National Grid kick-starts UK’s first trials of grid-injected biomethane from cow manure

If successful

The gas is produced at the Murrow Anaerobic Digestion (AD) plant in March, Cambridgeshire, where manure and straw are placed in an oxygen-free environment and naturally occurring micro-organisms them break down. During this chemical process, biogas, comprising mainly methane, is produced.

National Grid has connected the plant, operated by BioCow Ltd, to a pipeline that serves local homes, providing gas for heating and cooking. It claims that the pipeline can support flows of up to 15,000 standard cubic metres per hour.

The trial, which began at the end of July and was revealed to the public by National Grid this week, is producing and distributing enough renewable gas to power ten homes for a year. If it proves successful, National Grid will explore the feasibility of bringing more grid-injected biomethane online as it strives to transition in line with the UK’s 2050 net-zero target.

National Grid’s head of gas systems operations Ian Radley said it sees biomethane playing a “critical” role in aligning the UK’s gas sector with net-zero, “alongside hydrogen”.

It’s a gas

On Radley’s latter point, the UK’s first trials of grid-injected hydrogen recently began at Keele University. Existing UK legislation prevents hydrogen accounting for more than 0.1% of the national grid mix at any time but the trials will see a mix of 20% hydrogen used at a small scale.

The UK’s gas industry body has publicly backed the 2050 net-zero emissions goal and has, in recent months, provided additional support for R&D around biogas and green hydrogen, which it believes must be scaled up.

Recent weeks have seen ministers facing increasing calls for hydrogen to play a larger role in the UK’s Covid-19 recovery package. Last week, the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) published the results of its July inquiry into emerging low-carbon technologies, concluding that a national Hydrogen Strategy could spur decarbonisation across the nation’s most energy-intense sectors. Then, the Hydrogen Taskforce published new scenario analyses detailing how hydrogen production could generate £18bn for the UK economy and support more than 75,000 jobs over the next 15 years.

The next major policy announcements around gas are likely to come this autumn when the Energy White Paper and Heat Strategy will be published.

Sarah George

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