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ADBA launches Biomethane – the pathway to 2030 report

Biomethane could deliver 30% of the UK’s 2030 carbon budget in hardest to decarbonise sectors, provide green heat to 6.4 million homes and create 30,000 jobs by 2030, says ADBA report

  • With a supportive policy environment, anaerobic digestion (AD) technology could produce 8 billion m3 biomethane/year, enough to heat 6.4 million homes, by 2030. 
  • This would deliver a 6% reduction in total UK greenhouse gases emissions, specifically within the hard-to-decarbonise sectors of heat, transport, waste management and agriculture, and 30% of the reduction needed by 2030 to meet our legally binding carbon budget.
  • The industry would directly create 30,000 green jobs and become a leading exporter of innovation, technology and professional expertise.
  • The report sets out the pathway to full deployment by 2030 and identifies policy asks to stimulate growth.

Alan Whitehead MP yesterday hosted the launch of Biomethane: the pathway to 2030, a major report by the Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA), which highlights the potential for biomethane to cut emissions in the hardest to decarbonise sectors of the UK economy such as heat, transport, waste management and agriculture, and achieve the country’s Net Zero target.  

Fully deployed, the biomethane industry could deliver a 6% reduction in the UK's greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 – a third of the 5th Carbon Budget target – and provide heating for 6.4 million homes.  It would also create tens of thousands of jobs, boost energy and food production security, attract investment into the green economy and enhance Britain's competitiveness on the international sustainable technology market.

Unlocking this potential however requires a supportive policy environment and the report identifies the key policy asks that will enable the industry to flourish:

  • immediate support for biomethane production beyond 2021
  • extension of the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation beyond 2032
  • funding for innovation
  • establishment of resource hierarchies for all organic wastes with AD as the optimal recycling technology
  • development of a renewable biofertiliser obligation
  • support for local circular economy projects around food waste recycling through AD into heat and power generation

Charlotte Morton, ADBA Chief Executive, said: “Our sector has seen periods of very strong growth in the last decade as a direct result of supportive policy, but this has stalled in recent years due to the withdrawal of support.  The next ten years, dubbed the climate decade, are our last chance to reverse the climate crisis. To reach its full potential by 2030 and make a real impact, the industry must grow faster than it has ever done.  We therefore need robust and immediate support from government to capitalize on the sector's wide-ranging environmental and social benefits, and to unlock a commercially viable, world-class AD industry with goods, services and expertise that can be exported around the world.  In the face of the climate emergency, AD is not an option, it's a necessity, and a technology that needs to be fully deployed NOW to create the healthy environment and healthy green economy that the UK needs.”

The report has been sponsored by Air Liquide, Privilege Finance and SGN.

Chris Winward, Chief Commercial Officer at Privilege Finance, commented: “Now is the time for us to ensure policy makers understand the potential for energy from waste technologies to contribute towards achieving net zero and the creation of a more circular economy. Sending waste to landfill that could be used for energy production needs to be seen as socially unacceptable. Existing anaerobic digestion technologies offer a solution to both the problem of producing materials that ultimately end up in landfill, and the need to decarbonise our energy system.” 

John Morea, CEO of SGN, said: “The injection of further biomethane into the gas network is key to decarbonise heating through the 2020s and involves no disruptive changes for customers. We hope this report will raise the profile of the potential for biomethane to deliver a third of the carbon savings necessary to meet the UK’s legally binding fifth carbon budget and allow for the necessary policies to be introduced from when the Renewable Heat Incentive ends in March 2021.”

David Smith, Chief Executive of Energy Networks Association, said: “We welcome this report that clearly shows the benefits of biomethane and anaerobic digestion which must play a critical role in helping us get to net zero. They are good for the environment, good for the economy and good for the public who will benefit from a low carbon, low cost energy system. In the run-up to COP 26 this year, what we now need is a commitment to roll-out the world’s first zero-carbon gas grid.”

Read the Executive Summary
Read the full report – Biomethane: a pathway to 2030

– ENDS –

For further information, contact:
Jocelyne Bia, Senior Communications Consultant
email: jocelyne.bia@adbioresources.org; tel: +44 (0)7910 878510

Notes to editors

  • About AD
  • Key figures methodology and assumptions
    • 8 billion m3 biomethane/year. Modelled biomethane generation assumes all organic wastes and AD-suitable bioenergy crops, which are realistically produced and collectible by 2030, are processed through AD. The projected tonnage of each feedstock is multiplied by their average biogas potential (18-220 m3/wet tonne) and its biomethane content (55-62%), as estimated from ADBA’s industry figures. Modelling then assumes that biogas is upgraded to biomethane using green hydrogen, produced through the utilisation of excess renewable electricity. 
      • Food waste. Estimates account for a 50% reduction in avoidable food waste (UN SDG 12.3) and 69% collection rates (WBA global potential assumption) and are scaled up annually in line with projected population growth from ONS Statistical Bulletin (2016) 
      • Manure. Estimates are based on Defra (2018) estimates of indoor manure already produced, collected and spread to land
      • Sewage. Estimates of currently undigested sewage scaled up in line with projected population growth from ONS Statistical Bulletin (2016)
      • Bioenergy crop. Estimates are modelled using assumptions taken from the CCC Land Use Report (2020). The CCC propose that 690,000 hectares of land are required to grow bioenergy crops to achieve net zero by 2050. In line with current bioenergy crop land use statistics (Defra, 2018), ADBA assume that 41% of this land is used to grow crops for AD, and 15 tonnes/ha will be grown.
      • Industrial/commercial organic waste. Estimates taken from WRAP (2017).
      • Green waste. Estimates are based on current collected green waste if all were diverted to AD.
      • Power to gas. Estimates assume that green hydrogen, created through the utilisation of excess renewable electricity, is used to upgrade all biogas to biomethane at full potential. It is assumed that on average biogas is composed of 40% CO2 prior to upgrading, and this is fully converted to biomethane through this process. 
    • At full potential, biomethane can heat 6.4 million homes each year. Assuming an average parasitic load of 4%, the AD industry can generate 76.3 TWh of useable renewable energy annually. Parasitic load pertains to the proportion of energy generated which is used on-site in plant operations. Therefore, to calculate useable energy, the total energy produced is multiplied by 96% (100% minus the 4% parasitic load), and relates to energy exported to the national grid. Ofgem’s Typical Domestic Consumption Value (TDCV) suggests that a ‘medium’ household will require 12,000 kWh of gas each year. Consequently, AD’s total available energy could heat 6.4 million homes.
    • 6% reduction in total UK greenhouse gases emissions. Provisional figures from BEIS (2018) estimate total UK emissions of 435 MtCO2e in 2019. When benchmarked against these levels, the AD industry can reduce emissions by 6%. At full potential by 2030, the AD industry is modelled to cut emissions by 27.2 MtCO2e per year, via its:
      • Displacement of fossil fuels – Cutting emissions by 0.2 tonnes of CO2e per MWh of biomethane produced (BEIS Conversion Factors, 2019). In total, 15.3 MtCO2e emissions reduced by AD’s renewable biomethane generation at 2030’s full potential.
      • Artificial fertilisers – Cutting emissions by 0.01 and 0.03 tonnes of CO2e per tonne of sewage sludge and food waste treated and converted to AD’s biofertiliser respectively. These figures are estimated using the average concentrations of nutrient (NPK) in digestate as reported in RB209 fertiliser manual’s (Defra, 2019), and the equivalent carbon cost to artificially create these nutrients in chemical fertilisers (Biograce, 2009). 
      • Prevention of emissions from rotting waste – Cutting emissions by 0.22 and 0.07 tonnes of CO2e per tonne of food waste and manure treated through AD respectively. These estimates are calculated using Biograce (2009) figures for prevented emissions.   
    • 30% of 2030 carbon target. The CCC’s fifth carbon budget accounts for 1,725 MtCO2e emissions between 2028 and 2032, which averages 345 MtCO2e each year. Consequently, UK emissions must be reduced by 90 MtCO2e over the next 10 years, and so AD have the potential to account for 30% of this target.
    • The industry would directly create 30,000 green jobs. Estimates for temporary and permanent jobs created per MWe of installed AD capacity from NNFCC (2012). At full potential, at least 6,280 MWe capacity would need to be installed to process all the organics and generate the 54.5 TWh of energy (excluding power-to-gas). Per MWe, the NNFCC (2012) estimate that 2.9 permanent jobs (e.g. plant operators and maintenance) and 13.9 temporary jobs (e.g. involved in design and construction) will be directly created, if averaged over a 10-year period.
  • About ADBA
    The Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA) is the trade association for the UK anaerobic digestion (AD) and biogas industry.  ADBA’s vision is to see the full potential of the UK AD industry realised so it can help the UK achieve its emissions targets and other policy goals, creating a truly circular economy. www.adbioresources.org 
  • About Air Liquide 
    A world leader in gases, technologies and services for Industry and Health, Air Liquide is present in 80 countries with approximately 67,000 employees and serves more than 3.7 million customers and patients. Oxygen, nitrogen and hydrogen are essential small molecules for life, matter and energy. They embody Air Liquide’s scientific territory and have been at the core of the company’s activities since its creation in 1902. 
    Air Liquide’s ambition is to be a leader in its industry, deliver long term performance and contribute to sustainability. The company’s customer-centric transformation strategy aims at profitable, regular and responsible growth over the long term. It relies on operational excellence, selective investments, open innovation and a network organization implemented by the Group worldwide. Through the commitment and inventiveness of its people, Air Liquide leverages energy and environment transition, changes in healthcare and digitization, and delivers greater value to all its stakeholders. www.airliquide.com
  • About Privilege Finance 
    Privilege Finance is a renewable energy funding provider, with a particular focus on AD energy from waste (EFW) and biomass in the agricultural and agri-food industries. The organisation specialises in financial and technical AD/EFW expertise and the promotion of sustainability across the sectors.
    Privilege works in close partnership with clients using an entire ‘project lifecycle’ approach, providing support services that enable smooth project delivery, commissioning and optimisation, towards re-financing for SPV stability.  In addition to project support, Privilege also provides a range of pragmatic, flexible and streamlined finance solutions via its SCOPE product. The company is based in Cambridge and has experienced sales and delivery teams working across the UK. www.privilege.finance
  • About SGN 
    SGN look after 74,000km of gas pipes within our gas network’s in the South of England and Scotland, providing gas services to over 14 million people in homes and businesses across these areas.
    SGN Commercial Services, part of the SGN Group, are co-sponsors of this report. We have been leading biomethane development within the UK from 2010, helping SGN to prioritise de-carbonisation and net-zero solutions, to enable over 250,000 end users across our networks to benefit from ‘Green Gas’ by 2021.  www.sgn.co.uk

 

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