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New standard for AD plants in response to safety concerns

A new standard for the anaerobic digestion (AD) industry focusing on design and construction is set to be introduced by the British Standards Institution (BSI), the UK’s national standards body.

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The body said the standard was necessary in such a “rapidly expanding business sector in the UK” and concerns over the potential for safety incidents in plants.

BSI has set up a panel to consider proposals before consulting the industry. It estimates that a first draft of the standard will be published in October 2014.

The standard will emphasise the design and materials of new plants while looking at specifications for extractor fans and valves, selection of equipment, installation and operation of the plants.

BSI said the standard is being created by industry for industry to promote operational safety and prevent loss of life.

The latest draft document states: “More AD plants are opening up across the UK and they may be manned by staff who do not possess the necessary technical knowledge and therefore require further training.”

BSI said AD systems with defective valves can be worse for the environment than pollution incidences from most other forms of waste management.

This is highlighted by Environment Agency figures showing a rise in pollution from the waste sector in 2012, which was mostly related to odour emissions from AD plants.

Emelie Bratt, BSI programme manager for governance and resilience, told MRW it would take time to “specify protocols that will not infringe on the creative design aspects, but also offer a safe realm to operate within”.

“We feel quite confident that it will be adaptable to AD plants of different sizes and which process different materials.”

Bratt said the standard will relate to a different area of AD than the publicly available standard PAS 110 on producing quality anaerobic digestate.

BSI said: “No current standard covers this aspect of AD in the UK or in Europe, so there is potential for this to be adopted by a wider market.”

Charlotte Morton, chief executive of the Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association said: “With the right involvement from industry, a BSI standard could help improve operational performance in the AD sector.

“We look forward to working with BSI, alongside developing the industry’s own best practice scheme, to ensure that operators get the guidance and support they need.”

Commenting on the standard, Gordon Thompson, technical officer at the Renewable Energy Association, said: “We are delighted to see that it has become a reality.

“We hope that by encouraging the use of appropriate components and materials in the initial construction of these plants future problems will be significantly reduced.”

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