A NEW £8m plant that converts some of the region's food waste into electricity is almost complete.
The Emerald Biogas anaerobic digestion (AD) facility on Newton Aycliffe Industrial Estate is the first of its type in the North-East.
Following completion of the foundation works, construction of the buildings is now also finished and the installation of the AD process equipment is being installed ahead of production starting in March.
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Emerald Biogas is confident that from May the facility will start turning some of the 800,000 tonnes of food waste generated across the region into heat and power.
The process will remove all plastic, glass and metal before pasteurising the waste to meet stringent regulations. The waste is then transferred to large digestion tanks where anaerobic digestion takes place - a natural biological process within a fully sealed, air free environment.
Millions of bacteria "feed" on the waste to produce a methane rich biogas, which can then be used for heating or to produce electricity. The plant will produce 1.4MW, enough to power almost 2,000 homes.
Excess heat generated during the process will also be used across the industrial estate which is why the location was selected rather than one in the countryside.
The Emerald Biogas plans to be fully operational by July, and at peak capacity will generate 1.56 MW of electricity, which in total across the year is enough to power 2,000 homes. The plant will process 50,000 tonnes of food waste per year and also has the capacity to expand in the future, with planning permission already secured to increase the facility to four times its current size.
Antony Warren, director, Emerald Biogas, said: “This is an exciting time for the team at Emerald Biogas and each day sees a new development on site. Once up and running, the facility will be the only one of its kind in the region and capable of not only providing renewable heat and electricity for neighbouring industrial companies, but also producing quality fertiliser from the digestate for use by the local agricultural community.
“We hope the facility will further boost the region’s reputation as a hub for renewable energy, as well as an economic boost for the local area.”
His fellow director, Ian Bainbridge, said: “We have invested in the latest AD technology which will result in a better quality product and a more efficient process, and will also enable the facility to expand further and maximise its full potential. Merging our expertise and knowledge of the industry and markets to develop this business seemed a natural step forward for all of us and we are very much looking forward to seeing the plant take shape and on to the next stage, operation.
“It is an environmentally and economically beneficial situation where energy produced, both heat and power, is fully utilised locally and this was the rationale for an industrial location as opposed to a rural site.”
In addition to the energy generated, the resultant digestate, which is high in nutrients, will be supplied to land owners within a ten-mile radius.
Funding for the project was provided by HSBC, WRAP and the Rural Development Programme for England.