Fighting fracking with gas from grass

Article by Staff Writer

UK green energy firm Ecotricity claims gas from grass could offer a green alternative to fracking, and will offer to build its anaerobic digestion plants in communities opposed to the contentious technique.

The company says that building 5,000 anaerobic digestion facilities, which would process locally-sourced grass into biomethane for injection into the grid, could provide the gas needs of 97% of the country’s homes by 2035.

“We are beginning to drop planning applications for green gas mills into every place where there is a planning application for fracking,” said Ecotricity founder Dale Vince.

“We now have a more than viable alternative to fracking, which people have been fighting tooth and nail up and down the country to prevent. It’s not too late, because fracking hasn’t started yet. We need a proper review of where Britain gets its gas from – we can either frack the countryside or we can grow the grass. It’s that simple.”

The company was given permission earlier this year to build a 6 MW green gas mill in Hampshire, but construction hinges on the results of the government’s consultation into the renewable energy incentive, in which Ecotricity has called for grass to be permitted as a feedstock.

Vince compares the company’s operations to ‘modern cows’ with their facilities converting local grass into gas – captured for the grid rather than emitted to the atmosphere – and fertiliser that is returned to the land to grow more grass. The company has been keen to point out that production of its grass wouldn’t impact food production.

It adds that the benefits of green grass extend beyond the reduction in carbon emissions, claiming it will help Britain become energy independent, support food production by improving soils, create wildlife habitats, and provide support for farmers who are set to lose EU subsidies following Brexit.

A company spokesperson, challenged on the robustness of the projections, told The Chemical Engineer that the numbers are based on National Grid models for falling gas demand and DEFRA figures for available marginal land to grow the grass.

Lynne Featherstone, Liberal Democrat MP and Lords spokesperson for energy and climate change has come out in support of Ecotricity’s plan: “If the government would only throw its weight behind green gas, it would go a long way to delivering on our renewable heating targets and secure our energy for the future. I am very grateful to Ecotricity and others who want and are willing to push forward on this vital part of our energy mix.”

Doug Parr, chief scientist and policy director of Greenpeace UK, said: “As long as it’s not competing with food production, green gas like this project can be really helpful in getting the UK onto a cleaner and lower carbon path. Agriculture need not simply be part of the problem in tackling climate change, but through innovation it can be part of the solution, and improve wildlife habitats at the same time.”

Article by Staff Writer

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