Cranfield University was the only educational institution represented at the recent prestigious industry awards for the anaerobic digestion (AD) and biogas sector.

The UK AD & Biogas Industry Awards 2016, organised by the Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA), were held in Birmingham.

Cranfield was ‘highly commended’ in the Best AD Support (legal / accounting / consulting) category for Bio-Thermal RED, a two-year project which was completed in 2015. This was jointly funded with the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and also received support from Shanks Waste Management.

Although the project was completed last year, Bio-Thermal RED’s legacy includes the creation of a demonstration facility for biological (anaerobic digestion) and thermal (gasification / pyrolysis and combustion) technologies to support the increase of renewable energy share in the East of England. The unique test facility and knowledge hub has helped innovation in design, integration, operation and maintenance of anaerobic digestion in the region.

Anaerobic digestion is the process by which organic matter, such as animal or food waste, is broken down to produce biogas and biofertiliser. This process happens in the absence of oxygen in a sealed, oxygen-free tank called an anaerobic digester.

The project provided support to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the East of England, in integrating new products, processes or services and offered consultancy and training services by Cranfield’s researchers with an established track record in this field. More than 2,000 hours of assistance were delivered, with 27 SMEs supported via seven technically-based support projects and four free technical continuing professional development (CPD) short courses.

Anaero Technology develops improved research equipment for the AD and fermentation industry and were one of those to benefit. Edgar Blanco-Madrigal from the company said: “The support we received from the University via the Cranfield Water Science Institute through its Bio-Thermal RED / ERDF project helped us identify how best to focus and explain our technology to the research and industrial AD community.”

Cranfield has been involved in different aspects of anaerobic digestion research throughout the 21st century. As part of the Bio-Thermal RED project, an anaerobic digestion pilot plant facility was opened on campus in October 2014 to support the UK’s contribution to the European Union’s target of a fifth of our energy to be supplied from renewable sources by 2020. This now diverts up to 10 tonnes of food waste from landfill and saves up to five tonnes of total potential carbon dioxide annually, while also producing up to eight tonnes of fertiliser each year.

Dr Raffaella Villa (right), principal investigator for the Bio-Thermal RED project, receives a certificate from Charlotte Smith who presents the BBC Radio 4 programme Farming Today.
Dr Raffaella Villa (right), investigator for the Bio-Thermal RED project, receives certificate from radio presenter, Charlotte Smith

About Cranfield University

Cranfield University is a specialist postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management.