As 2019 gets underway, what are the prospects for the continuing development of a circular economy and the improved use of natural resources? At Clearfleau, working with our partners at EnviroChemie GmbH, we are anticipating an exciting year ahead, with some challenging new projects in the UK and in export markets.
Policymakers want to encourage closed-loop re-manufacturing and recycling processes that keep natural resources in the value chain for longer and reduce the environmental impact of ‘wastes’.
Industry is moving away from more traditional methods of handling residues that involve the wasteful destruction or disposal of bio-resources in ways that can harm the environment. As growing numbers of businesses recognise the value in bio-resource recovery, we should expect that recycling or re-use will become a greater priority.
The government’s industrial strategy for resource efficiency in the food and other sectors should encourage manufacturing and processing sites to improve their use of bio-residues. This will include the creation of novel biotech-derived products and raw materials from resources as diverse as old tyres or offal from meat processing. Industrial residues that can’t be converted into novel raw materials can be transformed into bio-energy on the factory site, avoiding the need for off-site destruction while better protecting the environment.
Recent comments from Treasury Ministers imply that funding for low carbon projects is under threat but British companies are leading the way in developing resource efficient engineering solutions and we need to remain competitive with EU environmental standards after Brexit.
Bio-residues from food and drink manufacturing have a latent energy value that can be accessed with on-site biogas plants. If future resource strategy is to be more effective, DEFRA and BEIS must work with industry to replace wasteful, energy-inefficient production and residue disposal methods with a more circular approach which recognises that all residues have a value. As more companies go down this route, on-site bioenergy projects will become the norm.
As water is widely used in many industrial processes, we need to find new ways of recycling it. With businesses across the food and beverage industry wanting to improve their use of scarce resources, conserving and re-using water will become more of a priority – for example on farms for crop irrigation, on factory sites for preparation of raw materials, and in manufacturing processes and cleaning systems. As Clearfleau develops as a water engineering business we will be involved in more water recovery projects.
Another sector where we expect to see increased opportunities is in biofuels. Some of our biogas projects will be handling process residues from the production of bio-fuels or novel fuel conversion feedstocks, generating bio-energy which can be used in the processing operations. Biogas will also be used as a fuel for HGVs transporting products to market on some of our projects in the UK food sector.
Some of these initiatives are being incorporated in the projects that we are working on in the early part of this year. These include replicating our existing plants on UK dairy and distillery sites with new projects in the UK, and, significantly, our first overseas projects in both sectors.
With the proposed export projects, we are collaborating with our colleagues at EnviroChemie to develop modular plant designs enabling us to work with local civils contractors to deliver the projects. We are also developing modular designs for projects installed on smaller SME factory sites.
In the UK, despite losing the FIT incentive this year and the RHI in early 2021, we remain confident that there is a market for enhanced resource efficiency on industrial sites. This will involve both bio-energy supplies and water efficiency, markets where Clearfleau has access to a range of cost-effective and market-leading technologies. With these we can help our commercial partners make better use of their resources and operate their production sites more efficiently.
Greater resource efficiency will boost industrial productivity and reduce industrial carbon emissions. Manufacturing processes cannot completely avoid creating waste or by-products, but one site’s residues can be another factory’s raw materials. Clearfleau can deliver solutions that will help businesses make better use of bio-resources, replacing outdated “destroy or discard” systems with on-site resource management solutions where discarded materials have a use and therefore a value.