Exclusive interview: Petter Jacobsen of Antec
Antec is a Norwegian company, and it was founded on a new method of biogas production, which consists of an anaerobic digester that combines two known technologies – biofilm and plugflow. Jacobsen said the goal is to create an optimal environment for bacteria to grow in by learning from nature.
“Bacteria do the work in anaerobic digestion, and there is one place where they naturally thrive best. That’s why our technology imitates the market leader in methane production: the cow,” added Jacobsen.
The technology enables Antec to process biowaste at the third of the retention time as compared to CSTR (continuous stirred tank reactor) digestors, and it has access to more robust bacteria that can handle higher energy feedstock.
The company has built an organisation around this technology, which takes responsibility for developing, building and operating biogas plants, including the provision of capital. The market has been screaming for value chain integration, Jacobsen said. “By facilitating that integration, we are contributing to bringing more renewable energy to the market faster, which is exactly what the world needs.”
Antec partners with biomass owners and builds biogas plants where the waste is – minimising further carbon emissions. The company also invites its partners to take an ownership position, so they can partake in the generation of renewables.
“The ultimate goal is to originate as many biogas plants as possible to help communities around the globe to minimise their planetary footprint. I have the pleasure of working with a very competent team and many ambitious partners to achieve just that,” said Jacobsen.
Europe – and beyond
Antec is determined to expand its business worldwide. “It is exciting to be in a business where the more we deliver, the better for the world,” noted Jacobsen. “We are also looking for partners, both companies that have biomass, of course, but also regional developers who want to collaborate to scale the deployment of biogas plants.
“We believe that working together is the key to accelerating, and our ambition is to be the best possible partner for anyone that has biowaste, or that wants to build a biogas plant, globally.”
With growth in mind, Bioenergy Insight was interested in Jacobsen’s take on the European Union’s (EU) regulatory stance. A common bugbear we have heard is the time it takes for biogas producers to receive permits to construct plants – hindering the expansion of biogas.
However, the European Commission (EC) has agreed on accelerated permitting rules for renewables, and Jacobsen noted the EC has played an active role in promoting renewables, but biomethane specifically, as part of the energy mix.
“I could mention everything from RED II to RePowerEU, and also the Horizon 2020 for Technology innovation,” he said. “I believe sincerely that they have been instrumental in the increased focus on biomethane that we now see, which is, of course, based on the very positive fundamentals of biomethane.”
The company supports all initiatives that help accelerate the deployment of biomethane plants, Jacobsen added, and so the EC’s decision to implement accelerated permitting rules for renewables is “a positive step”.
“As a company working across regions and countries, we strongly support the unification of permitting and support regimes across borders,” Jacobsen continued. “Currently, we see some examples of cross-border support regime arbitrage that are negative for the industry as a whole. We want an aligned and ambitious regulatory - and support regime, and we are cheering on everyone that is helping to push in that direction.”
Not only that, but Antec recently joined the World Biogas Association (WBA), which will help the company in giving it access to valuable resources and expertise.
“Our membership demonstrates our commitment to promoting the growth of the biogas industry and creating a renewable future. Overall, our partnership with the WBA will help us stay at the forefront of the industry and make a positive impact on the world,” Jacobsen added.
In terms of accelerating the construction of biogas plants, Jacobsen told Bioenergy Insight that Antec’s approach is based on standardisation. This maximises the learning curve, and minimises the cost and construction time. “We have several plant concepts that have been developed in collaboration with our engineers and biologists. And that is really the key: engineering standard concepts, taking into account a plant lifecycle perspective on both production and reliability. To achieve that, we need to collaborate across engineering, biology and operations,” he said.
Antec recently announced a partnership with Amiblu, the manufacturer of glass-reinforced plastic (GRP) pipes fittings. The partnership gives Antec access to a global supply chain, helping the company produce its digestors faster, and at lower cost. In addition, its modular design, off-site construction process and low area use makes it easy to scale production, according to Jacobsen.
The rest of 2023
On asking what the rest of 2023 holds for Antec, Jacobsen said: “Full speed ahead! We are growing the organisation, doubling year on year, so we are getting many new colleagues. We are entering the building phase for two new plants. We are looking to originate several new projects to be built next year and the years to come. Hopefully, we can also announce several new partnerships soon, both on the biomass side and the developer side.
“We really feel the momentum, every day. We are in the middle of the energy transition, and an industry that is going from a marginal part of the energy mix to an essential part.
“It is fun; it is exciting, and it is hard, but very meaningful work!” he concluded.
Petter Jacobsen is a speaker at the International Biomass Conference & Expo 2023. To view the programme and register, click here.