Northern Ireland Leads the Way in AD Certification

Saturday, 12 May, 2018


Commodity Watch, written by Senior Policy Officer, Chris Osborne

It is always refreshing to see Northern Ireland leading the way.

That is exactly what has happened in January 2018, when it was confirmed that the Granville Ecopark in Dungannon, was the first Anaerobic Digestion (AD) plant in the UK to be successfully certified under a new and pioneering certification scheme, only weeks after the scheme was officially launched.

The last decade has seen AD plants constructed throughout the UK, with the practical advantages from a farm management point of view being one of the key selling points, as well as the environmental benefits.   

Nowhere more so than here in Northern Ireland, where there are now just over 30 farm-based AD plants, ranging from 180kW to 500kW capacity.  The local AD sector, whilst constantly evolving, is maturing into an established technology in the country.  A key part of the evolution involves some necessary changes, needed to ensure that the growing number of plants are integrated into the circular economy, maximising energy production whilst delivering environmental benefits, which this technology can provide.

It is through formal Certification, that the AD sector can evolve towards maturity.

What is the AD Certification Scheme?

In December 2017, the AD Certification Scheme (ADCS), was formally launched at the Anaerobic Digestion Bioresources Association’s (ADBA) National Conference in London. The scheme is the first of its kind in the UK.  Prior to its launch, a pilot scheme was completed, with one on-farm plant, one food waste plant, and one on-site plant for a food manufacturer participating. 

The ADCS is the only certification scheme in the UK that assesses the all-round safety, environmental and operational performance of AD plants and covers all types and sizes of AD plants.  From the outset, the scheme was industry-led, with the ADBA worked closely with industry stakeholders including operators, developers, consultants, suppliers, insurers, regulators and other trade bodies related to the sector, who have all voiced their support for such a certification process.  The Scheme is a key element of the ADBA’s Best Practice Programme, which encompasses work on improving standards in the industry.

An independent Certification Body was appointed to deliver the certification process, Aardvark Ltd.  This body provides an audit process and report, which is a useful tool for operators to ensure they are meeting required standards and identifies how they can improve.

Whilst the ADCS is voluntary, it needs to be stressed that it has been designed to support AD plants operators, so as to improve their operational, environmental, and health and safety performance, in particular in terms of energy generation and digestate quality. 

Going forward, if the AD sector is going to mature, plants must operate at their optimum levels and this can happen through certification.  Certification will play a role in bringing about efficient performance and raising standards in what is now an increasingly important industry to the Northern Ireland Agri-Economy.  

The hope is that farm-based AD plants will see the benefit and merits of this scheme and ensure that Northern Ireland continues to lead the way in the Anaerobic Digestion sector.