Chicken litter to power a biogas and fertiliser plant in Northern Ireland

Ireland-based renewable energy developer Stream BioEnergy has commenced construction in Northern Ireland on a new biogas plant that will process large volumes of chicken litter.

The plant, to be located just outside the town of Ballymena, will generate 3MW of renewable electricity from up to 40,000 tonnes of chicken litter each year, enough to 4,000 homes.

The capital cost of the plant will be approximately £20 million (€25.8m), financed partially by funds managed by Foresight Group and Invest Northern Ireland.

Xergi, a specialist supplier of large scale biogas plants, will deliver the plant and will also be a shareholder in the project.

”The plant will convert the chicken litter into biogas, which will be used to produce green electricity. At the same time the nutrients become an environmentally friendly fertiliser that can replace chemical fertiliser for farmers,” said CEO Jørgen Ballermann from Xergi.

One of the intentions of the project is to handle chicken litter in a way that protects the environment and improves on the traditional practice of spreading the litter untreated on land.

”Nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen are easily absorbed by the plants in the field, once the litter has been through the biogas process. This minimises the risk of the nutrients washing out from the fields into watercourses and causing an adverse impact on the environment which is happening at the moment,” explained Ballermann.

Due to the specific combination of nutrients in chicken litter, it has until now been necessary to keep the amount of chicken litter processed in biogas plants at a low level and mixed with other feedstock types.

However, Xergi has created a process that makes it possible to run biogas plants fully on chicken litter as the only input feedstock.

”Our new process combines knowhow and technology that has been developed over the last decade and it will provide a significant opportunity for the poultry industry not just in Northern Ireland but throughout the world,” Ballermann said.

The plant is due to become fully operational by early 2018.

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