Edinburgh’s sewage to help biofuels grow

Sewage sludge from Edinburgh's waste water will fertilise fields of biofuel crops, as the first sewage-to-biofuel scheme of its kind in the UK gets under way.

The pilot project will see rapeseed and wheat or barley grown on 1,000 hectares of Scotland’s east coast processed into 5m litres of biofuels each year – enough to power 5,000 family cars, Scotland’s environment minister Ross Finnie said as he launched the scheme.

About 25 farmers will grow the crops using “bio-solids” – otherwise known as sewage sludge – to fertilise their fields. Health concerns have led to a ban on applying sewage fertiliser to food crops, even after treatment, leaving biofuels as one of the only remaining uses.

The project is managed by Terra Eco Systems, a subsidiary of Thames Water, together with Harlow Agricultural Merchants. The Berkshire-based company will provide the farmers with treated sludge, and buy back the biofuel crops they produce.

These will then be sent to Europe for re-processing as Scotland lacks the facilities needed to turn them into bio-ethanol and bio-diesel.

Announcing the sewage-to-biofuels project launch alongside extra funding from the Bio-energy Infrastructure Scheme for Scottish projects that produce renewable energy from wood, Environment minister Ross Finnie said:

“Biofuels are efficient, clean and green sources of energy. Their versatile nature means they can be used to produce heat and electricity on a large scale.

“The Scottish Executive is committed to reducing the impact of climate change. Initiatives such as the Bio-energy Infrastructure Scheme and the innovation of companies like Terra Eco Systems are helping us in achieving this goal.”

One of the farmers involved in the sewage fertiliser project, Douglas Morrison, said: “I am delighted to be involved in this initiative, which has a number of benefits for me as a farmer.

“From a financial perspective it is beneficial to have guaranteed income, however the fact that there is support for the greater use of environmental practices in crop production to increase the green credentials of UK produced biofuel is also very important.”

Goska Romanowicz

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