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It’s a kind of magic: how Norway is transforming wastes into resources

Ahead of his presentation at the inaugural World Biogas Summit 2019 on 3rd July, we ask Ivar Sørby, Assistant CEO at Greve Biogass, how their ‘Magic Factory’ biogas plant in Norway is recycling food waste to produce new food.

What does the circular economy mean to you and why is it important?

For everyone at the Magic Factory, the most important thing is to take care of the resources circulating in society. Our focus is on recycling inedible food waste to produce new food by returning the nutrients from the food waste back to the soil in the form of digestate bio fertilizer. This is the only way to fully recycle inedible food waste in the same way that other waste materials such as plastics, paper, and metal are recycled to create new plastics, paper, and metal.

What is the role of anaerobic digestion (AD) in the circular economy?

For us, AD is the only sustainable way to treat food waste whilst ensuring we use both the energy and nutrients locked up in food waste. AD is a very important tool for society in dealing with food waste, and other treatments such as incineration are wasteful in not making full use of this resource. AD is therefore hugely important in circular cities.

What makes the Magic Factory different from other biogas plants?

The Magic Factory is just one of many excellent AD projects around the world. We provide three products: biogas for producing renewable fuel for the transport sector, digestate for fertilizing soils and growing new crops; and carbon dioxide, which is captured from upgrading biogas to bio methane and used in our greenhouse to grow vegetables. One of our current R&D projects involves growing tomatoes using only renewable sources.

We’re also different with regard to the long-term relationships we have with our partners. We have a long-term contract with international gas company Air Liquide Skagerak , which gives stability and certainty and allows us to work together to build a market for biogas. We also have long-term contracts with farmers, which is profitable for them and ensures that everyone is happy. A truly sustainable value chain is one in which everyone benefits.

Can you say a little about the biogas industry in Norway?

The Norwegian biogas industry is growing quite fast, with a number of new projects coming online. One new quite big new biogas plant are using waste from fish farming and produce liquid biogas. The Magic Factory will also start up utilizing slaughterhouse waste from fish farming this year.

The Norwegian agricultural sector is currently quite small and biogas plants which are going to utilize manure as a substrate, needs to be industrialised so that all manures can be fully recycled through AD. At the moment there are very few farm-scale AD plants as they are generally too small to be cost-effective and would be unlikely to use all the energy generated by an AD facility. The low price of electricity in Norway, combined with the ubiquity of hydropower as a clean source of energy, means that agricultural AD plants currently aren’t profitable.

Why is it important for different countries to share their experiences in biogas production?

It’s always important and useful for different countries and people to learn from each other – none of us is perfect and there always something new we can learn! After my presentation at the World Biogas Expo I’m looking forward to using UK AD & World Biogas Expo 2019, the co-located expo, to speak to the companies exhibiting there and see what new technologies are around. We have plans to double our production over the coming years, so the expo will be the perfect place to seek out business opportunities for this new investment.

You can find out more and register for the World Biogas Summit 2019 here and UK AD & World Biogas Expo 2019 here.

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