Chicken Litter to Power up Ballymena Biogas Plant
Anaerobic Digestion Industry Passes Latest Milestone
A brand new biogas plant in Northern Ireland is ready to supply energy from large volumes of chicken litter.
Construction has started this week on the 3-MW plant near the town of Ballymena in Northern Ireland announced the developers. The developers on this project are Stream BioEnergy who are based out of Dublin, Ireland.
The plant is expected to become fully operational by early 2018. Once fully online, the plant will be able to process up to 40,000-tonnes of chicken litter every year, generating enough low-carbon electricity to power 4,000 homes.
"The plant will convert the chicken litter into biogas, which will be used to produce green energy," explained Jorgen Ballermann, Chief Executive of Xergi (a firm that specializes in biogas plants) and a shareholder in the project. “At the same time the nutrients become an environmentally friendly fertilizer that can replace chemical fertilizer for farmers.”
Stream BioEnergy and Xergi claim that the new process is the first of its kind, where the biogas power plant is being powered using only chicken litter as feedstock. In the past, chicken litter had to be used in small quantities along with other feedstocks to produce biogas.
"Our new process combines knowledge and technology that has been developed over the last decade and it is going to provide a significant opportunity for the poultry industry not just in Northern Ireland, but throughout the world," said Ballermann.
Additionally, this process should also produce “green” fertilizer. According to Ballermann, the plant will also improve on the traditional practice of supplying the litter on untreated farmland, since nutrients including phosphorus and nitrogen are more easily absorbed by the plants after the litter has been through the biogas process. “This minimizes the risk of the nutrients washing out from the fields into watercourses and causing an adverse impact on the environment – which is what is occurring at the moment, he said.
The challenge is being subsidized with the aid of a £8.7m investment from Foresight Group’s Recycling and Waste LP Fund, which counts the Green Investment Bank (GIB) as a cornerstone investor. The funding had been co-invested alongside an additional £4.4m from Foresight's AD EIS Fund, £8.7m from Invest Northern Ireland, and £1.5m from Xergi.
The news came on the same day the GIB announced the RAW fund has also committed £1.8m to the planned 0.5MW Gorthill anaerobic digestion plant in Eglington, Country Londonderry. The plant is expected to use grass silage, poultry litter and cattle slurry as the feedstock.
Edward Northam, head of investment banking at the GIB, said the initiatives were part of a trend. "We expect to see more rural communities exploring anaerobic digestion as a way of diverting organic waste from landfills while becoming more self-sufficient," he stated. “These latest investments bring the number of on-farm AD plants supported by the GIB to six, five of which are located in Northern Ireland, demonstrating the growing demand in the sector. Plants of this scale save farming businesses money and can provide vital income through the sale of the electricity being generated.”
The trade body said developer JFS' latest agricultural plant at the Gravel Pit Farm plant in North Yorkshire had become the 200th to come online in the UK.
“Anaerobic Digestion is a tried, tested, and proven technology which the Committee on Climate Change has said is important for decarbonizing our farming sector – cutting emissions from manures, slurries and wastes; producing a flexible low carbon form of power; and changing carbon-intensive synthetic fertilizers,” stated Charlotte Morton, Chief Executive of ADBA. “On-farm Anaerobic Digestion additionally supports farmers, who in turn support domestic food production, and preserve jobs in the rural community. Two hundred plants on farms is a fantastic milestone for the UK industry, but it is essential that we build on these foundations.”
Charlotte Morton further warned that the sector currently now faced an uncertain future, regardless of growing 10-fold since 2009. The industry has been hit hard with sharp reductions in feed-in tariff incentives earlier this year, fueling fears that the pipeline for new projects could be limited. "With the proper assistance from government, Anaerobic Digestion can deliver at least the same growth again," Morton stated. "Ministers must realize that this is a huge possibility to aid farming, boost British businesses and deliver our carbon reduction commitments."
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