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Delve into Anaerobic Digestion with BioVale’s Special Interest Group

To mark the fifth year of BioVale’s Anaerobic Digestion (AD) Special Interest Group (SIG) this blog outlines AD’s potential contribution to the regions net zero goals and how the SIG has proved to be a valuable resource for catalysing research projects and connecting the region’s AD community.

Anaerobic digestion and its role in the regional renewable energy technology mix


Anaerobic digestion is an important feature of Yorkshire and the Humber region’s bioeconomy. The AD process converts organic wastes (sewage, animal manures, agricultural crops, food manufacturing processing waste, organic household waste) into biogas, a renewable energy source that can be used to generate heat and electricity. A nutrient-rich digestate, the by-product of the process, can also be used as a fertiliser or soil conditioner.

The contribution of AD plays a significant role towards carbon reduction targets and renewable energy generation in the region as well as reducing waste. In the region there are 47 operational AD plants 29 of which are farm fed and 18 of which are waste fed with a further 20 AD projects under development in the region.

The combined capacity of the region’s AD facilities can treat a total of 562K tonnes per annum (tpa) of food waste, 227K tpa of manure or slurry, 232K tpa of crops, and 221K tpa of other organic household or food manufacturing waste. The amount of energy produced is dependent on the type of AD system and feedstock, for example, one tonne of food waste can generate approximately 300 kWh of energy in contrast to 10 times lower yield for sewage sludge.

BioVale adding value to regional anaerobic digestion development

In 2016 we recognised that regional anaerobic digestion research and development was an area where BioVale’s knowledge and expertise could add value. Led by a steering group/ AD working group drawn from regional industry, we formed our AD special interest group (SIG) to promote regional expertise and assets, share best practice, and foster collaborations across a wide range of stakeholders.

AD SIG activities enable connectivity across the region, providing opportunity to exchange specialist knowledge, and discuss important local developments.  We have regular webinars and networking events to address current industry opportunities and challenges, changes to policy and regulations, and showcase regional R&D expertise.

To date we have run 13 events, with 674 participants attending, covering topics including small scale AD, preventing plastic pollution in digestate, feedstocks, process optimisation, AD’s role in decarbonising Yorkshire, compulsory collection of domestic food waste: implications for AD, and showcasing regional research. Members have access to the presentations and workshops here.

BioVale’s supporting role for the network has led to nearly 400 one to one introductions being made for AD SIG members and contributed to 45 projects being catalysed including the regional projects outlined below.



AD SIG members regional research and collaborations

 Anaerobic Digestion and Circular Economy Yorkshire Project (ADCEY): This collaborative project between the University of York and the Biorenewables Development Centre (BDC) has been awarded £0.6M funding from the European Regional Development Fund to provide support to regional SMEs. Yorkshire Water acts as an independent industry advisor for the project and its stakeholders. The project can fund lab or desk-based evaluation of AD processes, products, and technologies, policy and regulation advice, training and networking opportunities via the AD SIG.

THYME project: Funded by Research England Connecting Capability fund, this inter-organisational collaboration between the Universities of York, Hull and Teesside promotes innovation and R&D in the anaerobic digestion sector. The programme has supported 23 projects that investigated novel AD feedstocks, AD microbiology or process scale-up.

Anaerobic Digestion Research and Development for Industry at the BDC: The BDC has undertaken a broad range of research and development projects with regional and national businesses in different aspects of AD process and optimisation highlighted in these case studies: Turning Grass to Gas, Novel supplement boosts the biomethane production in anaerobic digestion reactors, Novel microwave pre-treatment of feedstocks for anaerobic digestion.

BioYorkshire – a 10-year plan to cement the Yorkshire region as the UK’s centre of innovation and commercialization in the bio-economy

York and North Yorkshire Local economic partnership (YNY LEP): YNY LEP have incorporated AD as part of the regional decarbonisation strategy and provided funding for research into 3 AD facilities. In addition to this, the YNY LEP’s draft local industrial strategy and submission to the government for devolution both have a focus on supporting the growth of the bioeconomy and AD.

Circular Malton and Norton CIC Community AD project: The organisation has explored the feasibility of setting up a community anaerobic digester to create value from unavoidable waste that will benefit the local economy. Find out more from their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Exploring the Microbes that Manage our Waste at the Royal Science Summer Exhibition 2021: BioVale developed interactive educational resources for the exhibition that showcased the Universities of York and Teesside’s THYME Project funded research on optimising the AD process.

New £1.2m UK Centre of Excellence in AD research: The collaboration between the University of York and Yorkshire Water ‘System 60 project’ saw the creation of the largest AD research facility of its kind with research focused on microbial communities which optimise the creation of biogas from sewage sludge. A further £1.2M funding has been secured to create a UK Centre of Excellence in AD research, build on this collaborative research and enable a greater understanding of the processes behind AD.

Joining BioVale’s AD SIG

Free to join and open to BioVale members, demand for the services of the AD SIG has proved high and the group now has over 400 members, including researchers, AD operators, technology providers, food manufacturers, local government, equipment suppliers, farmers, and consultants – the majority of which are from Yorkshire and Humber region.

If you are interested in being part of a network of regional AD intelligence, developing your knowledge in specialist areas, and meeting valuable industry contacts then join here.

Next AD SIG event: ”Innovation to unlock growth in the AD industry – 29th Mar 09:00-10:45. More information and registration here.

ADCEY/ ADBA training opportunity: ADCEY has partnered with ADBA to offer North Yorkshire or Leeds City Region SMEs funded places on ADBA training courses. The next training course is ‘Health and Safety Essentials for AD’ on 9th November 2021. Please contact Anna Alessi Tel: 01904 328052 Email:anna.alessi@york.ac.uk for further information.

Blog by Caroline Wilcock, Stakeholder Engagement Manager

Photo of anaerobic digester by Malcolm Hare, www.malcolmharephotography.myportfolio.com

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