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Study claims farmers could earn millions from bio gas
FARMERS could be sitting on a £24m “goldmine”, according to new research into biomethane production.
The study claims medium to large farms could make millions from producing renewable methane for the gas industry.
It details how UK farmers are missing out on the opportunity to produce gas from suitable organic products and inject it into the natural gas grid for large returns.
Rob Heap, of Rob Heap Consulting, carried out the work, and said: “An entrylevel anaerobic digestion (AD) plant would be looking to earn in the region of £24m over 20 years, and farms that developed larger plants could earn more than that.
“Given the right conditions, it wouldn’t be difficult to double or even triple that amount.”
The typical capital outlay for an entry level AD plant could be in the region of £3m to £4m – but there are growing sources of funding to tap.
Dairy and poultry farmers, pig farms and producers of energy crops such as maize, grass, rye and energy beet all have the potential to get involved.
He said: “It depends on the style and type of farming but all farms have one or more of the necessary products needed for biogas production.
“For example, a dairy, pig or poultry farmer might have slurry and manure, but no energy crops. If a group of farmers got together, they would have a good chance of developing a very attractive business.
“A lot of farmers are potentially sitting on a goldmine and ‘gas farming’ could be a valuable diversification opportunity that still has to be exploited by UK farmers.”
So far the 110 AD plants in the UK produce energy for the electricity supply industry.
But Mr Heap said: “There is now an attractive tariff in place for biomethane and more funding people are getting interested as it has the potential to be more profitable than generating electricity.”
The study, commissioned by Northern Gas Networks, said hundreds of farms in Yorkshire, Cumbria and the North East are producing the feedstock necessary for biogas production.
Many are very low volume producers in remote rural locations, or are using other methods of waste recycling.
But, the study said these farms could still contribute to the gas grid and make huge returns by working with neighbouring farms and forming regional alliances.
Virtual gas networks, where biomethane is moved in a private pipeline or pressurised and transported by road – like compressed natural gas – to centralised upgrading plants prior to injection into the grid, could also help small producers develop feasible projects.
Mr Hope said: “The typical capital outlay for an entry level AD plant would be in the region of £3m to £4m, but it’s difficult to be specific because it’s a technology that is usually designed in a bespoke manner to suit each individual farm’s requirements.”
The findings coincided with a biomethane conference held yesterday by Northern Gas Networks and the Institution of Gas Engineers and Managers (IGEM), at FERA headquarters, Sand Hutton, York.
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