Resource Use

£4 million funding to support UK biomass production

Twenty-four biomass feedstock innovation projects were awarded £4 million in government funding yesterday (25 August) in a drive to boost biomass production.

The initiatives range from small start-ups and family-run businesses to large-scale research and education institutions, with each eligible to receive funding of up to £200,000 through the Biomass Feedstocks Innovation Programme: a platform tasked with increasing the production of domestic biomass through funding innovation. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) asserts that the ultimate goal of the scheme is to boost biomass productivity in the UK, through the breeding, planting, cultivating, and harvesting of organic energy materials.

As a result of the funding, a greater supply of organic materials from domestic sources will be enabled, reducing the need for cheaper imported matter. BEIS also states that the projects will aim to support rural economies across the country through the provision of employment and the encouragement of investment.

Biomass forms a small yet ‘important’ part of the renewable energy mix required by the UK in order for it to meet its commitment to net zero emissions by 2050, according to BEIS, with the Biomass Feedstocks Innovation Programme being funded by the Government’s £1 billion Net Zero Innovation Portfolio. The promotion of this form of energy production, BEIS  states, is backed by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) and is supported by the Prime Minister’s 10 Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution.

Funding recipients

Amongst the recipients of the funding are three companies harnessing waste in order to produce algal biomass, to be used primarily for biofuel, but also in a range of other applications, including being used as feed for livestock and aquaculture; as food colourants; and as biostimulants in the production of barley.

  • Green Fuels Research Limited in Gloucestershire has received over £190,000 for a project that will allow microscopic algae to be produced for biomass using wastewater from breweries and dairy industries.
  • Impact Laboratories Limited in Stirlingshire received over £170,000 to look at innovation in the commercial cultivation of algae utilising heat provided by geothermally-warmed water from abandoned mine sites.
  • Phychofoods in Edinburgh has received funding to use carbon dioxide and anaerobic digestion digestate byproducts generated in the whisky production process to manufacture microalgal biomass.

Energy Minister, Lord Callanan, commented: “Working to develop new and greener types of fuel like biomass is an important part of building the diverse and green energy mix that we will need to achieve our climate change targets.

“We are backing UK innovators to ensure we have a homegrown supply of biomass materials, which is part of our wider plans to continue driving down carbon emissions as we build back greener.”

UK Net Zero Business Champion, Andrew Griffith, said: “Innovation is crucial to achieve a low carbon future and it’s fantastic that the UK is home to so much world-leading entrepreneurial talent that will help us meet our climate change commitments.

“Not only will this funding for biomass feedstocks help to achieve net zero by 2050, but it rightly rewards innovative people and businesses that are leading the way to a brighter, cleaner future.

“The UK government intends to publish a new biomass strategy in 2022 which will review the amount of sustainable biomass available to the UK and how this could be best utilised across the economy to help achieve the government’s net zero and wider environmental commitments.

A spokesperson from Green Fuels Research said: “Now in the fifth generation of ownership by the Bartholomew family, Wadworth and Company Ltd is excited to support Green Fuels in their research project, “MISTY” under the Biomass Feedstocks Innovation Programme.

“We see this research as potentially beneficial in the longer term with the hope an industrial application would potentially bring innovative and or alternative low-cost wastewater treatment solutions to smaller breweries whilst helping to combat climate change.”

Dr Sebastien Jubeau and Dr Douglas McKenzie, founders of Phycofoods (trading as Phyco-F), said: “At Phyco-F we are delighted to have been awarded a contract to evaluate the feasibility of producing microalgae at significant industrial quantities using CO2 and nutrients produced as by-products of whisky production.

“If this evaluation is promising we will work with our partners in the whisky industry to develop a plan for the UK’s first demonstration plant that will be operating before the end of 2023.”