Chicken waste plants to address sector’s environmental challenge

Chicken waste plants to address sector’s environmental challenge
One of the world’s first anaerobic digestion (AD) plants to be fuelled entirely by poultry litter has secured £8.7 million investment to produce renewable energy in Northern Ireland.

The project in Ballymena, developed by Stream BioEnergy Limited, an AD project developer that works throughout Ireland, is one of two AD projects to have received a total of £10.5 million investment this week from the Recycling and Waste LP (RAW) Fund.

Together, the Ballymena and Eglington-based Gorthill projects are developing technology that utilises the AD process to produce renewable energy from organic waste, and are ‘helping the poultry sector to address an environmental challenge’.

RAW is a fund managed by the Foresight Group LLP (Foresight), in which the UK Green Investment Bank (GIB) is a cornerstone investor. It has committed an investment of £8.7million to the three-mega-watt Ballymena facility, which is expected to provide up to 100 jobs during construction of the plant and 11 jobs when it is put into operation in 2017.

The project has also received co-investment of £4.4 million from the Foresight AD EIS Fund, £8.7m from Invest Northern Ireland and £1.5 million from Xergi, a plant designer that has been appointed to construct and operate the plant.

RAW has also invested £1.8 million in the 0.5 megawatt Gorthill AD plant in Eglington. This plant will also use poultry litter, along with grass silage and cattle slurry, as the feedstock. SQN Capital Management has committed a further £1.8 million to the plant, which will be built and operated by Williams Industrial Services. 

The two plants combined are expected to produce more than 20,000-megawatt hours (Mwh) of renewable electricity per year, which is enough to supply approximately 5,000 households.

AD provides ‘self-sufficiency’ opportunities for rural communities

The investments bring the number of on-farm AD plants supported by the GIB to six, five of which are located in Northern Ireland. The GIB has also invested in two AD plants in Greater London through a different Foresight-managed fund, the UKWREI fund. These plants, the East London Biogas Ltd and Willen Biogas, process 80,000 tonnes of food waste and green waste per year.

Edward Northam, Head of Investment Banking in the UK Green Investment Bank, expects rural communities to show increasing interest in AD technology as it provides opportunities for societies to reduce landfill waste and become more self-sufficient in terms of energy production.

Speaking after the investments were announced, Northam said: “Plants of this scale save farming businesses money and can provide vital income through the sale of the electricity being generated.”

The Ballymena project has been developed through the Innovate UK Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI), a process to connect public sector challenges with innovative ideas from industry, supporting companies to generate economic growth and enabling improvement in achieving government objectives. Northern Irish Economy Minister Simon Hamilton, said: "It is an outstanding example of public sector and private investors coming together to support a new technology for sustainable agriculture and to grow our economy."

Northern Ireland Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Michelle McIlveen added: “This project has seen close collaboration between technology companies, government and funding bodies, including the Green Investment Bank. It is a testament to our commitment to deliver a sustainable future for our agriculture sector. Projects such as this will play an important role in helping the poultry sector to address an environmental challenge.”