‘Building an AD plant is just the start of operating a productive and profitable facility’ was a key message to delegates from all sectors of the industry who attended FM BioEnergy’s recent ‘Healthy Bacteria, Healthy Profits’ conference in Birmingham. “Sustainability is the key to the future success of the AD sector, both in economic and ecological terms, but to achieve that we have to optimise plant operation and efficiency. That requires a high level of technical expertise at every stage,” Frank Thomson, Conference Chairman and Managing Director of FM BioEnergy, the Renewable Energy Division of BOCM PAULS, told the 200-strong audience. “The AD industry has, to date, focused heavily on renewable initiatives, planning and permitting, feedstock contracts, financials, together with plant design and construction,” Tim Elsome, FM BioEnergy’s Business Development Manager explained. “But it has often underestimated the input required to successfully commission plants and the ongoing technical expertise to achieve optimum output. “Most plants take three months from first feed to maximum output, but once at 60%-70% output many start to stall because operators have insufficient technical knowledge to optimise the process. Given the high level of investment involved, this shortfall from the theoretical design potential represents a big loss of income. For a 1 mW facility which operates at 70% efficiency it can amount to £1000 per day in lost heat, energy or gate fees. “Getting a plant to optimum efficiency in four weeks and generating income fast has to be the priority. That sounds simple but is actually very difficult to achieve. FM BioEnergy’s Accelerated Commissioning Service enables an AD plant to be fully commissioned in the optimal time, with 70% achieving full gas output in 14 days. In a 1mW plant, reducing the commissioning time from 90 days to 28 days produces a total financial benefit of £100,000, based on an electricity price of 14p/kWh.” Dr Thomas Fritz of Schaumann BioEnergy, the German market leader in biogas optimisation and process efficiency, revealed: “Over 80% of waste digesters in Germany operate at less than their design potential. A common problem is acidification caused by process interruption. In most cases this is caused by imbalance between the macro and micro nutrients in the plant. “Trace elements in AD plants vary because feedstocks are different and biogas efficiency is limited by the nutrient in shortest supply, resulting in low gas yields and process failures. Schaumann BioEnergy analyse, evaluate and calculate trace element requirements for each individual AD plant and produce a bespoke product to meet those requirements. Once it has been applied we retest and recalculate to ensure optimum results.” Neil McInnes, General Manager of Feeds Marketing, which manages over 900,000 tonnes of food and beverage co-products, plus organic wastes, annually in the UK, told the audience: “The UK AD industry has reached the stage where demand for feedstock material is increasing rapidly. Competition for these products is intensifying as additional AD plants come on stream. With significant extra capacity in the pipeline the annual shortfall in supplies is forecast to reach 800,000 tonnes. As an industry, we must therefore optimise the efficiency with which they are used. FM BioEnergy is increasingly regarded as a one-stop shop for AD operators, because we have the expertise to assist them with sourcing feedstocks and can supply throughout the UK on a short- or long-term basis.” FM BioEnergy is the Renewable Energy Division of BOCM PAULS. The leading specialist in AD nutrition and plant optimisation, FM BioEnergy works closely with its partner, Schaumann BioEnergy, to ensure that best use is made of these valuable resources. Providing a full and service to operators of biogas plants at all stages, from development through to construction, commissioning and ongoing operation, the company helps them to gain more control over the process, improve methane yields and maximise return on investment.