With the Labour Party putting the environment higher up their agenda at their recent conference and the publication of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on global warming, how can we stimulate a policy shift from the current government to promote low carbon manufacturing and industrial bioenergy? Tuesday’s Radio 4’s File on Four questioned whether, following the forced closure of Vivergo’s bio-ethanol plant, our government is committed to bioenergy.
The government’s new initiative Green Great Britain Week highlights British companies that are leading the transition to a greener future. This recognition that green engineering companies like Clearfleau not only help cut our emissions but they create more sustainable jobs and new opportunities for technology exports is welcome. But words need to be matched by actions.
At a European bioenergy conference in Berlin last week I spoke about the role of biogas in the circular economy. The biogas industry can play a more effective role in efforts to improve global resource use and reduce emissions from our food (and farming) sector.
I also chaired discussions on the future of Anaerobic Digestion (AD). There was a clear realisation that AD has to move forward, without the “dead hand” of subsidies and incentives, by making biogas an integral part of our gas infrastructure.
With increased production, biogas offers a versatile “24/7” alternative to renewable electricity. It can be transmitted through the grid and can also be stored and used as a green vehicle fuel.
Clearly, converting the latent energy from bio-residues should be at the heart of efforts to decarbonise food production and distribution. With the IPCC warning there are just 12 years to limit rises in global temperatures to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, the food industry must act now to reduce the impact of its global greenhouse gas emissions, with biogas as part of the transition to the circular economy.
Industry experts in Berlin saw a bright future – with biogas being fed to the gas grid in larger volumes and used for road transport as well as replacing fossil fuels in shipping and other sectors. But while there will be more large plants supplying these markets, the need to enable smaller industrial plants to supply the gas grid or produce vehicle fuel was also highlighted.
The biogas sector can offer low carbon transport solutions but without unnecessary restrictions on the feedstocks used in AD plants, provided plants do not increase overall carbon emissions and efficient use is made of the methane and the carbon dioxide extracted from it.
Digestion on factory sites creates biogas, that can be used not only to generate heat and power but also a green fuel to transport raw materials to factories or finished products to retailers; bio-fertiliser that can help grow food crops to supply the factory and clean water for discharge or re-use.
Clearfleau’s plants show how resource efficiency can cut carbon emissions. We also help industrial sites to be more effective in how they manage water and facilitate better use of scarce natural resources like phosphorous and carbon dioxide which was in short supply this summer.
As a Green engineering company, we can put food processing sites at the heart of the circular economy, capturing latent energy from unwanted liquid residues, making the food chain greener and cleaner.
Efficient recycling of energy, nutrients and water also saves money that would otherwise be spent on disposing of residues. Food manufacturers are embracing the circular economy, but we need joined up thinking from government – connecting the goal of lower emissions with British engineering solutions.