Job Opportunity – KTP Associate Biogas Development Engineer

The successful candidate (KTP Associate) will support Greenvill Energy Ltd in conjunction with South West College, in research and design of a biogas upgrading system for small scale biogas operators without grid access. As well as overcoming the challenges of this design, the associate will also be involved in managing the build, test and commission of the plant with a view to supplying the system to similar sites.

Closing Date: Mon 10 Apr 17 @ 12 noon

Reference: KTP 52/17

Duration: 2.5 yrs

Interview: 24th April 17

For more information, please visit the South West College Website.

3rd International Conference on Biogas Microbiology – Wageningen 1-3 May 17

The is a chance to attend a focussed conference on the increasingly popular theme of  Biogas Microbiology. The Conference offers a common ground for bioprocess engineers and microbiologists to share their knowledge, and gives the opportunity to discuss and focus on important recent developments in biogas microbiology. Conference Themes include:

Anaerobic reactors: Waste to gas
Methane production under extreme conditions
New trends in biogas production
Novel anaerobes
Biogas from Nature
Complex anaerobic communities (SIAM sessions)

For more information, see the conference website.

Tracking Functional Microbiomes of UK Anaerobic Digesters

This 1 year project, funded by BBSRC and led by Professor Orkun Soyer at the University of Warwick, focuses on furthering our understanding of anaerobic digestion, particularly on how the complex microbial communities affect and are affected by operational conditions. Altogether, 16 UK full scale AD reactors are taking part in the project, where both genetic and meta-data are collected weekly. The large amounts of genetic data will allow us to characterise which species of microbes inhabit the digesters, what their functions are and, importantly, how they change over time. The meta-data will allow us to monitor changes in response to their environment. The datasets will be made available through the project website at, funded by the AD Network. These will provide an unbiased and transparent source of information on the performance of industrial AD reactors in real time, which we hope will help to enhance and expand this technology in the UK. Enquiries can be directed to: Prof. Orkun Soyer at Warwick University.

Bangor University LCA Part-time MSc: Scrutinising bioenergy and bio-based products with life cycle assessment

Would you like to learn about LCA methodology?

A part-time MSc module on Carbon Foot-printing and Life Cycle Assessment will be delivered entirely online by Bangor University from January through to April 2017, drawing on freely available online calculators

Bioenergy and bio-based products for the circular economy

According to the IEA, “Bioenergy is energy derived from the conversion of biomass where biomass may be used directly as fuel, or processed into liquids and gases.” Examples include heat from wood pellets, electricity from biogas produced from food waste or crops, and electricity from combustion of straw or miscanthus. Policies to improve security of energy supply and reduce dependence on finite and polluting fossil fuels, exemplified by the Renewable Energy Directive, have been a major driver of the expansion of bioenergy across the EU over the past decade. 

Simultaneously, the Circular Economy Strategy is driving the use of bio-based products that can be recycled within biological cycles. A European standard defines “bio-based products” as “products wholly or partly derived from biomass, such as plants, trees or animals (the biomass can have undergone physical, chemical or biological treatment)”. Examples of bio-based products include egg cartons made from grass and recycled paper, and compostable bags made from polylactic acid derived from maize.

Whilst the aforementioned strategies are generally well targeted to improve the sustainability of our economy, they do place additional pressures on farming, and agricultural land resources, to produce the necessary bio-feedstocks. The production of such bio-feedstocks may sometimes be in competition with food production (see Popp et al., 2014), leading to possible “carbon leakage” by displacing food production via international trade (Searchinger et al., 2008). This has led to increasing scrutiny of bioenergy and bio-based products, invoking questions including:

  • Are bio-based products more sustainable than conventional products they replace?
  • How much land do they require?
  • Do they reduce or increase greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that cause climate change?
  • Do they contribute to air and water pollution via leaky nutrient cycles?
  • How effective are they at sparing finite resources?

Life cycle assessment

Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a rigorous, scientific approach that can be applied to answer such questions based on methodology defined by the International Standards Organisation (ISO 14040; ISO 14044) and, for related carbon foot-printing, by PAS 2050. LCA quantifies the environmental impact (potential) over the life cycle of a product or service. An example is the carbon footprint, expressed as kg CO2e (climate impact potential) of generating one kWh of bio-electricity. LCA may be applied to:

  1. Benchmark the environmental intensity of bioenergy and bio-products against replaced conventional energy and products
  2. Identify production strategies that minimise environmental impacts and thus improve the sustainability of such products

 Farm stage “hotspots”

Cultivation of bio-feedstocks on farms is usually the hotspot stage in bioenergy and bio-based product value chains, giving rise to the largest share of environmental impact. Agriculture, forestry and land use change account for approximately 25% of global GHG emissions (IPCC, 2014), and approximately half of humans’ wider ecological footprint. This reflects the loss of large amounts of carbon from vegetation and soils when land is converted to agriculture, leaky cycling of nutrients (see the excellent video on nitrogen impacts made by the European Nitrogen Assessment), and the extraction and manufacture of inputs such as fertilisers. Figure 1, below, shows that wood heat has less impact on global warming, fossil resource depletion and acidification than oil heat, but may have a greater impact on eutrophication (nutrient enrichment of waters) than oil heat. The latter impact is highly dependent on farm management and landscape context of willow cultivation; application of fertiliser leads to relatively high eutrophication burdens, whilst planting willow on buffer strips next to rivers can “mop up” nutrients lost from neighbouring food production.   


Figure 1. Environmental burdens of heat from wood chips produced using willow  cultivated in different ways, and from oil. Source: Styles et al. (2016)

Consequential LCA

Consequential LCA is an increasingly popular form of LCA that expands system boundaries to consider marginal direct and indirect changes incurred by a particular intervention, such as the introduction of bio-feedstock production into a farm system. In a recent study (Styles et al., 2015a) we applied consequential LCA to demonstrate that the introduction of a biogas plant into a large dairy farm to generate electricity from slurry, grass and maize can lead to substantial carbon savings by avoiding emissions from slurry storage and grid electricity generation, but also entails significant risk of large carbon leakage from indirect land use change caused by displacement of cattle feed production to other countries (e.g. soybeans from Brazil). Subsequently, we also found that GHG emissions from indirect land use change potentially caused by establishment of maize monocultures on arable farms to supply large crop-fed biogas plants can outweigh GHG savings from avoiding grid electricity generation. However, if maize is established on small portions of multiple farms as a break crop, optimisation of food crop rotations can mitigate this possible land use change effect (Styles et al., 2015b). Most of the bioenergy carbon calculators available online (e.g. Biograce) do not consider indirect effects, although the excellent Biomass Emissions And Counterfactual model produced by DECC does consider the counterfactual fate of feedstock that is used for bioenergy, such as US forest residues used to substitute coal in the Drax power station.

Would you like to learn about LCA methodology?

A part-time MSc module on Carbon Foot-printing and Life Cycle Assessment will be delivered entirely online by Bangor University from January through to April 2017, drawing on freely available online calculators and the latest research to demonstrate application of LCA to evaluate bioenergy and bio-based product value chains, and their interaction with food production. This module is part of the Industrial Biotechnology MSc, and BBSRC Advanced Training Partnership. Anyone wishing to enrol on the full Bangor or Aberystwyth MSc courses that this module sits within may also be eligible for the new English postgraduate loan. Registration now open, until 6th January!


See also the module on On-Farm Anaerobic Digestion (AD) – May 2017

AD and Biotechnology Training Courses

Here are a list of courses on anaerobic digestion and biotechnology.

Listed below are a number of courses relevant to our AD Network members

As part of the BBSRC-funded Advanced Training Partnership (ATP), Aberystwyth University (IBERS) in conjunction with Bangor University and NIAB offer a 12 week training program in AD. ATPs offer postgraduate level training to employees working in UK agri-food industries. Bursaries are available for 20-80% of the cost on a first-come-first-served basis and more information can be found here

On- Farm Anaerobic Digestion (AD) – next start date is May 2017.

This 12 week module will explore the role of anaerobic digestion (AD) as an important technology to improve the sustainability of the food production system. AD can be used to produce renewable energy, while the remaining digestates can act as a bio-fertilizer. The focus of the module is on the use of farm-scale AD to treat wastes, manures and crops. The module covers technical aspects of AD, but focusses on environmental and economic sustainability of different AD deployment options, including: choice of feedstock, alternative uses of biomethane and digestate, and indirect consequences of AD on food production, waste management and energy generation. Pertinent policies, regulations, and planning issues driving and constraining AD are considered. The application of AD in industrialised and industrialising countries will be explored. See: .

University College London run a series of modules of interest to Industrialists and Scientists. The MBI® courses are UCL-accredited short courses in bioprocessing, designed specifically for industrialists, that can be taken as stand-alone modules or can be combined for Certificate, Diploma or Masters qualifications. Examples include: Design of Experiments for Bioprocess Optimisation, Industrial Biotechnology: Biocatalysis through to Synthetic Biology, Analytical Data Analysis for the Bioprocessing Industry etc.  Take a look at what is on offer at: .

The University of Cranfield runs a course aimed at operators – Anaerobic Digestion of Waste. See: .

FERA run a number of courses, some of which may be relevant to our members (e.g. courses on Advanced Chemical Residues, Traditional Microbiology etc.) See: for details.

AquaEnviro run a number of courses directly relevant to AD practitioners. See: for details.

Abertay University has run a course on Intensive Biogas Training in the past and offers bespoke training courses if you are interested in commissioning something specialist. See:

Remember to look at our Secondment funds (see website) if you are thinking of brushing up your skills. We might be able to assist, so do contact us!

DECC Feed-in Tariff Consultation Announced

DECC recently launched the Feed-in Tariff consultation on support for anaerobic digestion and micro-combined heat and power which may be of interest to Network members. As well as consulting on tariff levels and degression structures,  the consultation also includes proposals to introduce sustainability criteria for feedstocks used in anaerobic digestion.

The AD Bioresources Association has commented on this consultation, as have the Renewable Energy Association who called the cuts ‘severe’.

Job Opportunity: Researcher and Development Engineer, Fiberight

Fiberight have created a circular economy solution to generate value-added products from municipal solid wastes (MSW). The process involves thermo-mechanically treating the waste to recover 2 main fractions: recyclables and biomass. This biomass is then further processed to generate a soluble organic stream for anaerobic digestion (AD); and a clean solid ligonocellulose fibre (paper pulp) which is converted to platform-sugars via enzyme hydrolysis. All bio outputs are used as chemical building blocks in the production of higher value-added products such as bio-resins, bio-coatings, bio-plastics, biofuels and bioenergy.

Fiberight require a Researcher and Development Engineer to run a small scale pilot facility for the project and carry out standard lab analyses such as pH, COD, gas production, TS/VS and sugar analysis. Applications are open until 1 Jul 16 and the role commences on 1 Aug 16. This is a 12 month initial contract based in Southampton, with a salary range of £23-£30K p.a dependant upon experience. Further details can be found here.

International Energy Agency report on small scale anaerobic digestion released

Task 37 of the International Energy Agency has just published a report entitled ‘Exploring the viability of small scale anaerobic digesters in livestock farming’ written by AD Network member Dr Clare Lukehurst, OBE and AD Network co-manager Angela Bywater.

The report explores the viability of small scale anaerobic digestion for livestock farming where there is a need to deal with animal manure and slurry in a manner that minimises the emission of greenhouse gases. Dairy farming for example, is dominated by small herds of animals, the slurry from which must be managed efficiently for the farm and to maintain high standards of health. AD is an acknowledged technology for farming operations that
affords a high standard of manure management, the production of high quality biofertiliser and also the possibility of generating energy for own use as well as export.
The report is aimed at farmers, as well as energy policy and decision makers and can be downloaded from the IEA Task 37 website here.

Free analysis – Anaerobic Digestion Science meets Industry, 10 May 16, University of Warwick

This FREE event will bring together AD users and scientists. Come and enjoy interesting talks, hear from experts on the AD process, participate in an open discussion session and hear how you can take part in our initiative to monitor AD microbiomes!

There will be talks from the following acadmics and industry people:

Prof Charles Banks – University of Southampton

Prof Tom Curtis – University of Newcastle

Prof Angus Buckling – University of Exeter

Dr Phil Hobbs – Anaerobic Analytics

Angus Browne – G’s Fresh

Bring a sample from your digester to the meeting and we will analyse it’s microbial profile for FREE!

If you are a member of the Anaerobic Digestion Network and need help with travel costs, we can provide funding of up to £100 to attend.

To REGISTER, visit