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Emerald Biogas, in Newton Aycliffe, will convert 50,000 tonnes of waste into energy every year
A PIONEERING £8m North-East food waste energy plant, capable of powering up to 2,000 homes, has officially opened.
The Emerald Biogas factory, in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, is the region's first commercial food waste factory, and will initially convert 50,000 tonnes into heat, power, and bio-fertiliser every year.
The anaerobic digestion plant, which has created eight jobs, can produce 1.56 megawatts of power by separating packaging, such as glass and plastic, from waste, before turning it into electricity to be pumped into the National Grid.
It is processing waste from local authorities, food companies, and retailers from Northumberland to York and Cumbria, and bosses already have planning permission to expand the plant's capacity to four times its current size to increase work.
They say its bio-fertiliser, which will include nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphate and potash, will be supplied to landowners and agricultural businesses within ten miles of the site.
The Northern Echo visited the site in May and spoke to Antony Warren, Emerald Biogas director, who has now revealed his delight at its opening.
He said: “It is fantastic to see it up and running because this truly is a one of a kind facility in the North-East and the first in the region to begin operating.
“We came through some severe weather in the winter to work on the plant.
“It was difficult at times, and there were times where we saw some of the worst weather for years, but we got through.
“Security is one of the most important things for customers, and quite often when waste processes are started, they are fraught with difficulties.
“There are problems with letting down customers and also struggling to get materials, which leads to a bottleneck.
“However, we have all of those issues covered.”
Emerald Biogas is a partnership between food and recycling firm John Warren ABP, based in Hamsterley, near Bishop Auckland, County Durham, and farming and land management company Agricore, run by Ian Bainbridge.
Funding for the project came from the Rural Development Programme for England, which is jointly funded by Defra and the European Union.
The plant was built by Entec Biogas GmBH, and chief executive Berhard Schulz said it was delighted to have supported its development.
He said: “We delivered this project on budget and on time, despite the challenges the weather brought this winter.
“The team has worked hard to ensure a successful commissioning phase and to enable the plant to start processing waste and creating energy.”
What is anaerobic digestion?
Operating between 35 degrees C and 40 degrees C, the process takes place in a sealed and insulated vessel with controlled heating and mixing.
Commercial food waste is gathered from manufacturers, restaurants, cafes, shops and local authorities, and moved to a sealed building to be de-packaged, blended and pasteurised, and pumped into buffer tanks.
The waste is later pumped into a digester, where bacteria feed on the food waste and produce biogas.
The biogas produced is typically made up of 60 per cent methane and 40 per cent carbon dioxide and is captured and used as a fuel in a combined heat and power unit.
The resultant liquid digestate, having had the majority of the organic material digested, is odour-free and stored in large covered tanks before being delivered to agricultural businesses within a ten to 15-mile radius of the site.
The use of this high-nutrient biofertiliser replaces the use of fossil fuel-derived fertiliser and ensures nothing is wasted from the entire food waste process.
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