestion Strategy and Action Plan’, setting a vision for the UK AD industry and identifying barriers to deployment. By 2020 it was expected that five million tonnes of food waste and around 20 to 60 million tonnes of animal manures could be used by the AD sector in England alone.
The report demonstrates that we are well on the way to achieving our food waste target, although meeting our expectations for use of animal manures remains far less likely. However, new technologies are now coming to market to improve utilisation of manure feedstock, allowing AD to become a more viable option for livestock farms outside of the dairy sector.
While the UK AD industry has experienced rapid growth over recent years there are many challenges ahead. On account of the difficulties, it is estimated that around 30-50% of AD plants currently under development in the UK will actually complete.
Commonly, biogas produced by AD facilities is combusted in a combined heat and power (CHP) engine to produce heat and electricity. However, new technological developments have enabled the clean-up of the gas to produce pure biomethane which can then be directly injected into the national gas grid; although this remains a comparatively expensive option, the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) offers favourable support.
AD represents a very dynamic sector of the UK’s renewable energy industry. NNFCC continues to monitor the sector and is pleased to be working closely with investors, developers and policymakers providing market data and business advice enabling the continued growth of the sector.
We would like to thank Lucy for this interesting article. If you have any questions relating to the content please post them below or contact NNFCC at firstname.lastname@example.org