Cumbernauld waste-to-energy plant keeps homes warm during the cold snap with seasonal food waste

The Energen Biogas plant in Cumbernauld
  • Energen has the capacity to produce enough energy to power 15,000 local homes
  • Cumbernauld plant processes around 120,000 tonnes of food waste to generate 100% renewable energy annually

AS Britain’s cold snap continues with the mercury dropping as low as -7°C in North Lanarkshire last week, local households are being kept warm by a novel source of energy – unwanted and leftover festive food waste.

The Energen Biogas plant in Cumbernauld, a part of the Bio Capital Group, feeds environmentally friendly biomethane gas directly into the local grid and generates electricity to power local homes and businesses, as well as providing fuel for local vans and heavy goods vehicles.

The plant’s feedstock includes food waste collected via local councils and from food producers including seasonal items such as uneaten mince pies, turkey bones, parsnip and potato peelings. The biomatter is fed into giant anaerobic digestion (AD) silos where it is broken down in an oxygen-free atmosphere to produce high-performing, low-carbon biogas. The plant’s owners, Bio Capital, claim the plant has the capacity to produce enough energy to power or heat up to 15,000 homes annually. 

Annually, the Cumbernauld plant processes around 120,000 tonnes of food waste and generates 33 GWh of electricity and 44 GWh of biogas (which is converted into biomethane for injection into the gas grid).

A further benefit of Energen’s AD process is the high-quality bio-fertiliser that is a by-product, which can be used by local farmers to improve soil health and significantly increase yields – thereby preparing the land for next year’s brussel sprout boom. As such, the Cumbernauld plant is a model for the circular economy – coupling agriculture with recycling and decentralised green energy production.

The UK produces around 9.5M tonnes of food waste each year (equivalent to 25M tonnes of the powerful greenhouse gas methane). Bio Capital is actively looking to partner with food producers, local councils and large farms to transform food waste, garden waste and agricultural crop residues into renewable energy.

Peter Sharpe, CEO of Bio Capital said:

“Biogas is an increasingly important part of the energy mix in the UK as we move away from our reliance on fossil fuels. Biogas embodies the circular economic model, providing a secure, local, low carbon alternative to natural gas, reducing waste and carbon emissions, and providing a high quality, organic alternative to chemical fertilisers. By using food waste generated in the local area, we are helping deliver greater energy independence, security and reducing need for gas imports – particularly critical in an environment of high energy prices and rising cost of living.”

  • It is a 100% renewable, low carbon alternative to natural gas or LNG that is bolstering the UK’s energy needs as global energy costs rise and temperatures drop. While it releases some CO2 when burned (still far less than fossil fuels), it is technically carbon-neutral because the harmful methane emissions that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere when the food rots in landfill is captured and used as an energy source.

As global energy costs continue to rise and unpredictable weather increases – resulting in extreme hot or cold spells – the case for increasing the UK’s biogas capability has never been stronger. Bio Capital is committed to expanding its operations in Scotland: in addition to Energen, it also operates Barkip Biogas in North Ayrshire, capable of processing up to 75,000 tonnes of food waste per annum and generate 2GWh of electricity, and Earnside Energy in Perthshire (30,000 tonnes per annum of food waste, producing up to 2.36 MW of electrical power).

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