A GBP23.3-million (US$34.2-million) anaerobic digestion plant has been given the go-ahead for Northern Ireland. Located at Tully Quarry near Ballymena, it will be one of the first plants in the world that can use poultry litter as its only feedstock.
Using 40,000 metric tons of poultry litter per year to produce biogas, the plant will generate 3 megawatts of renewable electricity and a high-quality organic fertilizer, according to the Economy and Agriculture Ministers of the Northern Ireland Executive. That is enough to power 4,000 homes in the region.
The Tully Centralised Anaerobic Digestion Plant is being led by Stream BioEnergy Ltd. and built by Xergi and local firm BSG Ltd.
Funding for the project
For funding, Invest Northern Ireland is providing a GBP7.4-million loan at a commercial based interest rate, and GBP1.3 million in equity under the Sustainable Utilisation of Poultry Litter (SUPL) Scheme. The majority of the project funding is through private equity from Foresight-managed fund Recycling and Waste LP, and Xergi Limited.
“This project has been developed as a result of support under the SUPL SBRI Project and the SUPL Loan Scheme,” said Economy Minister Simon Hamilton. “It is an outstanding example of public sector and private investors coming together to support a new technology for sustainable agriculture and to grow our economy. In addition to helping the local poultry sector to grow, the plant will create up to 100 jobs during the construction phase with a further 11 new jobs available when the plant becomes operational in 2017.”
“This project has seen close collaboration between technology companies, government and funding bodies, including the Green Investment Bank,” added Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Michelle McIlveen. “It is a testament to our commitment to deliver a sustainable future for our agriculture sector. Projects such as this will play an important role in helping the poultry sector to address an environmental challenge.”
Planning permission has already been granted for the new plant. It is expected to be completed in 2017 and become operational in 2018.
Northern Ireland’s poultry industry is a significant contributor to the economy, employing around 6,000 people. One of its biggest challenges is the environmental impact of the annual production of 270,000 metric tons of poultry litter.
The litter-to-energy process
European supplier of large-scale biogas plants, Xergi, is a shareholder in the project and responsible for delivering the plant.
“The plant will convert chicken litter into biogas, which will be used to produce green electricity,” Xergi's CEO Jørgen Ballermann told Power Technology. “At the same time, nutrients become an environmentally friendly fertilizer, which can replace chemical fertilizer for farmers.”
The company created the “nitrogen-stripping” process that enables the biogas plant to be fueled by chicken litter as the only input feedstock.
“Nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen are easily absorbed by plants in the field once the litter has been through the biogas process,” added Ballermann. “This minimizes the risk of nutrients washing out from the fields into watercourses and causing an adverse impact on the environment.”
The first anaerobic digestion plant using poultry litter from Northern Ireland was announced in March of this year. Known as the Glenmore Project, it is located at Ballybofey, just over the border in the Irish Republic.