A NEW conference is set to examine the role that anaerobic digestion can play in waste management, agriculture, renewable energy generation, and climate change mitigation in Northern Ireland.

The ADBA Northern Ireland National Conference, which will take place on October 5, 2017, at the Europa Hotel in Belfast, is being organised by the Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association, the UK’s trade association for AD. A key theme of the event will be how Brexit might impact the AD industry in Northern Ireland over the coming years.

The conference will bring together the entire NI AD industry to hear about the latest technical and policy developments and to share experiences on how to maximise revenues through raising operational performance, particularly through ADBA’s Best Practice Scheme.

NI actually has more anaerobic digesters per capita than England, Wales or Scotland, with its AD market growing by over 2000% in recent years, with no less than 24 new plants commissioned since 2015. The industry is now bringing in £28.5m in revenue and producing 22.8 MWe of electricity each year.

ADBA chief executive Charlotte Morton said: “The recent withdrawal of government support means it is more important than ever for AD operators in Northern Ireland to reduce costs and improve operational performance so the industry can continue to grow. With the right support and improved plant performance, the Northern Ireland AD industry could be producing 28 GWh more electricity, generating an extra £33m in revenue, creating 475 jobs, and helping to reduce Northern Ireland’s GHG emissions.

“With more plants per head than any other country in the UK and a phenomenal growth rate to boot, there’s a lot of knowledge and experience to be shared.”

Sam McCloskey, Centre Director at CASE and a speaker at the conference, said: "Biogas is of increasing importance and value as a biofuel, particularly for transport, and CASE research focuses on optimising the efficiency of AD plant in terms of operational capacity and optimising the resource feedstock.

“I’m looking forward to attending the ADBA Northern Ireland National Conference to share our experience of AD in Northern Ireland and see how we can work with others to help the industry grow.”

Les Gornall, Bioenergy Process Consultant at Capita PROjEN and a speaker at the conference, added: “As long ago as 1981, I wrote 'Northern Ireland has the potential of generating 100 MW (+/- 30 MW) as electricity and hot water from the animal wastes of intensive farms. Most waste is available from cattle'. This study led to the building of the Bethlehem Abbey Monastery digester in Portglenone, the first anaerobic digester in Northern Ireland, which won a string of awards. We are finally getting there in the province and it was heartening to see over 100 planning permissions awarded recently, mainly for farm-based digesters," said Mr Gornall.

“It is difficult to get AD right, but once the tricks have been learned, as they have been by a number of notably successful plants in Northern Ireland, the rewards for people, the environment and the company account are tangible.”