Clean Sweep - How F & D Manufacturers are Meeting Emissions Targets

Posted by Clare Burns on 18-Aug-2015 15:32:47

Installing a biogas project with anaerobic digestion and biogas CHP will reduce your greenhouse gas emissions by displacing conventional energy from fossil fuels with cleaner, cheaper renewable energy.


The largest manufacturing sector and fourth-highest industrial energy user in the UK, Food & Drink has an ambitious target of a 35% reduction in CO2 emissions from its use of energy by 2020.

Or should we say had a target. The latest report from the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) confirms that its ambition has already been achieved through implementation of improved energy management strategies. Looking forward, Industrial Decarbonisation & Energy Efficiency Roadmaps to 2050, published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change in March, details how the implementation of future policy will help the industry maintain its long-term sustainability.

So, how are Food & Drink manufacturers managing to achieve this?

Reduce energy, reduce emissions

The main sources of greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing sites relate to the use of energy. This includes direct emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, to produce heat and steam, and indirect emissions, including the use of grid electricity and power production equipment.

Making production processes more energy efficient will reduce both conventional energy use and emissions. Using low-carbon technologies will reduce energy and emissions even further. On-site cogeneration of electrical power and heat energy from a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) unit fuelled by natural gas will reduce carbon emissions by up to 30%.

Renewable energy – bigger reductions

CHP can also operate with alternative fuel sources with an even greater impact on emissions savings. Biodegradable organic food waste treated in an anaerobic digestion (AD) process will produce biogas. This combustion fuel can be used to generate renewable electricity and heat energy from a CHP unit.

Not only that, Biogas projects are considered carbon neutral as the CHP’s CO2 exhaust emissions are no greater than the CO2 originally absorbed during photosynthesis of the organic waste natural carbon cycle. The CHP combusts the methane in the food waste, preventing it from being released into the atmosphere had it been left to decompose at landfill. Fossil fuel emissions of conventional grid energy are therefore displaced.

Reducing transport emissions

This area may not be quite as significant as the emissions from energy use, but the transport of food materials still contributes to the industry’s carbon footprint.

At a time when air pollution from diesel emissions is increasingly in the news – with the rising levels of particulates that are damaging to health and reports of smog in city centres under the spotlight – freight hauliers are facing intense scrutiny. Consequently, the FDF are taking responsibility for their members’ actions with a commitment to producing ‘fewer and friendlier’ food transport miles.

One example is where an AD biogas project uses on-site food waste, reducing or even eliminating the transport of waste to landfill, and leading to an associated saving in vehicle emissions – and fuel costs. This also helps with the FDF’s target for ‘zero waste to landfill’.

Biofuels for transport

Biogas can also be cleaned and upgraded to biomethane. In gaseous form it can be sold for injection into a natural gas grid, or if compressed and liquefied, sold as a renewable transport fuel for vehicles running on compressed or liquefied natural gas.

Even though the uptake has been slow so far, the significantly reduced levels of emissions and pollutants compared with petrol and diesel engines means the use of biomethane is being incentivised under the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation subsidy to support the UK’s target of 10% renewable energy in transport by 2020.

Introducing the FDF's progress report, the federation’s recent Director General, Melanie Leech, writes: "...our success begs the question of ‘what next’ and the FDF will be considering this over the next few months – but the drive to reduce emissions whilst increasing our activities and outputs remains undiminished."

Reducing emissions is now an established direction of travel for the industry, and  biogas projects are becoming increasingly important for sustainability and for engineering managers tasked with achieving this ambition.


  • Reducing the amount of energy you use and the greenhouse gas emissions you produce
  • Using anaerobic digestion to produce biogas from your food waste and generate renewable energy in a biogas CHP, making bigger reductions in emissions
  • Helping to reduce the emissions by reducing food transport miles
  • Producing biofuels from your food waste 
What to Consider When Planning a Biogas Project (F&D)

Topics: Food and Drink Manufacturing

Clare Burns

Clare Burns is a technical marketer with many years’ experience in the energy arena, as well as in fashion, telecoms and education. Fluent in 3 languages, Clare has worked across Europe. She currently works for ENER-G, a UK manufacturer of carbon reducing, energy efficient products exporting its cogeneration technology across the globe.