Company develops method to make farm biogas more efficient

Company develops method to make farm biogas more efficient
SEAI Energy Awards: from left, Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton; Eoghain O’Horgain and Ken McGrath, Ashleigh Environmental; and Julie O’Neill, Chair of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.

A new system that significantly increases biogas production from pig manure won in the Research and Innovation category when the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) announced its 2019 Energy Awards winners.

Biowave is a simpler and more sustainable waste management system, developed by Ashleigh Environmental, a clean-tech company focused on developing environmental and bioenergy solutions for the agriculture industry.

The Biowave technology has been demonstrated at an industrial pilot scale for the agri-biogas market, and the company is now developing applications across the broader bioenergy market.

As part of their prize, the company wins a €10,000 SEAI bursary to further develop their research, and assist with commercialisation.

The Biowave microwave pre-treatment system acts as a cell buster, liberating the organic matter that cannot otherwise be easily digested in a conventional anaerobic digester.

According to Ashleigh Environmental, they are bringing to commercial reality the microwave treatment of organic waste, for enhancing biogas production, which has been widely researched, revealing significant technical and economic advantages.

This optimises anaerobic digestion projects, which are typically multi-million euro investments, with plant optimisation essential for an attractive payback.

The financial viability of such investments is often primarily driven by favourable government tariff regimes. According to Ashleigh Environmental, the industry needs new and transformative technology to change this dynamic — such as their microwave treatment of otherwise indigestible organics which, if untreated, drive down process efficiency and hurt the bottom line.

Ashleigh Environmental has been selected by the EU’s Horizon 2020 Innovation funding programme to continue development of the Biowave microwave treatment system.

The Horizon funding will enable the company to further optimise and improve Biowave. Feedstocks will be tested and analysed to demonstrate the enormous potential of microwave pretreatment for bioenergy production from organic waste streams.

The agri-food sector dominated in this 16th year of SEAI’s awards promoting excellence in energy efficiency and renewable energy throughout the island of Ireland.

Tipperary Co-Operative Creamery won the Large Business award for an energy-efficient management system to reduce its carbon footprint, with energy savings of over 10% in the first year.

Flahavan’s won the SME award for sustainability measures — such as sourcing oats within 60 miles of their mill in Kilmacthomas, Co Waterford; and reducing energy usage by almost half a million litres of diesel per year, instead using steam produced from burning oat husks.

The company also has wind and water turbines to generate electricity.

Julie O’Neill, Chair of SEAI, said the 134 entrants in this year’s awards have made energy savings worth €38m.

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