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Call for obligatory gas-to-grid anaerobic digestion model in UK

An anaerobic digestion (AD) boss has called for the adoption of UK equivalents of two areas of German legislation that could benefit gas-to-grid AD projects in Britain.

Harry Waters, commercial director of AD company Agrivert, told MRW that German utility companies have an obligation to take gas produced by AD plants but in the UK no such obligation exists.

Consequently, he said, UK gas-to-grid plants cannot guarantee that they will get revenue from the gas they produce, even though demand for gas is high, which makes getting funding from banks extremely difficult.

He added that gas-to-grid is highly energy efficient; more so than combined heat and power (CHP).

Another issue Waters described is that UK legislation has a more demanding oxygen threshold - the level to which biogas needs to be cleaned up - than in Germany. He told MRW: “I suspect we have an artificially high barrier”, adding that this is a hindrance to entering the gas-to-grid market.

Dan Poulson, head of engineering for anaerobic digestion developer Tamar Energy, told MRW that he agreed that the lack of obligation for utility companies to take gas would be an issue for AD companies trying to get funding through bank debt. But he said there are several other ways to finance a project: “There are green gas trading schemes, which are trying to give a premium to green gas on top of the Renewable Heat Incentive, which people like the Renewable Energy Association (REA) have put lots of work into.”

He also agreed that the more demanding oxygen specifications for injecting gas in the UK are not always necessary. But he said addressing the issue would require a primary legislation change “so it is better to work with the problem than against it”.

He said: “The Health and Safety Executive and the gas networks have put a lot of effort into reducing the problem and the specific amount of oxygen that’s allowed in biogas, because of their work, has been increased profoundly [from 0.1% to 1%].”

However, Poulson said the biggest barrier to gas-to-grid AD are that it is novel in the UK and that it is “particularly complex” to join up a biogas plant with a gas network.

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