UK reaches 100 anaerobic digestion plants milestone

By The National Non-Food Crops Centre | March 29, 2013

The burgeoning anaerobic digestion (AD) industry in the U.K. has reached a significant milestone, as the number of AD plants outside of the water industry has passed 100 for the very first time.

The official figures gathered by bioeconomy consultants NNFCC and WRAP, reveal that the number of AD plants in the UK has nearly doubled since September 2011, when a comprehensive baseline report was published.

There are now 106 anaerobic digestion plants outside of the water industry, processing up to 5.1 million metric tons of food and farm waste every year and with an installed electrical capacity of more than 88 MWe. There are also more than a dozen other plants currently under construction.

"This is a significant milestone for the anaerobic digestion industry in the UK and highlights the broad range of companies turning to AD for waste management and to generate renewable heat and electricity," said Lucy Hopwood, head of biomass and biogas at NNFCC.

"Recent actions and innovations in technology development, training and process optimization have led to greater opportunities and a more robust industry. For investors anaerobic digestion is an easy win with good returns, support from a number of government incentives and low investment risk," she added.

Commenting on the announcement a Defra spokesperson said: "AD is a valuable technology that can turn food and farm waste into renewable energy and valuable fertilizer, we welcome the continuing development of the sector from 54 plants when the AD Strategy was published in June 2011 to more than 100 now,"

"Working with stakeholders, we continue to take forward the AD Strategy and Action Plan which is tackling the barriers to further uptake of AD."

Nearly half of the AD plants currently in operation are community digesters, where food waste is collected from multiple sources, like supermarkets, hospitality providers and households, to be converted into heat, power and fertilizer.

A further forty per cent use agricultural feedstocks, like slurry, manure, crops or residues. The remaining digesters are industrial sites treating on-site waste such as brewery effluent and food processing residues.

The new figures have been published on the official information portal on anaerobic digestion, The portal is home to the official biogas map, along with all the information you need to know about anaerobic digestion and biogas – from the latest information on incentives to digestate standards.