Faster Development of Anaerobic Digestion Technologies

01 Feb 2012

It is a vital tool in achieving a low carbon future, and feasibility studies confirm the market demand and acceptance of anaerobic digestion technology.

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The potential of this technology has only been within reach of large, profitable organisations, but a new project aimed at bringing cutting-edge anaerobic digestion technologies to rural and smaller scale businesses is being launched to combat this.

The small scale anaerobic digestion technology platform provides underpinning process technology for the development of a series of commercial products for the local treatment of organic waste to produce energy (either as biogas, heat or electricity) and digestate, which can be considered as a non-fossil fuel derived fertiliser.

A five-strong consortium is led by The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) and comprises CNG Services Ltd, Lyvennet Renewable Energy, Wardell Armstrong LLP and Field Science Limited. With grant funding from the government-backed Technology Strategy Board, the project works with a total budget of £880,000 and will run over two years.

A part of the government’s High Value Manufacturing Catapult, CPI is home to existing anaerobic digestion development facilities and is ideally placed to coordinate, direct and deliver another successful project. The small scale anaerobic digestion system will be designed to generate income and power for farms and food manufacturers, and also resolve the issue of biomass waste disposal. The project’s aim is to reduce capital costs of a small anaerobic digestion plant, while delivering a process capable of accepting biomass feed streams, saving significant land fill tariffs and generating power, and/​or revenue from the sale of power, for the end user. Studies have highlighted that there is an unmet market need for commercially viable anaerobic digestion plants at the 250kWe scale and below. The project will address these needs by looking at how various feedstocks behave in anaerobic digestion reactors. The aim is to accelerate the development of new technologies.

CPI Director of Sustainable Processing and Advanced Manufacturing, Dr Chris Dowle, says: 

CPI is delighted to be leading in this project, which represents an excellent opportunity to drive the evolution of this key technology. Anaerobic digestion will play an important role in achieving a low carbon future, and the project makes the technology an achievable goal for smaller scale or rural businesses.”


Matthew Herbert,


01642 447 274 / 07795127628



Anaerobic Digestion is an eco-friendly process of converting waste to energy. Biogenic feedstock is converted into biogas, water and digestate by natural microorganisms in sealed, air-free tanks. This translates into taking waste away from landfill and turning it into useful power. 

In simple terms, Anaerobic Digestion works by: 

  • Digesting a feedstock (eg sewage and food waste) in the absence of oxygen
  • Harnessing the resulting biogas
  • Using the energy-rich component of the gas for heating, electricity or transport fuel
  • Preserving the by-products of this process (digestate) for use in other areas, such as bio-fertilizers etc

The innovative aspects of the system include: 

  • The relatively small size (throughputs between 2500 and 5000 tonnes per annum)
  • Small footprint, enabling stand alone integration into existing sites and facilities
  • Modular build configuration, designed to meet the needs of the agricultural and food manufacturing sectors
  • Low capital cost (£350 – 500,000)
  • Short payback period (3 – 6 years)
  • Commercially viable plant at a small scale, 60 – 150kWe
  • Next generation digesting technology, optimized for digesting stability and performance efficiency

About CPI

The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) is a UK based technology innovation centre and part of the government’s High Value Manufacturing Catapult. CPI offers market and technology expertise along with cutting-edge development assets to help its public and private sector clients build and prototype the next generation of products, processes and services quickly and efficiently, and with minimal risk. 

CPI has the capability to develop products and processes for companies working in the pharma, chemical, energy and printable electronics markets. Cutting-edge facilities are manned by commercially experienced scientists and engineers, and are equipped with development laboratories, prototyping facilities and pilot plants that enable clients to prove and scale up processes from the laboratory stage through to commercial reality. CPI also offers a multi-disciplined team who work together on project management, investment and market opportunities to ensure each business fulfils its potential. 

About CNG Services Ltd

CNG Services Ltd is an established technical consultancy which has worked to support the AD industry since 2006. The organization has demonstrated expertise in biogas and bio-methane, specific expertise in the proposed Green Gas Certification Scheme, which will play a vital part in schemes that export gas to grid, and access to specific electrical expertise. 

About Lyvennet Renewable Energy

LRE is based in Cumbria and was established to support the building of an anaerobic digester plant which would support the local rural economy and work towards enabling the whole parish community reduce their carbon emissions and become more sustainable. 

About Wardell Armstrong LLP

Wardell Armstrong is an environmental consultancy that works with utility companies, energy project and land developers, landowners, and the venture capital sector where entrepreneurs have identified opportunities to invest in novel and emerging sustainable technologies. It also provides services to smaller developers, businesses and farm scale operations, in areas such as wind energy, energy from waste, biomass, biofuels and building integrated renewables. 

About Field Science Limited

Field Science Limited is a privately owned UK company, incorporated in 2002, with a core business in the manufacture of tailor-made trace element dressings, used to rebalance the micronutrients of agricultural and utility soils. 

About the Technology Strategy Board

The Technology Strategy Board is a business-led government body which works to create economic growth by ensuring that the UK is a global leader in innovation. Sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the Technology Strategy Board brings together business, research and the public sector, supporting and accelerating the development of innovative products and services to meet market needs, tackle major societal challenges and help build the future economy. For more information please visit www​.inno​va​teuk​.org

CPI is your innovation partner to make your ideas a reality.