Household waste could power off-grid UK homes via bio-LPG, report shows

A new report by a UK trade association for the LPG industry has outlined how a green future for off-grid homes and businesses can be powered by household waste, wood biomass, and used cooking oil (UCO).

The report by Liquid Gas UK (LGUK), developed independently by bioenergy experts NNFCC, outlines the possible supply chain routes to create a thriving bio-LPG production industry in the UK, providing a green fuel solution for the 2.5 million off-grid homes and businesses.

One of the leading technologies with the potential to produce around 368,000 tonnes of a mix of bio-LPG and low-carbon LPG, annually, is the conversion of up to 3 million tonnes of refuse-derived fuel (RDF), derived from residual household and similar waste that is currently exported internationally.

According to LGUK, the RDF would be turned into bio-LPG/low-carbon LPG via gasification. An additional source of bio-LPG would come from the 14.6 million tonnes of municipal solid waste that the UK sends to landfill each year.

The NNFCC report also analysed other forms of bio-LPG production from renewable sources, with wood biomass – particularly strong in Scotland – having the potential to produce 180,000 tonnes of bio-LPG.

George Webb, CEO of LGUK, said: “Last year, we outlined our vision to achieve net-zero and a 100% switch to bio-LPG across the industry by 2040. Today’s report lays the marker for how that goal can be achieved by creating a thriving bio-LPG supply chain here in the UK.

“The encouraging signal from the report is the diversified routes that can be taken both technology-wise and geographically across the UK to produce this versatile renewable gas.

“Creating greener buildings was a key aspect of the government’s recently announced Ten Point Plan for a green industrial revolution. Bio-LPG is central to decarbonising homes not connected to the gas grid and it can be produced right here in the UK.

“Having multiple technologies feeding into the supply chains means that supply will become stronger by not having an over-reliance on one key feedstock or a few facilities.

“This report also notes how bio-LPG, unlike bio-liquids, can be dropped into existing infrastructure, meaning that as the mix of bio-LPG to LPG grows with new supply channels coming on stream, consumers can carry on using their existing boiler and tank systems.”

According to LGUK, the domestic production potential of bio-LPG should be capitalised upon amid global growth in demand for LPG, with production and consumption increasing from 315 million tonnes in 2018 to 323 million tonnes in 2019.

“Our analysis shows that to develop the production capacity, we need an investment of between £1-2 billion (€1.09-2.19 billion) over the coming decades,” said Webb.

“As well as helping to produce over 1 million tonnes of bio-LPG annually, such an investment will produce wider economic benefit, supporting over 500 jobs through the construction phase, as well as creating new jobs at the plants and utilising existing refinery capacity in a low-carbon world.

“Already we are seeing huge investment from the industry over the coming years, with our members set to invest over £100 million (€109 million) into bio-LPG in the next five years, alongside £600 million (€657 million) of investment in wider capex including storage and transport.

“The LPG industry is worth over £1 billion (€1.09 billion) to the UK economy and has strong potential making it primed and ready to work with government to deliver a bio-LPG future. But, to unlock the kind of investment is needed to deliver UK production, we are reaching a tipping point where clear direction from government is needed as to the role of bio-LPG in contributing to the UK’s net-zero goal.”

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