A statement from the Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association – Avonmouth explosion
The Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA) would like to express its sincere condolences to the families and colleagues of the victims of the explosion at the Wessex Water wastewater treatment site in Avonmouth on Thursday. This tragedy has shaken us all.
The Department for the Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) informs us that the anaerobic digestion (AD) plant co-located at the site, managed by Geneco, was not impacted. Around 85% of all wastewater produced in the UK is treated via AD in treatment plants to recycle sewage sludge into a green gas called biogas and a biosolid called digestate – a natural biofertiliser. This occurs inside an anaerobic digester where the sludge is treated under anaerobic conditions – which means without oxygen. With these conditions, microbes break the organic matter down into biogas and digestate. These are then further treated to generate power for electricity and heat, low carbon fuel for transport, green CO2 and a biofertiliser for farming.
Sludge can also be treated through dewatering and lime stabilisation – a process separate from AD which also produces biosolids for use as an agricultural fertiliser. Until the investigation is completed, we will not speculate on what has happened in Avonmouth. But the Defra statement we have received would indicate that the incident took place in the course of this alternative recycling process.
One thing is certain, is that health and safety for those working in the wastewater treatment and anaerobic digestion industries is absolutely paramount. ADBA works closely with the Environment Agency, the Health and Safety Executive and its own members to ensure AD plant operators comply with environmental and health and safety regulations. The Association also manages its own accredited and independently audited AD Certification Scheme (ADCS) to promote best practice in every operational aspect of an AD plant.
What happened in Avonmouth has strengthened our resolve to ensure that the whole AD industry, which has the potential to decarbonise 6% of the UK economy by 2030 and therefore play a critical part in addressing climate change and our food and energy security, operates to the highest standards of safety.
This will be our lasting tribute to the victims of the Avonmouth incident.