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Carbon dating can now be used to measure renewable fuel suitability

A technique which measures the suitability of renewable energy fuel under the renewables obligation (RO) has been approved by energy regulator Ofgem.

The technique uses carbon-14 dating to determine the age of the material present in samples of flue gases let out at energy-from-waste facilities.

By establishing the age of the different materials, Ofgem can see how much renewable material is used within the fuel and therefore issue RO certificates more accurately than previous methods. This is possible because material such as woody biomass fuel would show the age of the tree it came from but for plastics, which contain oil, the age would be millions of years.

The study has been lead by the Renewable Energy Association (REA), New Earth Energy and clean energy project development company Progressive Energy.

New Earth Energy director and chair of the REA’s renewable power group Alex Young said: “The principle of using the carbon-14 technique to establish the biogenic fractions of material streams is not new, but we have proved conclusively that this method can be used under the RO. We are sure there will be applications beyond the RO as the UK embraces other forms of renewable energy to achieve its renewable energy targets.”

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