Cow manure has been turned into renewable biogas and sold back to the National Grid for the first time – and it could present a new source of revenue for farmers.
The biomethane was connected to the Gas National Transmission System at the end of July by anaerobic digestion company BioCow from a farm in Cambridgeshire.
The Murrow Anaerobic Digestion Plant produces the renewable gas – a form of methane – made from cattle manure and straw mixed together.
There will be enough biomethane fed into the grid from the Cambridgeshire farm to meet the annual gas consumption of 10 average households every hour.
The process involves sealing waste in tanks without oxygen, where the material is broken down by naturally occurring micro-organisms into biogas.
Ian Radley, Head of Gas Systems Operations at National Grid said biomethane will play a critical role in helping Britain achieve net zero carbon status.
‘We’ve collaborated closely with Biocow on this innovative project to ensure we met their needs and connected their site to the National Transmission System,’ he said.
Radley added that the move will help the country in its transition to a low carbon economy and paving the way for similar projects in the future.’
The process could help struggling farmers by giving them a new source of revenue by selling manure generated by cattle to the energy production firms.
It would also allow them to offset methane – a greenhouse gas – produced by cattle through the new green initiative.
Chris Waters, Managing Director of Biocow said it was just the first step in the firms efforts to pioneer new and innovative ways to inject green gas to the grid.
‘We look forward to continued collaboration with National Grid in the future as we continue to develop our site at Murrow.’
Britain has a goal of reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 which will require a huge increase in renewable energy and investment to increase the stability of its energy networks.
ANAEROBIC DIGESTION: TURNING AGRICULTURAL WASTE INTO FUEL
The process of anaerobic digestion used bacteria to break down organic matter to create biogas that can be used in power generation.
It is a system that involves sealing agricultural waste in tanks with bacteria without oxygen – it generally produces methane.
It does so by breaking down the waste – made up of produce like cow manure and straw – by naturally occurring micro-organisms into biogas.
Any non-methane components from the biogas produced using this process are removed which allows the gas to be used as an energy source.
Anaerobic digestion is widely used as a source of renewable energy.
This biogas can be used directly as fuel, in combined heat and power gas engines or upgraded to natural gas-quality biomethane.
The nutrient-rich digestate also produced can be used as fertiliser.
From July 2020 BioGas produced using this technique was being fed into the UK National Grid for the first time.