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2012: key industry developments

There are now 92 AD plants in the UK outside the water sector, a figure which has increased by nearly a third over 2012. Defra’s AD Action Plan Progress Report (July 2012) identified a further 123 plants which had received planning permission, 85 of which would use waste feedstocks while 38 would use farm feedstocks.

Following on from our thoughts on what were the major policy developments in 2012, the last twelve months has also seen a huge number of industry developments; from small to large scale, the water sector, gas to grid injection and the transport sector. See below for just five key developments in the AD industry in 2012.

First commercial gas-to-grid plant

Officially opened by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales on 21 November, the gas-to-grid plant at Poundbury marked a significant step forwards for the grid injection sector.

The 5 MW project, a joint venture between local farmers and the Duchy of Cornwall, is the first fully operational commercial scale AD plant in the UK to inject biomethane directly into the gas grid. Feedstock used for the plant is 41,000 tonnes/year of maize, grass silage and food waste, obtained from local farms and businesses. The plant will be able to supply up to 56,000 homes with gas and 500 with electricity.

ADBA members including Agraferm, Heat and Power Services and CNG Services supplied services and equipment to develop the project, and the future looks ever brighter for similar projects as support under the Renewable Heat Incentive promotes investment and the development of a Biomethane Quality Protocol removes the need for operators to gain a specific waste exemption from the EA where biomethane is derived from waste materials.

Water sector continues to innovate

November saw the opening of Geneco’s food waste plant at Avonmouth sewage works, the first food waste plant in the water and sewerage sector. Alongside the existing sewage works, the 10 GWh plant will treat 40,000 tonnes of food waste each year, generating enough energy to power 3,000 homes.

Other exciting developments are also on the cards as Northumbrian Water will imminently be opening their advanced digestion site at Howdon. On top of their 4.7 MW Bran Sands site which opened in 2009, Howdon will be able to treat 60,000 tonnes of sludge, with the addition of food waste also being considered as well as gas to grid injection. The two sites together will allow them to cut annual £40m electricity bill by nearly 20%.

Greater opportunities for the water sector in the wider AD market may come in 2013 as proposals around the Water Bill develop. The plans within the Draft Water Bill published in July 2012 to “stimulate wholesale markets… by extending opportunities for new entrants to offer alternative supplies and services to customers and to other new entrants” should incentivise businesses to enter the sewerage market and sharply reduce the risk of discriminatory pricing. Parliamentary scrutiny of the Draft Bill took place in November 2012, and the full Bill is expected to be published in 2013.

Gas vehicle market gains momentum

Important developments have also been made in the transport sector, exemplified by Coca-Cola’s decision to invest in a fleet of 14 biomethane trucks after a successful trial, which saw reductions of NOx and PM emissions by 85% and 97% respectively, a well-to-wheel GHG emission reduction of 50%, and a reduction of fuel costs of almost 13%, compared to a diesel equivalent.

August also saw a boost for the biomethane vehicle market, as £11m of funding was announced for a range of road haulage operators to trial biomethane vehicles under the Low Carbon Truck Demonstration Trial. Successful projects included consortium led by Howard Tenens and John Lewis, which has received £1.26m in matched funding to enable gas refuelling infrastructure to be installed at a Swindon depot as well 34 HGVs to be converted to dual fuel. CNG Services and the BOC Group will also be leading trials

With the aim of ensuring that government properly recognises and supports the potential of biomethane in the transport sector, ADBA’s Transport Working Group has made it a priority in the early part of 2013 to produce a Transport Strategy, outlining the areas where we can effectively influence government policy as well as identifying where funding opportunities lie.

AD Guide

Launched for members to review shortly before Christmas, our Practical Guide to AD provides a comprehensive overview for project developers, operators, equipment suppliers, regulators, financiers and anyone else with an interest in AD to develop their knowledge and to support best practice. The guide was developed by the industry through ADBA’s Working Groups, coordinated by Training and Safety Working Group chair Terry Brownhill.

The first of its kind to be launched for 25 years, the Guide provides up-to-date information on planning and permitting, health and safety, digestate standards, feedstock characteristics, design build and commissioning, as well as new topics for developing areas such as biomethane injection and use as a transport fuel.

We are confident that the Guide will prove an essential tool in 2013 for those seeking detailed technical and regulatory information, as well as those coming to AD for the first time. Comments on our preview edition (free to download for ADBA members) are welcome, before the release of the first published edition in February.

AD Loan Fund boosts growth

Malaby Biogas commissioned the first AD plant to benefit from WRAP’s £10m AD Loan Fund, having received £800,000 to aid construction of a 500 kWe AD plant in Wiltshire. Emerald Biogas became the second project to benefit from the fund later in the year, with £850,000 towards the development of the first commercial food waste plant in the North East.

Feedstock for Malaby’s 20,000 tpa plant is predominantly commercial and industrial food waste, and the company have also piloted their own local food waste collection scheme for local businesses who don’t generate enough waste to justify the use of automated lifting equipment, larger bins and collection vehicles.

There are a wide range of other financial mechanisms available for the development of small and large scale projects alike; our guide to Financial Schemes provides details on the most important of these. Defra also recently announced details of their Rural Community Renewable Energy Fund, a £15m scheme to support the development of renewable energy schemes in English “rural communities” (areas with less than 10,000 population). We will of course keep all members updated in 2013 on developments in funding opportunities.

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