Biogas industry is growing, albeit slowly

At least 5.5m tonnes of feedstock could be required to supply the UK biogas industry by 2013, according to a study launched at Cereals 2011.

The survey of anaerobic digestion projects by Enagri estimated there could be around 150 on-farm and waste-fuelled biogas plants in the UK in two years’ time. It said there were currently around 35 operational on-farm biogas plants, with another 13 under construction or granted planning permission and 20 or so announced or going through the planning process. In addition, the report included 83 waste treatment AD plants.

The number of on-farm AD plants identified was higher than figures often quoted in the media, but remained well below the 1,000 farm and waste plants 2020 target suggested by the NFU and Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association, Enagri’s Richard Crowhurst said.

“Anaerobic digestion in the UK is even more fragmented than the biomass power sector, and it’s only when you start to look in depth that you see it’s in better health than some people believe. That isn’t to say there aren’t challenges, and more support is needed for on-farm schemes. As with other renewable technologies, the main challenges continue to be planning, financing and the need for consistent government support.”

Municipal solid waste and food waste were likely to make up at least three-quarters of total feedstocks, while energy crops grown specifically for use in digesters accounted for just 5%. Waste from animal husbandry, including slurry, manure and poultry litter, accounted for around 6%, the report said.

Energy crops were most popular in the East Midlands, while animal wastes were more widely used in Dorset and the south-west. There was particularly strong demand for municipal waste in the urban north-west and south-east England. Potential demand in Kent could see the county treat the greatest quantity of waste, with demand forecast to reach 750,000t.