Modern civilization is developing alternatives to fossil fuels at an extraordinary rate. “Blue fuels” made from air are one example, we can now add “green gas” to the growing list of additions to the energy lexicon.
Grass is probably one of the most ubiquitous, yet inconspicuous part of our environment, taken for granted by all but those involved in getting it to grow. A British company, Ecotricity, has received approval to build a facility to produce “green gas” from grass, and similar organics, harvested from “low quality arable farmland” with marginal grazing capability. This alternate energy company, which already has wind farms and photovoltaic installations tied to the English grid, has plans to supply the UK with an eco-friendly source of heat for cooking and warming their homes and businesses. They estimate that by the year 2035, 97 per cent of all their natural gas supplies could be produced from this untapped source of energy, making a huge contribution to reducing their GHG emissions, and rendering the UK energy independent.
Acknowledging that farmland is also the source of our food supply, they have developed a course of action that allows for rotation of crop lands, fertilized using the residue produced by their AD, (anaerobic digestion), process. Their plan claims to increase the quality of the soil, and bring lower quality arable land back into food production.
The anaerobic digester processor is supplied with rough grasses and organic materials which are broken down with micro-organisms in an oxygen-free environment. A tank and piping system collects and separates the bio-methane produced, as well as the compost type material waste that results. This bio-methane will be scrubbed of any produced carbon dioxide, and when their plant is up and running, it will be pumped directly into the UK’s National Gas Grid.
Ecotricity’s first “Gasmill” received approval for construction in October 2016. Rated at 6 MW of energy, it is enough to power approximately 4,200 homes, eliminating emissions of 3500 tonnes of CO2. Located at Sparsholt College in Hampshire, it will also serve as a training centre for educating new “green gas engineers”. More facilities are in the planning stage with the next being near Fiddington, in Gloucestershire.
This initiative will not only help reduce the carbon foot print generated by conventional fuels, but more importantly it will give the Brits independence from energy imports. That may seem insignificant to those of us in our energy rich corner of the world, but notably, the United Kingdom is not alone in searching for energy independence.
Will Alberta, with it abundance of fossil fuels, and its 226,000 kms of unharvested ditches along grid roads and highways, recognize the opportunity? We could add to our current energy resources, augment the quality of those reserves, and perhaps more importantly, offer a product that helps reduce the worlds GHG emissions in a manner significant as being more acceptable to our customers. Sales are based on perception; there is influence in the perception of being at the apex of new technologies.
Lorne Oja can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.