No Brexit blues at Global UK AD & Biogas
Held in Birmingham at the beginning of July, the two-day UK AD & Biogas took place shortly after the UK electorate had voted in favour of exiting the EU. As a result Brexit, not the weather, became the number one topic to strike up a biogas conversation with. There was much to talk about and plenty with whom to discuss with.
In one of the concurrent conference sessions held in the expo hall, Chris Huhne, Strategic Adviser ADBA suggested that a modest recession was likely on account of the short-term uncertainty in the immediate fall-out of Brexit. He pointed out that such a recession could bring a with a possible upside for all renewables, a weaker GDP against the EUR weakens case for Hinkley Point C nuclear project.
Another much closer policy issue for biogas operators in the UK is the use of digestate, the ADBA is pushing for an ‘optional harmonisation’ approach to digestate legislation from the European Commission, which would safeguard UK operators’ use of PAs 110 irrespective of the UK’s future relationship with the EU.
30 percent y-o-y growth
During the event Charlotte Morton, Chief Executive, ADBA revealed the latest ADBA market report figures underlining the sector’s “robustness” having gained critical mass now that it represents 2 percent of UK gas production and produces more energy than the landfill gas industry.
According to the report the biogas industry as a whole has grown 30 percent year-on-year to reach 617 MWe of biogas capacity. Furthermore there are still over 400 plants with planning permission granted or applied for, illustrating the strength of the pipeline which could be delivered with the right support. The report warns that growth in the industry has slowed, however, and will slow further in each of the coming four years due to government policy decisions and investment uncertainty. In particular, small scale farm AD deployment is expected to reduce to just a handful of new plants each year, despite the Committee on Climate Change recommending that it should be used to meet carbon budgets. Furthermore, subject to final decisions from government this autumn, the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is expected to fund 10-20 new biomethane to grid plants from 2017, slightly down on 2015 and 2016.
A WRAP for food waste
The event also saw the launch of the Food Waste Recycling Action Plan for England, a collaborative project between government, WRAP, ADBA and other trade associations, waste management companies, biogas plant operators and local authorities. The plan sets out a series of practical actions to help increase the collection and recovery of inedible food waste by making it ‘easier and more cost effective’.
The timing of the Brexit outcome is somewhat ironic as this, the 7th edition of the event, was the first ever “global UK AD & Biogas trade show”. It also saw the launch of ADBA’s first International Market Report highlighting the societal benefits biogas brings to the world. There were several conference tracks on international markets with overseas speakers from as far afield as the US, Canada and Argentina. Furthermore the event has been actively promoted internationally in a bid to position itself as an international hub for the biogas industry, not just for the UK. Figures from the organisers and the buzz on the floor suggest that it is a good move with the UK biogas and AD sector proving that it still very much open for business. Ten percent of the participants, around 3 600 visitors and 350 exhibitors, came from abroad with every continent and over 50 countries represented.
News and views
There was plenty of biogas hard- and software on display amongst exhibitors. There were some differences compared to previous editions, a reflection perhaps of UK market conditions. For example turnkey biogas plant providers were with very exceptions, UK-based, either UK companies or subsidiaries of international companies. This suggests that the window of opportunity for getting into the UK market as a new entrant is perceived as closed, at least for the moment.
First time exhibitor Eisenmann, a privately held German-headed company was one exception, almost. A major international supplier of systems for surface finishing technology, material flow automation and process and high-temperature technology, the company is well known in other industries such as the automotive industry. The company has an environmental technology division that works with wastewater treatment (WWTP), biowaste and biogas. The latter is of so-called dry fermentation type, which also seemed a technology growth trend with other suppliers onsite like Switzerland based HZI and Austrian Thöni both reporting recent project announcements.
Suppliers of organic rankine cycle (ORC) technology for heat to power were seemingly absent whereas uppgrading technology suppliers were well represented suggesting market confidence in gas to grid rather than power to grid. The French company Cryo Pur an example of the latter. It’s system combines cryogenic biogas upgrading and biomethane liquefaction in a single process to yield two products, liquid biomethane and industrial grade carbon dioxide, BioCO2.
Global biosciences major DuPont used the event to launch a new biogas enzyme product; OPTIMASH AD-100 that it claims can achieve up to 13 percent increase in biogas yields. Dutch bioenergy company HoSt revealed that it had received an order for a biogas upgrading system to compressed biogas (CBG) to a dry fermentation project in Härnösand, Sweden. The system will upgrade 100 m3/h biogas to 60 m3/h biomethane, which will be used as fuel for trucks and buses. It is the first project for HoSt in Scandinavia.
The next edition is slated for 5 – 6 July 2017 once again at the NEC in Birmingham and poised to be even more international.
– Globally, the picture is immensely optimistic. Given AD’s ability to address so many critical issues, there are still opportunities ahead in the UK. But the industry will have to work hard – and work together – to realise them, ended Matt Hindle, Head of Policy, ADBA.