The Wales Centre of Excellence for Anaerobic Digestion at University of South Wales has carried out critical research which led to policy changes and the development of new waste treatment infrastructure in the UK, Europe and internationally.
Research led to state-of-the-art anaerobic digestion (AD) infrastructure in seven food waste recovery hubs and carbon footprint savings of 660 kt CO2e/year, leading to Wales becoming the third country in the world with the highest municipal recycling rates.
The UK deployed 683 AD plants supplying 4.1 TWh of electricity/yr, enough to power 1.3M homes with direct employment of around 10,000 people. UK based AD industry has cut emissions by approximately 5.1 Mt CO2e/yr equivalent to 1% of total UK emissions. USW research also contributed to 93 AD plants qualifying under the Biofertiliser Certification delivering a saving of £5.4M/year.
Methodologies developed were used by numerous companies to drive sustainability and commercial efficiencies with over 30% improved performances. Research enabled investment in advanced AD facilities of £140M and a reduction of over 85% of sludge transport costs with significant savings expected on flocculants. USW research has also led to an increase of over 400% in deployment of AD plants in Malaysia.
The UK government’s commitment to reduce the impact of climate change under the Paris Agreement, means the country needs to increasingly develop and utilise renewable sources of energy and reduce transport and industrial emissions of greenhouse gases.
Research at the University of South Wales Hydrogen Centre focuses on the application of hydrogen technologies to achieve deep decarbonisation of industry, transport and the energy sector.
From 2008, our researchers developed an innovative and commercially viable approach to producing Hydrogen, which led to work with ITM Power in deploying their first commercial PEM electrolyser and consequently expanding their business to implement refuelling stations and hydrogen plants worldwide.
Furthermore, our research has also influenced the development of UK and Welsh government policy on hydrogen and has accelerated industrial engagement in decarbonisation activity, particularly through development of novel techniques to recover major volumes of hydrogen from steel making, and the formation and development of an extensive South Wales Industrial Cluster (SWIC) with over 40 industrial partners from several sectors.
Finally, the USW Hydrogen Centre has been instrumental in changing policy at the nationalised State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC) supporting them in the introduction of electrolytic hydrogen as a balancing mechanism for electricity grid operation and for the deployment of hydrogen refuelling stations in China.
University of South Wales has been instrumental at enabling EU policy and financial incentive changes that resulted in the delivery of 2.4 billion m3/yr of biomethane for grid and transport use and has promoted deployment further afield.
The research allowed a supplier of technology to grow from €1.5M to €25M annual turnover expanding to a worldwide presence, delivering 720,000 m3/d of biomethane and saving 122 ktonnes of CO2/yr, and with an early capital expenditure of €75M by producers.
In the UK, the capital expenditure of the sector has been £1.5bn, with an associated revenue of £450M/annum and directly employs 1000 people.
As an example, an UK gas network distributor is taking biomethane into their network from 19 biomethane sites and is supplying 1.7 TWh of low carbon energy, equivalent to the heat demand of over 140,000 homes, and reducing the distributor carbon footprint by 300 ktonnesCO2e/yr.