What is AD?

AD – anaerobic digestion – is a naturally occurring process which can be harnessed to make gas, electricity, fuel and fertiliser:

A web diagram of the AD cycle

What AD can do for you

AD can save you money – and potentially even grow your business – in several ways. AD can:

Provide you with cheaper, cleaner, renewable energy

The AD process produces a renewable gas whose flexibility can help meet businesses needs. Biogas can produce electricity and heat to power on-site operations, with any excess energy sold to the grid for a profit, and the biogas can also be upgraded to biomethane, which can be injected into the gas grid or used as a transport fuel.

With energy prices set to soar due to 20% of generating capacity coming offline in the next decade, and fossil fuel supplies potentially becoming even more volatile, businesses with a high energy usage will benefit from the reliable and affordable gas supply that AD delivers.

Deliver cost-and carbon-effective transport fuel

For many organisations, the cost of transport is one of the biggest obstacles to improving their bottom line. Using biomethane as a transport fuel is an excellent opportunity to reduce your company’s vulnerability to rising petrol and diesel prices, and has been proven to realise huge carbon benefits. For example, Coca-Cola’s recent trial of biomethane vehicles saw a 50% saving in well-to-wheel GHG emissions compared to their diesel vehicle fleet.

In terms of promoting air quality, air pollution from vehicle emissions currently causes approximately 32,000 premature deaths a year, particularly from diesel vehicles which emit high levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO₂) and particulate matter with a diameter of less than 10 micrometers (PM10). Biomethane, however, burns much more cleanly than petrol or diesel, meaning that biomethane vehicles can have a huge impact in improving air quality. In the case of the Coca-Cola trial, they saw NO₂and PM emissions slashed by 85.6% and 97.1% respectively, while biomethane vehicles have already been demonstrated as viable through widespread use in Sweden, Germany and France.

Save you money through waste treatment

British businesses generate almost 6 million tonnes of food waste a year (over a third of UK food waste) which costs more than £8 billion to deal with. With landfill tax set to rise sharply in the next few years, businesses will find it a financial necessity to find an alternative to throwing organic waste into landfill. By either treating your waste on-site in your own plant or source segregating your waste and arranging to have it collected separately to be treated by AD, this steep financial burden can be cut as innovation in this area continues to drive better, cheaper and more tailored food waste collections.

Not only this, by treating organic waste through the AD process you can also realise significant carbon benefits compared to landfill use or incineration. Methane emissions from landfill currently account for 3% of the UK’s total GHG emissions, while incinerating organic waste to generate electricity produces 27 times more CO₂than treating it through AD.

Help you go green

Businesses are increasingly aware of the environmental impact of their activities, and as a consequence more committed than ever to reducing their carbon footprint. Using AD for electricity and heat demand on your sites removes the need for environmentally damaging fossil fuel supplies; while electricity generated from the grid at present emits on average 500g of CO2 for each kWh, electricity from an AD plant emits can emit as low as 11g –  over 45 times cleaner.

Integrating AD into your business can therefore help to realise huge carbon savings, and also demonstrates to your customers, suppliers and the general public your green credentials and real commitment to sustainability. For businesses that fall under the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme, AD can also help to minimise this financial burden.

Grow your business in a new sector

The AD industry is relatively new and growing rapidly. This booming industry could well be a lucrative market you are yet to tap in to. Your business may not build or operate AD plants or produce significant levels of organic waste but you would be surprised at how many different technologies, products and services are required in this sector. From pumps to tanks and lawyers to land agents, the opportunities for growing your business in the AD sector are excellent.

What are your AD options?

AD can work for many different types of businesses – there are a range of options depending on whether you produce organic waste or could offer a product or service to the industry.

1. Build your own AD plant

There are a number of different options available for becoming involved in AD, dependent on the size of your company, the source of feedstock, the type of land you operate, your knowledge of AD, and how much time you are able to dedicate to your AD business. You can join an AD co-operative or enter a joint venture with another company, lease land to an AD developer, or even build your own plant.

Food and organic waste, farm waste and purpose grown crops are the three principle groups of feedstock used in the AD process. For businesses which already produce a large amount of organic waste, this can be treated in your own plant to produce energy to heat and power your site. If you don’t produce your own feedstock, taking in food waste from councils or other businesses to use in your plant to generate energy will offer you a secure and affordable source of energy for your business for years to come, with the opportunity to sell any excess energy back to the grid for a profit.

2. Send your organic waste to AD

If you feel that your company cannot build its own AD plant you can still save money and benefit the environment by sending your organic waste to be treated by a third party. There are a number of companies offering specialist collections to AD.

3. Offer an existing product or service to the AD industry

It is very possible that a product or service that you already provide can be applied to the AD industry.

Do you manufacture pumps, pipework or tanks? Can you provide specific legal or financial services to members of the AD industry? Does your company have the engineering expertise to move into this exciting new market?

We suggest that you explore the AD industry and see if you can bring some of your expertise to the party. If you can then ADBA will be glad to help you make the right contacts and let people know what you can do.


Find out more – get free advice from our consultants to discover exactly how AD could best work with your business

Find the suppliers and customers in your area using our directory to find the AD contacts you need

Attend an ADBA event – come to our trade show, conference or R&D forums to find out more about what we do and how we could help your business

Join ADBA – to receive all the benefits of membership

Investigate whether your company’s products and services can work in the AD industry by seeing the kinds of things our members do.

Our Practical Guide to AD provides you with an easy to use introductory reference tool to take you through each stage of an AD project. The Guide is available for non-members to purchase. ADBA members can download the first edition free of charge in the members’ area.

Read more . . .

We’ve compiled a range of reports and studies, for further reading on all aspects of how AD could benefit Business. If there’s anything else you’d like to know about AD, please get in touch

Is there anything about AD still puzzling you?

If so, we have compiled a list of frequently asked questions that can found here . . .