James Kenealey renewables
The National Grid has announced a UK-first trial of producing biogas from straw and cow manure to power homes.
Manure and straw were placed in an oxygen-free environment at the Murrow Anaerobic Digestion (AD) plant in Cambridgeshire, where naturally occurring micro-organisms broke them down. The plant, operated by BioCow Ltd, was connected to a pipeline serving local homes and the resulting biogas (predominantly methane) was used for heating and cooking.
The National Grid claims that the pipeline will be able to support around 15,000 standard cubic metres per hour of biogas. It is currently producing enough of the gas to power ten homes for a year, and if the trial proves to be successful then the National Grid will look at implementing the process more.
National Grid’s head of gas systems operations Ian Radley said:
“Alongside hydrogen, biomethane will play a critical role in the journey to Britain achieving net zero. We’ve collaborated closely with Biocow on this innovative project to ensure we met their needs and ultimately successfully connected their site to the National Transmission System; supporting the transition to a low carbon economy and paving the way for similar projects in the future.”
Grid-injecting hydrogen has been trialled for the first time by Keele University recently. Known as HyDeploy, the trial injects hydrogen into Keele University’s existing natural gas network, which currently supplies 100 domestic properties and 30 faculty buildings, with a mix of 20%. UK legislation currently prevents hydrogen accounting for more than 0.1% of the national grid mix at any time, but the pilot is intended to test the feasibility of increasing that supply, potentially mitigating against up to six million tonnes of CO2 emissions annually.
The UK’s gas industry body has publicly backed the 2050 net-zero emissions goal and has, in recent months, provided additional support for research around biogas and green hydrogen.
There have been growing calls for hydrogen to play a larger role in the UK’s Covid-19 energy recovery. The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) concluded recently that a national Hydrogen Strategy could spur decarbonisation across the nation’s most energy-intense sectors. The Hydrogen Taskforce detailed how hydrogen production could generate £18bn for the UK economy and support more than 75,000 jobs over the next 15 years.
There was another boost for renewable energy in the UK recently as construction work began on a new subsea power cable that on completion will become the longest in the world. When completed, the ‘Viking Link’ will transmit enough renewable energy from Denmark to power 1.5million UK homes when domestic generation is low, as well as export electricity to Denmark when there is an abundance of wind and solar generation. The project forms part of the UK’s larger strategy for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.