UK collaboration to develop renewable energy for food industry

By Helen Glaberson

- Last updated on GMT

Clearfleau's WRAP funded BV dairy plant in Dorset
Clearfleau's WRAP funded BV dairy plant in Dorset

Related tags: Food processing, Anaerobic digestion

Two renewable energy technology companies are working together with an aim of developing their scope for anaerobic digestion in the UK food sector.

Clearfleau, one of a small number of British based anaerobic digestion companies, is currently working on projects in the confectionary and drinks sector, and said it is teaming up with German-based Biogastechnik GmbH’s (UTS) to offer its technology to other food processing segments.

UTS is part of US shareholder Anaergia group, and supplies biogas technology to manufacturing plants across Europe, with its main focus in agri-businesses.

“The arrangement with UTS is designed to extend our scope in the food sector by offering a high solids AD system to sit alongside our own proprietary technology that is designed for high-rate digestion of liquid feedstocks on food processing sites,”​ the Clearfleau spokesperson told FoodProductionDaily.com

Benefits

Anaerobic digestion (AD) generates energy from effluent from food or drinks manufacture.

Benefits for manufacturers include greater control of waste management and processing costs by converting production residues such as by-products and unwanted ingredients into heat and power energy, said Clearfleau.

The technology can reduce effluent treatment charges, either by cutting costs of running aerobic plants on site or with a reduction in charges for sewer discharge, said the spokesperson.

In addition to the cost savings, the technology is also revenue generative, he added.

The technology maximises the output of biogas and enables the processing site to qualify for the government’s renewable energy incentives.

Waste streams

Clearfleau explained its liquid digestion process is designed for onsite treatment installations and can accommodate the mix of waste streams produced on food processing or other industrial sites.

These materials treated can include discarded product and ingredients as well as co-products and production by-products, said the spokesperson.

He added that “unlike other high-rate AD systems that have short retention times, the Clearfleau process can treat fats and higher solids content materials and thus is suited to applications in the dairy and food processing sector but it also can be used the drinks sector.”

However, said the spokesperson, there are some food processing sectors where the requirement is for higher solids AD systems and “we will work with our UTS colleagues to develop this sector.”

Food sector demonstration site

The company built a high-rate plant for BV Dairy in Dorset. Funds for this project, it said, were provided by the UK government funded agency, Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) to establish a food sector demonstration site.

The facility, was completed in late 2010 and is fully operational, said Clearfleau. The AD specialist said the BV Dairy is a demonstration plant - not just for the dairy sector but also other food processing sectors.

Clearfleau claims that for too long the UK has lagged behind the rest of Europe in developing of renewable energy technologies but “with renewed support from the [UK] government for the sector and higher feed-in-tariff rates, there is an opportunity for investment in AD technology to create jobs in the UK.”

Opportunities outside the UK

“The partnership [with UTS] will also enable us to look at opportunities outside the UK,”​ he added. “UTS has a network across Europe and will enable us to market our UK technology in other EU countries. We are already working with several multinational companies and having an international partner will help us​ to operate outside the UK.”

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