Waste not, want not: The UK's dash for biogas
Kidderminster Shuttle, UK. Saturday 9th January 2010.

"As the world contemplates a greener future, the biogas industry is leading the
way. With 10% of Britain's energy expected to come from renewable biogas from
anaerobic digestion by 2020, we take a look at the industry and find out what
it's all about.

Solar and wind power have long been touted as the green energies that will save
us from economic and ecological collapse. But not enough has been said about
biogas - a renewable form of energy produced from biodegradable waste such as
food, sewage and animal manure through a process called anaerobic digestion.

The real and potential applications of biogas are so great that the National
Grid - which owns both the gas and electricity transmission systems in Great
Britain - recently proclaimed it a viable solution in heating homes in the UK.

"Biogas has benefits on so many fronts," explains Janine Freeman, head of the
National Grid's sustainable gas division. "It provides a solution for what to do
with our waste with the decline in landfill capacity, and it would help the UK
with a secure supply of gas as North Sea sources run down."

The UK's Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association (ADBA) has recently called
on the Government to recognise the potential biogas could have on Britain's
future gas, electricity and heat supply.

The ADBA predicts that biogas could supply two thirds of Britain's renewable
targets by 2020, employ as many as 40,000 people, and produce up to 20% of
Britain's domestic gas supply.

It says that farmers and local authorities could build as many as 1,000
anaerobic digestion plants in the next five years at a cost of 5 billion
(mostly funded by the private sector), with the aim to generate gas worth 1.7
billion per year.

One of the major benefits to biogas is that it can be delivered using existing
gas infrastructure. This means that no new pipelines have to be dug, no new
pipes fitted.

Investing in biogas technology has another benefit: It solves the UK's landfill
problem by diverting landfill waste into renewable energy.

The UK boasts some 4,000 landfill sites, according to Waste Online, which are
estimated to contribute 1.5 million tonnes of methane into the atmosphere every

Methane is a major greenhouse gas and contributes to global warming.

As the UK's landfills are nearly at full capacity, alternative forms of waste
disposal, such as incineration, have been suggested.

But because anaerobic digestion has far fewer emissions than incineration, it is
one of the most viable waste disposal alternatives to landfill.

Not only does it treat waste and convert it into energy, it also creates
high-quality fertiliser as a by-product, which could help reduce imports of
fertiliser into the UK.

Britain discards some 18 million tonnes of food waste alone per year, which
electricity company Ecotricity said could generate enough biogas to heat 700,000
homes. The company hopes to eventually source 50% of its gas from biogas, and is
already encouraging customers to register for its green gas tariff.

Copenhagen may have failed to set binding targets, but there was one lesson to
be learned from the UN Climate Change Conference hosts in December.

Denmark treats some 1.1 million tonnes of waste by anaerobic digestion every
year in biogas plants dotted around the country. This alone - not to mention the
sight of such plants along the Copenhagen skyline - proves that the seemingly
impossible is, in fact, completely possible."

Dr. Ann C. Wilkie                          Tel: (352)392-8699
Soil and Water Science Department          Fax: (352)392-7008
University of Florida-IFAS
P.O. Box 110960                         E-mail: [log in to unmask]
Gainesville, FL 32611-0960
Campus location: Environmental Microbiology Laboratory (Bldg. 246).
BioEnergy and Sustainable Technology Society