Suffolk brewer Adnams has just built an anaerobic digestion (AD) plant, which is the first in the UK to use brewery and local food waste to produce renewable gas.

In partnership with British Gas and the National Grid, the facility has started injecting renewable gas into the grid, generating up to 4.8M kilowatt hours a year – enough to heat 235 family homes for a year.

And in the future, the new plant will produce enough renewable gas to power the Adnams brewery and run its fleet of lorries, while still leaving around 60% of the output to be sold back to the grid.

By using waste from the brewery and food waste collected locally to generate biomethane, the plant will prevent the release of methane to the atmosphere, while diverting rubbish from landfill.

The Adnams Bio Energy plant consists of three digesters – sealed vessels in which naturally-occurring bacteria act without oxygen to break down up to 12,500 tonnes of organic waste a year. The result is the production of biomethane as well as a liquid organic fertiliser.

The plant will also be fitted with solar thermal panels too, creating a mini energy park. The deal, with British Gas parent company Centrica, will ensure that all of the site, including the company’s beer and wine distribution centre, will be using renewably-sourced energy that is generated on-site, with some surplus energy available for export. This is another groundbreaking feature for the facility.

Cash from RBS and grants from the European Regional Development Fund, East of England Development Agency and the Department of Energy and Climate Change have provided vital in getting the facility built on the site of the impressively-constructed distribution centre Site.

Cambridge-based Bio Group, which Adnams has partnered, specialises in designing and building renewable energy processing plants across the UK. The Adnams facility uses groundbreaking technology and is the first stage of a national roll out of AD plants for the company.

“We use innovative, low-carbon building techniques to produce energy through a completely organic and natural process,” said Steve Sharratt, the firm’s group chief executive. “Nothing is wasted.”

Adnams’ boss Andy Wood is delighted with the new facility. “For a number of years now, we have been investing in ways to reduce our impact on the environment,” he said.

“The reality of being able to convert our own brewing waste and local food waste to power Adnams’ brewery and vehicles, as well as the wider community is very exciting.”

The industrial ecology cycle will be complete when the fertiliser produced from the AD process can be used on farmland to grow barley for Adnams beer.

This plant will have a major impact on CO2 reduction in the region, as well as the generation of renewable energy. The food waste would otherwise be destined for landfill, but processing it through the digester will save an estimated 50,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalents from landfill.

“This project demonstrates how local communities can help us move to a low carbon energy future,” said Gearóid Lane, managing director of new energy at British Gas.

“Using waste that would otherwise end up in landfill to produce renewable gas is mutually beneficial for the environment and homes and businesses.”

Adnams has been brewing from its base at Southwold in Suffolk for more than 100 years and produces a range of cask and bottled beers.

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