UK Department of Transport awards advanced biofuel projects

By Ann Bailey | September 09, 2015

The United Kingdom Department of Transport has awarded government funds to Celtic Renewables, Advanced Plasma Power and Nova Pangea to turn waste products into fuel.

Celtic Renewables in Edinburgh will receive £11 million ($17.8 million) to use waste products from the whiskey industry and turn it into biofuels for cars and trucks while Advanced Plasma Power in Swindon will receive £11 million to help develop biofuels from household waste. Nova Pangaea in Tees Valley will receive £3 million to help make biofuels from forestry waste.

Department of Transport Minister Andrew Jones lauded the distribution of funds as an example of the United Kingdom’s commitment to innovative transport technology and support of jobs and growth.  The £25 million are a vital investment in technology that will help secure a greener future and the creation of thousands of jobs, Jones said. Advanced biofuels have potential to save at least 60 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions from the equivalent fossil fuel, he added.

Celtic Renewables will use the money to build a biofuel plant that be operational by December 2018, the company said. The plant will produce at least 1 million liters of biofuels annually. The £11 million award will allow the company to create Europe’s first plant for acetone-butanol-ethanol in 50 years, said Martin Tangney, Celtic Renewables founder and president. The process uses bacterial fermentation to produce biofuels from carbohydrates such as starch and glucose. The process originally was developed in the United Kingdom in the early 20th century to produce acetone for explosives used in WWI. It was phased out in the 1960s because of competition from the petrochemical company.

Projects that use whisky by-products for alternative means are an example of the government and industry working together to find a high-tech solution, said Julie Hesketh-Laird, Scotch Whiskey Association deputy chief executive.

Advanced Plasma Power and its partners National Grid, Progressive Energy and CNG Services, meanwhile, will use their £11 million award to develop and commercialize the technologies required to decarbonize the private sector. The Swindon plant, the first of its kind in the world, will take waste from local homes and businesses and convert it into compressed biomethane using its trademarked Gasplasma technology. Enough fuel will be produced to fuel 75 heavy goods vehicles. Rolf Stein, Advanced Plasma Power CEO, expects the Swindon plant to lead the way to a new generation of ultimate recycling facilities in the United Kingdom and around the world, he said.

The £3 million grant Nova Pangaea will receive will help the company to further expand its partnerships and route to commercialization for its thermochemical process to convert waste wood and forestry surplus into sugars, said Ed Wilson, Nova Pangaea CEO. The company already has a number of significant partnerships with multibillion dollar industrial collaborators from upstream, process and downstream sectors, including chemical and fuel companies, Wilson said.