AstraZeneca to support UK biomethane and CCS project in drive to decarbonise heat
AstraZeneca has forged a partnership with energy firm Future Biogas, to support the development of a 125GWh biomethane production plant fitted with carbon capture technology, so it can source low-carbon heat locally.
The pharmaceuticals major will support Future Biogas – which already operates 10 plants in the UK – to develop the new facility in East Anglia. In return, it will also become a priority buyer for the low-carbon energy generated at the facility.
Energy produced at the plant will be used to power four of AstraZeneca’s six UK locations – namely Macclesfield, Cambridge, Speke and Luton – as the firm works to reach net-zero operational emissions by the end of 2025. Future Biogas is planning to begin construction in 2023.
Future Biogas has stated that it will use bio-crops grown locally to the site, at farms where they are already integrated into crop rotations, to manufacture biomethane. The crops will also be certified as zero-carbon or carbon-negative.
“Crops will be grown with regenerative agriculture practices, promoting nutrient cycling through wider cropping rotations, minimising soil disturbance to limit carbon release from soils, and helping to build soil organic matter and soil health,” AstraZeneca added in a statement.
The manufacturing process involves fermenting crops in anaerobic digestion tanks and then splitting the resulting gas into methane and carbon dioxide. The methane can be used by businesses as a drop-in replacement for natural gas, while the carbon will be captured using onsite man-made technologies.
Future Biogas is working with Northern Lights – a joint carbon capture and storage (CCS) venture between the Norwegian Government, Shell, TotalEnergies and Equinor – to install the CCS technologies and to store the captured carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide will be shipped to Norway for immediate storage then piped deep under the seabed, in a system that is due to become operational in 2024.
AstraZeneca has stated that it will work with Future Biogas and Northern Lights on carbon accounting, to ensure that there is no double-counting.
“AstraZeneca set itself a very ambitious and challenging net-zero target which sets a benchmark for their sector as well as global corporates more widely, and we are proud to be able to help on this journey,” said Future Biogas’s chief executive Philip Lukas.
As mentioned above, AstraZeneca is striving to reach net-zero operational emissions in 2025 and then to achieve carbon-negative status for operations by 2030.
Other major sources of operational emissions, besides heat and power, are transport and electricity. Through The Climate Group’s EV100 and RE100 initiatives, AstraZeneca is aiming to transition to 100% electric vehicles and 100% renewable electricity by 2025.
Other key focus areas include improving energy efficiency and designing next-gen respiratory inhalers. Metered-dose inhalers contain liquefied compressed hydrofluoroalkanes (HFA), a significant greenhouse gas.
To go beyond net-zero and towards carbon negativity for operational emissions, AstraZeneca is investing in nature-based solutions as well as man-made CCS. The firm recently unveiled a new partnership programme with Forestry England and Borders Forest Trust to plant more than one million trees across the UK by 2025.
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It’s a start and if the bio-gas can be generated from waste food materials (be that actual waste food or the off cuts from food manufacture – peelings, roots, leaves etc) then even better. If the crops put nutrients back into the soil (say clover or peas/beans) but have no viable market as food then this gives farmers an opportunity to help their land and still earn something.
But one question – given we had a shortage of CO2 for industrial and food manufacturing purposes this year why capture the CO2 and ship it (using oil) all the way to Norway for storage? Why not capture it and use it locally or compress it to frozen and use it to store vaccines at super cold temperatures?