Anaerobic Digestion (AD) – the process through which bacteria break down organic matter such as animal manure, wastewater biosolids and food waste – is increasingly contributing to the circular economy for UK businesses, and the by-products of the process are helping to achieve sustainability goals. One company, Alpheus Environmental, has calculated that the three key AD plants it manages in the UK produce enough methane from biogas as a by-product to heat over 8.7 million, 5-minute showers every year.
Experts in water and wastewater management, Alpheus Environmental, manage productive and sustainable AD plants in the UK and have completed a review of outputs to measure the success of three of their key plants each year.
The company measured the biogas production – a by-product of the AD process – to calculate the yearly output of the sites. The majority of the biogas content is methane, which can be used to create power. The methane volume depends on the site, but considering an average methane volume of 60%, the company found that the output could power 8,728,778 showers for Brits.
Chris Deadman, Operations Director at Alpheus Environmental, explains:
“Our teams consistently measure the outputs of biogas for our clients to allow them to understand how effective their plants are operating against sustainability goals. Realising we had a lot of data, we thought we would put this into a context the general public would understand. Our calculation is based on three plants and demonstrates the energy recovered from waste produced in food and drink production and pharmaceutical practices. The anaerobic digestion process produces biogas, which can be harnessed to power anything from plant machinery to being fed into the energy grid.”
Whilst this small study is rudimentary and meant simply as a demonstration, it does prove that waste management has a role to play in the sustainability of businesses and can significantly contribute to net zero goals. Whilst AD plants are only suitable for some companies, Chris wants firms to explore the opportunity as we approach a new year.
“Anaerobic digestion is not suitable for every business, but our experience is that businesses who could benefit may lack education and understanding and could miss out on the benefits. We are calling on organisations producing large levels of organic wet waste, such as those in the food and beverage, distillation, or pharmaceutical sectors or dealing with significant sewage sludge, to learn more or contact us to ask about AD and whether it is right for them. The more AD plants, the less large organisations will rely on the energy grid and working alongside other sustainability practices will reach their net zero goals faster. Not to mention the cost savings on energy consumption which have become increasingly more crippling for businesses in recent years.”
Alongside the production of biogas, another by-product of the process is digestate, which can be used as a natural fertiliser in the agricultural sector. To find out more about Anaerobic Digestion alongside other sustainable water and wastewater solutions, visit www.alpheus.co.uk.
A 10-minute shower uses around 5 kWh of heat (taking into account boiler efficiency). Between November 2022 and October 2023, Alpheus’ AD plants produced 3,636,700 m3 of biogas, which converts to 21,821,946 KWH of energy, based on an average volume of 60% methane in the biogas. This could power 8,728,778 5-minute showers based on 2.5 KWH per 5 minutes.