Anaerobic Digestion UK Including Regulations and Objectives
Planning consent is likely to be required for all anaerobic digestion plant installations, and it is advisable to consult with your local planning department at an early stage.
The Town and Country Planning Regulations will apply much as they would for any industrial plant. The Centralised Anaerobic Digestion (CAD) plant applications being for larger sized installations than On-farm Plants, will have to provide more detailed information than will be required for smaller on-farm plant applications.
The applicant will be required to provide detailed justification that community (centralised) anaerobic digestion schemes are suitable for the proposed location, with impact assessment information based upon a detailed understanding of the controls on emissions which will be provided for the plant.
The Local Authority Planning Department will determine the application and consultation with local residents and neighbours with education and awareness aimed at planning officers and locals can be highly beneficial.
The Kelly Review has been examining the case for making the planning system more effective towards delivery of expansion the nation’s waste management facilities. It is not known at the time of writing what the outcome of this review will be. However, unless and until there are changes, the requirements should be considered to be onerous for Anaerobic digestion plant applicants.
Environmental Permitting to Operate Anaerobic Digestion Plants
Centralised anaerobic digestion schemes are subject to the EU Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) Regulations. This was originally known as PPC permitting, or IPPC permitting.
In addition, in some circumstances Waste Management Licences have also historically also applied to Anaerobic Digesters.
To simplify environmental regulation the Environment Agency, England and Wales, now regulates both sets of Regulations under the “Environmental Permitting” system.
Those applying for an Environmental Permit will, once successful, be in possession of a “permit to operate” which will cover all the separate primary instruments which apply.
Within the permit, the regulator (EA) will set a number of operational conditions. These conditions will be based on the use of Best Available Techniques, referred to usually as just “BAT”.
The PPC permit conditions will also usually put a responsibility on the developer to take action to:-
- ensure that energy is used efficiently,
- avoid or minimise waste and limit emissions,
- prevent accidents and limit their consequences
- provide continuous improvement as the available technology improves with time.
AD plant technologies are normally seen as BAT complaint processes, however each plant will need to be judged individually and within the setting of the local environmental conditions.
The Animal By-Product Order (ABPO)
The EU Animal By-Products Regulations (ABPR) have strengthened the regulations that govern the processing and disposal of animal by-products.
These ABP regulations require the processing of all food wastes to strict requirements designed to prevent future spread of infections which might otherwise survive waste processing methods such as Anaerobic Digestion to threaten re-infection of more livestock.
There will be strong points to make in favour of anaerobic biological treatment schemes which are well suited to the required degree of pasteurisation required of all the material processed.
The ABPR puts stringent controls on the process requirements, including:
- Time and minimum temperature and residence time at the required elevated temperature.
- Strict segregation of clean and dirty sides of the process and facilities for vehicle washing
- Two stage process – under certain conditions.
The Regulation EC 1774/2002 (the ‘EU Animal By-Products Regulation’) has applied since 1 May 2003.
Specifically the ABPR permits AD plants to treat food/catering waste as well as low risk animal by-products as long as they are subjected to an elevated temperature of at least 70°C for 1 hour in a closed system.
Anaerobic Digestion UK Project Objectives
iv. To provide a sustainable and cost effective method of disposing of ABPR waste materials
v. To reduce carbon emissions, and carbon levies payable associated with a business
vi. To establish a sustainable circulation of plant nutrients and organic material between the community and the agricultural sector in such as way that the use of the residual is optimised
vii. To provide a cost effective system for production of biogas vehicle fuel
viii. To extract biogas and plant nutrients from ley crops, thus assisting the UK government in achieving targets in achieving the recently increased non-renewable energy production targets
ix. To contribute to an environmentally adapted and sustainable form of farming
x. To provide opportunities for studies regarding the long term effects of cultivation through the recycling of organic matter involving ley crops and fertilising with the liquid and fibrous AD Plant effluent (digestion residuals)
xi. To provide opportunities for the reduction or elimination of the use of artificial fertiliser (ie to promote organic farming)
xii. To provide a local centre of excellence in these technologies for wider dissemination into the community to enable the county to fully participate or even lead in the adoption of these clean technologies and to generate jobs, new businesses, and wealth locally from the expertise created
xiii. To extract and use high grade bio-energy from waste and normal farm crops, with no net contribution to the atmosphere
xiv. To promote and develop high efficiency energy processes
xv. To remove odours generated from present systems
xvi. To reduce risk of water pollution from current practices, and generally reduce emissions of enteric organisms into watercourses. (Enviros and Scottish Executive work resulting in installation of 8 No. on-farm AD Digestors in the Dumfries and Galloway region was for this purpose.)
xvii. To reduce materials sent to landfill/assist the government in complying with the EU landfill directive’s targets for diversion of waste (especially organic) away from landfill
xviii. To reduce overall methane emissions produced by livestock due to methane emitted by livestock digestion. (In California this is seen as high priority, and the proportion of total national methane generated by livestock is surprisingly high.)