Cranfield University opens AD pilot plant

By Cranfield University | October 16, 2014

A new anaerobic digestion (AD) pilot plant facility was opened Oct. 16 at Cranfield University in the U.K. The bio-thermal RED project is partly funded by the European Regional Development Fund and supported by Shanks Waste Management. 

Cranfield’s AD plant will support the U.K.’s contribution to the European Union target of 20 percent of energy to be supplied from renewable sources by 2020.

Sir Peter Gregson, vice chancellor and chief executive of Cranfield, said, “We are delighted to officially open the anaerobic digester plant. This celebration reflects our desire to work closely with business, through such work, to provide a positive impact on society. This specialist plant is another example of industrial-scale facilities, for which Cranfield University is renowned. It reinforces Cranfield’s commitment to sustainability which is reflected in our accreditation to ISO14001 environmental management systems”.

The facility at Cranfield will divert up to 10 metric tons of food waste from landfill annually and save up to 5 metric tons of total potential carbon dioxide annually; and at the same time produce up to 8 metric tons of fertilizer each year.

Anaerobic digestion is a series of natural biological processes whereby organic waste material – known as feedstock – is broken down by microorganisms and converted into energy, known as biogas (a mixture of carbon dioxide and methane).

A by-product of the AD process is digestate which is a stable, nutrient-rich substance that is most commonly used as a renewable fertilizer or a soil conditioner.

This unique project combines Cranfield University’s world class biological and thermal engineering expertise with in-depth process and economic knowledge of AD and thermal energy. This has created a demonstration facility for biological and thermal renewable energy technologies for research students and set-up a knowledge and networking hub for SMEs (small and medium size enterprises), involved in bioenergy, in the east of England. The project has created two jobs and to date has supported over 20 East of England SMEs through a series of topical workshops and company specific project-based support.