BIOGAS COULD be the answer to the UK's renewable energy needs, according to the anaerobic digestion trade association.

Following the indefinite suspension of fracking for shale gas in England, the UK Government has been urged to look for alternative sources of natural gas whilst bearing in mind its Net Zero target by 2050.

The Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association is promoting biogas as an environmentally friendly alternative to shale gas, that has the potential to meet nearly 20% of the UK’s current domestic gas needs, reduce greenhouse gases emissions by 5% and create 30,000 new jobs.

Biogas is produced from the natural process of breaking down organic matter such as food waste, wastewater, sewage, slurries and agricultural waste. Harmful gases that would be otherwise be emitted by those organic wastes in landfills or incinerators are captured and a new renewable energy source is generated instead.

ADBA stressed that biogas was based on a 'ready-to-use' technology that helps cut emissions in the hardest-to-decarbonise sectors of heat, transport and agriculture. Upgraded to biomethane, biogas can be injected into the grid with no changes needed to the existing gas infrastructure and used as green fuel for heavy good vehicles and buses.

Meanwhile, the organic residue produced, digestate, is a nutrient-rich biofertilizer that can restore depleted soils and replace artificial, manufactured fertilisers. By displacing fossil gas and artificial fertilisers from heat, transport and farming, and preventing methane emissions created by untreated organic waste, the UK AD and biogas industry already reduces the UK annual greenhouse gases emissions by 1%, it claimed.

In the last decade, the AD sector has grown 350% and is now employing over 3500 people. But it still needs policy incentives and investment to reach its full potential. In 2019, 650 AD plants across the UK produced 10.7TWh of energy. Over the next 10 years, ADBA anticipates that in addition to reducing emissions by 22.5m tonnes of CO2-equivalent every year (circa 5% of total UK greenhouse gases emissions), it has the potential to meet nearly 20% of current domestic gas demand, and providing 30,000 new green jobs, largely in rural areas. The sector has also developed world-leading expertise which gives the UK a real opportunity to be at the heart of a growing global biogas industry.

ADBA chief executive Charlotte Morton said: "If the investment currently put into shale gas extraction was redirected to biogas production, we could make a major leap forward in achieving Net Zero emissions targets whilst helping meet the UK's energy needs and developing an invaluable asset for exports.

"The Government's Resources and Waste Strategy was encouraging in its commitment to collect more food waste, but we need to ensure that this feedstock, and all other available feedstock, is then treated through AD. We need policy and financial commitment towards developing AD infrastructure and supporting technical innovation to deliver a strong biogas industry in the UK that will sustain the economy for generations to come, whilst addressing the climate emergency that we face," she concluded.