Sustainability

ADBA urges UK Government to commit to anaerobic digestion

The UK Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA) has urged the UK government to take action in committing to anaerobic digestion (AD) as a means through which to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The call comes in the wake of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Sixth Assessment report, which has given global governments a stark warning that the amount of time left to avert climate catastrophe is fast running out. It also comes ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), which will see nations brought together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement.

AD plantRenewed cause for action from ADBA sees the trade body urging the Government to create a policy framework that will ‘unlock the industry’s potential to reduce UK GHG emissions by 6 per cent by 2030’, through the implementation of AD infrastructure. ADBA states that this reduction will target carbon-intensive industries such as transport, heat and agriculture.

AD operates through turning organic waste into bioproducts including biogas, digestate and bio-CO2. With the capture and transformation of methane-emitting organic matter, ADBA states that AD acts as a waste management system that oversees a reduction in GHG emissions both upstream and downstream, as well as the restoration of soil health.

Once upgraded to biomethane, biogas has the potential to be fed directly into the existing gas grid — it can also be used to fuel buses, refuse collection lorries and HGVs, many of which are already deployed across major cities. ADBA asserts that biomethane fuelled transportation emit 85 per cent less GHG emissions than diesel vehicles.

The digestate produced in the process is used in the renewal of soil, replacing fossil-based equivalents traditionally used in agriculture. Biogas can also be converted into green hydrogen if required, in order to meet energy demands.
     
ADBA states that its vision is to see the ‘full potential’ of the UK AD industry realised, in order for the nation to meet its emissions targets and other sustainable policy goals.

Charlotte Morton, ADBA's Chief Executive, explained: "AD is a mature, readily available technology which offers a fully circular and immediate solution to help address climate change in the short, as well as long term, by capturing methane-emitting organic wastes and transforming them into biogas (also known as biomethane), digestate (a
biofertiliser), bio-CO2 and other valuable bioproducts.

“Crucially, AD helps decarbonise carbon-intensive industries such as transport, heat and agriculture by producing alternatives to fossil-based fuels, gases and fertilisers. The UK AD sector has however suffered from a lack of coordination between government departments to provide a coherent platform on which to fully deploy this industry which not only generates green energy, but also acts as a waste management solution.

“Our research has shown that there are 170 million tonnes of organic waste generated every year in the UK, most of which is mismanaged (eg. sent to landfill, incineration, or spread onto land — where they emit harmful greenhouse gases, especially methane, which is 84 times more toxic than CO2 over 20 years).

“If those organic wastes were treated through AD, the industry would be able to reduce those emissions by 3 per cent upstream of the process and deliver another 3 per cent cut in emissions downstream, by displacing the fossil-based products currently used for transport, heating and farming.

Morton continued: "Given the very stark message issued by the IPCC, it is crucial that the British Government shows leadership in fully integrating AD and biogas into its Paris Agreement and Net Zero targets.

“In its recent Progress Report to Parliament 2021 the UK Committee on Climate Change highlighted the huge gap between the Government's ambition and policy reality. We were dismayed, for example, that ministers having vowed to treble the production of biomethane by 2030 in December, we found the Transport Decarbonisation Plan published last month by the Department of Transport didn't even mention it.

"Trucks and buses currently generate 20 per cent of the UK's greenhouse gas emissions from transport, which is itself the highest GHG emitting sector in the UK with 27 per cent. Biomethane could reduce these HGVs emissions by 38 per cent. Municipalities and major retailers are already successfully using fleets of biomethane-powered vehicles to decarbonise their operations - so why would policy-makers not embrace this option and support its rapid deployment?

"We are running out of time to avert a climate catastrophe and it's time that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet put words into real action. The UK AD industry has already committed to delivering on its potential to support the UK's efforts to reduce its GHG emissions.

“All we now await is a similar commitment from our politicians to make things happen — let alone present Britain, ahead of a vitally important COP26, as a true climate change mitigation champion, capable of influencing other countries into adopting AD in their
decarbonisation and Net Zero strategies. There is no Net Zero without biogas."