The growing impact of Anaerobic Digestion

   Chris Williams


Anaerobic Digestion (AD) is a growing industry – and an essential one. It’s a powerful tool in the fight to reduce waste – both in food and organic material – and can be used at a variety of scales to help drive energy security and a circular economy.

According to the Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA), the biomethane-to-grid sector is expected to see continued growth, and this means more AD facilities around the UK. ADBA is working closely with several government departments to advise and influence policy and to make sure that any new schemes are introduced in a way that helps AD plants to sit at the core of any plans.

For example, the government’s Environment Bill seeks to ensure that food waste is collected from all domestic households – including flats – by 2023. This is to significantly reduce food waste going to landfill. ABDA is working with government to ensure waste collections are effectively designed and that any other food waste is diverted to AD facilities to maximise its collection and reuse.

What is anaerobic digestion?

So, AD has a significant role to play in climate-conscious economies around the world. How does it work and what are the benefits?

An anaerobic digester takes organic matter – called feedstock – and breaks it down into two separate outputs: gas and solid matter. The feedstock can come from a variety of sources, including:

  • Food waste
  • Sewage
  • Farm waste, including fertilizer and slurry

Once the feedstock enters the digester, it goes through four separate processes. These are designed to remove oxygen from the waste and break the feedstock into ever smaller parts. The process results in a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide gas, which is known as biogas, which can be used as an energy source. It also produces water and biofertilizer. The water can be returned to nearby watercourses and the biofertilizer can be reused on the land.

A highly scalable approach

One of the biggest positives about the AD approach is that it can be used at pretty much any scale. A small AD facility can be set up on a farm, and micro-digesters can be used in small communities. Equally, AD plants can be built on a more industrial scale – for taking household food waste for example.

This scalability is because the process itself can work at any scale. But in order to work most efficiently plants need to be reasonably sized – in fact, one AD site may have several plants set up. Bring in the factors of food and other organic waste being delivered by multiple suppliers and the need for management of both feedstock and the end products, and an AD operation becomes something that needs integrated and efficient processes in order to deliver the best results.

Creating an efficient AD operation

For waste and recycling management companies and AD-specialist companies, this means using dedicated software to manage everything from weighbridge processes to complying with transportation or certification requirements for the various by-products.

Our Waste & Recycling One (WR1) platform supports AD plants exceptionally well. This is because we use SAP as the foundation of our Enterprise Resource Planning system. This means companies can manage manufacturing capabilities, asset maintenance, logistics and other operational processes simply and with complete visibility.

In addition, WR1 offers low-code solutions for processes like weighbridge and other mechanical operations. Taking advantage of seamless connectivity, easy data collection and real-time reporting means that AD plants can operate at their most effective, contributing to a growing circular economy whilst being commercially successful.

To find out more about how WR1 can support your AD business, contact us today.

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