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Green Business Network

Biogen - enhancing green credentials with BETI+

BIOGEN (UK) Ltd represents the eco-technology division of the Bedfordia Group.  BIOGEN operates an integrated anaerobic digestion (AD) facility for the treatment of pig slurry generated on farm and food waste arising from any part of the food chain.  BIOGEN’s plant in Bedfordshire was the first of its kind in the UK.  The plant just north of Bedford, based on sister company Bedfordia Farms land, provides a sustainable outlet for food waste, whilst producing renewable energy in the form of electricity and heat.  It also produces a valuable bio-fertiliser which is applied to crops in place of fossil fuel derived fertilisers (for every tonne of chemically derived nitrogen based fertiliser, two tonnes of carbon dioxide is produced).

Biogen's anaerobic digestion plantFood waste from abattoirs, food manufacturers, retailers and households is brought on-site and then mixed with pig slurry from the adjacent Bedfordia Farms pig unit. This mixture is then heated up to 70 degrees for one hour before being transferred into one of two digesters (gas-tight vessels) where it is kept at a constant 40 degrees Celsius.  The natural bacteria present in the digesters breaks the food waste down, with the final stage releasing methane. This is then captured and used to power combined heat and power units which provide renewable electricity into the national grid (enough to power over 1000 houses continually), and heat which is re-used in the process to pasteurise the feedstock to 70 degrees and to keep the digesters at a constant temperature.  The remainder of the product is a valuable bio-fertiliser which is utilised on the surrounding fields.

Whilst the BIOGEN business has indisputable green credentials, it also wants to ensure that all its own environmental procedures and processes are managed in an ordered and recognisable way. The BETI+ project couldn’t have come at a better time for the company as it starts to roll this technology out across the UK.

“The very nature of our business is green; however we feel attaining ISO 14001 will further demonstrate our commitment to environmental improvement and protection.  It will ensure that we look at all aspects of our business from the design, build and operation of our plants right through to the office based activities.  Achieving the standard will also provide confidence to our customers that we are striving for environmental excellence” says Kate Lister, Environment Manager. “In fact, we have committed to having ISO 14001 registration within the next twelve months in our recent tender documents, so our target has been set.”

With a degree in Environmental Management, experience with the Environment Agency, and working on a site that has IPPC and Waste Management licences, Kate Lister already had a head start in understanding the demands of ISO 14001. However, she found the CIEH Level 3 Environmental Management course extremely useful. “It really got me started on looking seriously at aspects and impacts, and how the environmental management system slots together,” she says.

“The group dynamics were also good, with the more experienced people helping less experienced delegates. The tutor also managed to keep it interesting and stimulating for those who already knew quite a bit without confusing the people who started with less knowledge.”

On-site visits followed on from the Level 3 course, and this served to confirm that BIOGEN was going down the right track in developing its’ system. “The on-site support has provided us with a template on which we can base the rest of our system,” says Kate. “We’re quite a long way down the road towards developing an EMS, and we have a lot of procedures and processes in place. It’s a matter now of drawing all our procedures together into the one system.”

The company is currently focusing on setting up several more AD plants throughout the UK.  Using their knowledge and expertise gained from the Bedfordshire based plant, BIOGEN have incorporated much of this learning into a second generation design. The factor that makes BIOGEN’s system unique is that it is designed to complete the loop; the fertiliser is used as an integral part of the arable crop production on the farm.  The circle is then complete–what starts in food production, ends in food production–and in the process renewable energy is recovered from gas that would have otherwise been released to atmosphere (methane is 22 times more damaging than CO2 in global warming terms).  What’s more there is no transportation involved with the bio-fertiliser as it is all pumped directly from the tanks through the use of an underground irrigation main onto the surrounding fields. .

Not only is BIOGEN looking to roll-out  ISO 14001 to all its new sites, using knowledge gained through BETI+, but the other parts of the Bedfordia Group are also now considering implementing environmental management systems.

And Kate’s verdict on BETI+? “This is a very good programme – it is logically constructed and really helps businesses to get ISO 14001 systems up and running,” she says.