WINNER: Argent Energy
Argent has operated in the energy-from-waste (EfW) sector for 12 years, and already had technology that allowed it to become a leader in the conversion of waste animal fats into biodiesel.
As the demand for waste-based renewable diesel continued to grow, it saw an opportunity to take the fats, oils and greases (FOG) from sewers and water treatment works – which is currently dug out and sent to landfill – and process them into biodiesel in a purpose-built plant.
Three years on, after an investment of £75m, the company is now commissioning the plant and taking in more than 1,000 tonnes of FOG. This is the only biodiesel plant in the world that can handle highly degraded FOG from sewers and waterworks.
The plant currently employs nearly 100 people. It is capable of producing 75 million litres of biodiesel that can be used in buses, trucks and cars. This volume equates to a greenhouse gas saving, on a life-cycle basis, of nearly 250,000 tonnes of carbon equivalent each year.
JUDGES’ COMMENT: “Argent is the first in the world to do this – it identified a real problem material and a solution. This has significant impact in dealing with this particular waste stream and significant wider impact in reducing CO2 emissions.”
Research has shown that 300,000 tonnes a year of FOG are present in UK sewers, which could be diverted from landfill to create biodiesel. The business is therefore working with Defra and the water companies to build a new supply chain for this material to avoid it being sent to landfill.
Removal of FOG from the treatment works gives operational and financial benefits, while the development of regional hubs for collecting and treating FOG keeps transport to a minimum.
In order to manage every type of FOG, whether solid, contaminated, liquid and so on, the company has developed the front end of the process so that it has in-built optionality and flexibility.
The plant was visited by the transport minister before commissioning, and later recognised in a Government consultation, where it was used it as an example of UK innovation and investment in the EfW sector.
Benefits from the new plant are already being seen across the UK. Notably, the mayor of London recently set an aim to have all the capital’s diesel buses running on a high blend of its biodiesel by 2020.
- Bio Collectors
- Foresight Group
- Renewi and 3SE