With anaerobic digestion (AD) not yet able to compete on cost with other renewable technologies in energy terms alone, higher levels of plant performance are essential for the global AD industry to grow. Long-term investment from governments into research and innovation in the AD process is critical to stimulate such improvements, as is the sharing of good practice amongst operators.
Operational performance of AD plants must also comply with health and safety and environmental regulations to ensure the industry’s success. The main concerns from regulators centre on workers’ health and safety, the quality of containment, odour management and gas venting. To gain long-term public trust and funding, the global AD industry must operate to good standards and ensure it learns from both successes and failures around the world.
Operators around the world are encouraged via national legislation or voluntary schemes to apply best health, safety and environmental practice when processing waste. In recent years, the UK AD industry has been under particular scrutiny from environmental regulators, with data indicating that the biowaste treatment sector experiences a higher number of pollution incidents than any other regulated sector. In response, and to drive up industry standards generally, the Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA) has launched the AD Certification Scheme, which assesses the all-round safety, environmental and operational performance of UK AD plants.
Integrating new technology into the AD process (such as pre-hydrolysers), identifying new feedstocks (such as sugar cane waste), producing higher value products, developing digestate purification and biorefineries illustrate how innovation can help to improve the performance and value of an AD plant. This in turn will generate cost savings and/or new revenue for operators.