An on-farm anaerobic digestion plant© Tim Scrivener

A pilot scheme to improve the environmental, operational and safety performance of biogas plants has been launched by the Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA).

The three-month trial with a small group of food waste and agricultural plant operators is part of an ongoing project by the trade body and industry partners, including the National Farmers Union (NFU) and the Country Land and Business Association (CLA)

The trial aims to develop a voluntary certification scheme for the AD sector, due to launch this autumn.

The scheme brings together much of the legislation and standards that plant operators already have to comply with.

It includes a host of criteria, such as managing health and safety and environmental risks, staff training, plant monitoring, equipment maintenance, digestate management and compliance with animal by-products regulations.

See also: Tips for maximising AD plant performance

Three checklists covering risk management, procurement and operational performance were published last July and will form the basis for the certification scheme requirements, although details will not be finalised until after the pilot ends in September.

The certification scheme will be open to all AD operators outside the sewage treatment sector. Operators will be charged to join, with fees varying according to plant size. Exact costs will be confirmed later this year.

ADBA’s environment and regulation manager Jessica Allan says the scheme will help improve the reputation of the AD sector and offer many possible benefits to AD operators large and small.

“It will allow operators to have confidence they are meeting high standards of safety and environmental protection and can be a good marketing tool or beneficial in tenders.”

Membership may also result in lower regulatory fees and fewer site inspections, reduced insurance costs and more favourable terms, better financing deals, and may also highlight areas for improvement, she says.

One insurance broker (Jelf Group) is offering a 10% discount to operators certifying under the best practice scheme and ADBA is also discussing possible financing deals with investors.

Ms Allan acknowledges some operators already face an administrative burden, but insists ADBA is looking at how this can be “streamlined” through the certification scheme.

For example, an environmental management system accredited to ISO14001 will be acceptable evidence for the relevant criteria.

It is yet to be decided whether ADBA or a separate entity will “own” and administer the scheme.