Northumbrian Water has plans to make the North East a centre for anaerobic digestion (AD) technology after it opened its AD facility at Bran Sands treatment centre on Teeside.
Northumbrian Water is currently working on a similar scheme at its Howden treatment centre which should become operational next year. By processing the waste from the treatment centres in the North East the company hopes to generate around 60% of the energy needed to run the two treatment centres from sources of renewable energy.
The head of corporate responsibility at Northumbrian Water, Louise Hunter, said “All of the sludge from all our treatment works in the region will go to one of the sites in either cake or liquid form to be turned into energy and agricultural pellets or fertilizer”.
She added that the Bran Sands site has a capacity of 4.7MW and can convert 37,000 tonnes of waste a week into 18,000 tonnes of fertilizer. Such has been the success of the operation that Hunter suggested other utilities should do the same thing and use AD technology at large scale treatment plants.
She said it made economic sense as well as being a good move environmentally. She explained that as business electricity prices and business gas prices continue to rise it made economic sense to invest in AD technology. She said “It is not just a case of doing the right thing for the environment. When we did the sums it was a no brainer once you consider the spiralling costs of energy”.
What helps to make it economically sound are the renewable energy incentives available for anaerobic digestion plants and the extra costs being imposed by the Carbon Reduction Commitment scheme.
It means that all of the sewage in the North East could be used to generate renewable energy in the next few years, making the North East a centre for AD technology.
The facilities will help Northumbrian Water to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 35% compared with 2008 levels by 2020. The company also hopes to achieve this by installing a number of hydroelectric projects, some of which have already been deployed successfully.