The following is some information about the project that we hope will explain the 'who, how and why':
Background to the Project
The architect of the project is David Bermingham, a local Goring resident, who has been working with Scotia Gas Networks to try to identify a suitable site for a plant which could produce green gas for the local area. The gas main which serves Goring and the local villages, and which would be capable of accepting biomethane, runs broadly along Icknield Road from the junction with the A4074 near Ipsden, down to Goring, where it crosses under the river and heads towards Yattendon and then onwards South to Brimpton. This gas main is the only one that runs at a pressure appropriate for biomethane injection, and so if the local villages are to be supplied with green gas, it would have to be via this particular gas pipeline.
Guy Hildred, a local farmer, owns the site of the proposed plant (indeed he lives right next door to it), and is a big supporter of gas to grid anaerobic digestion. David and Guy have been working together to assess the feasibility of the project, and have made a pre-planning submission to South Oxfordshire District Council, and are undertaking local consultation, priot to submitting a formal planning application at the beginning of November.
Both David and Guy, as local residents, are extremely aware of the sensitivity of the location within the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The selection of the site and the design of the project have both been done with a view to minimising any adverse impact on the local environment, whether visual or otherwise. It is a fact, however (because of the geography of the gas pipeline), that it is not possible to build a facility to supply green gas to the local villages without that plant being constructed within the AONB, and so the emphasis of the proposal has been on the mitigation of any adverse impacts.
This website will hopefully give people a good idea of what the project will entail, so that they can make informed submissions in respect of the planning application.
Overview of the Plant
The proposed AD plant at Icknield Farm will consist primarily of two digester tanks (each approx 30m in diameter), two gas storage bags for the residue digestate, a small CHP engine (sitting within a container), and the gas clean-up equipment, which will consist of two containerised membrane filtration units, a control house, propanisation equipment (which will be largely buried underground) and a network entry facility (the valves to enable the biomethane to be introduced into the existing gas main). There will be standard silage clamps (as seen in all dairy farms) to contain the maize silage after harvest and pending its introduction to the digesters (see below under Feedstock). See our gallery of pictures for some representative photographs of this type of equipment at other sites.
The site location is about as good as it is possible to find, being extremely close to the intermediate pressure gas main that serves the local community, with good transport connections, in an area that is very sparsely populated, and hardly overlooked. The topography of the site (it sits within a natural bowl) makes it extremely difficult to see from most aspects, and its location between existing farm buildings and a relatively large commercial site suggests that it will not create any form of a blot on the landscape, but should hopefully blend in rather easily with its surroundings. See the outline plans for the site.
The two digesters (which would be the tallest structures on the site because of the domed gas bags on top of each tank) will be dug into the site to a depth of approximately 5 metres, with the aim of keeping the height of any structure to a minimum within the context of the existing height of surrounding buildings. We have puts some pictures of the site from various angles onto the Visuals page, together with some photomontages which are designed to give an impression of how the structures will look within their environment. Note that these photomontages do not include any of the landscaping which is intended to be done to provide further screening of the site. Careful attention has been paid to the 'look' of the site, and it has been designed with a view to blending into its surroundings to the maximum extent possible. In particular, most if not all physical structures will be dark green, and will hopefully have the look of agricultural buildings rather than an industrial site.
The plant will consume approximately 10,000 tonnes of pig slurry per annum, which will be transported to the site periodically from a local piggery, and retained in a sealed slurry tank before introduction to the digesters. The energy crop will consist of a mixture of maize silage (a maximum of 10,000 tonnes per annum), and cereals. The maize will all be grown on farms locally, and the cereals may either be locally grown or bought in the open market, or a mixture of both, allowing the feedstock provider (Guy Hildred) to dispose easily of lower grade crop into the digester if he so desires, which might otherwise be expensive to treat before sale, or indeed might even otherwise be ploughed back into the ground.
Importantly, the plant will never use any food, garden, domestic or industrial waste. Its feedstock will be exclusively farm products (crop and slurry). Using any other form of feedstock would require a much more complicated process, including pasteurisation and pre-sorting, and would require all kinds of environmental licences and an entirely different planning process through Oxfordshire County Council.
At full capacity the plant will produce approximately 10 million cubic metres of biogas annually, which after the removal of the CO2 should produce approximately 5 to 6 million cubic metres of biomethane, or enough for the annual gas consumption of up to 3000 homes. A small amount of the biogas will be used to run a combined heat and power engine which will supply sufficient electricity and heat for the needs of the plant itself. The biomethane will be injected into the gas main at a point immediately adjacent to the site, and transported directly to local homes and businesses.
Funding and Revenues
The project will be funded through a combination of equity raised under the Enterprise Investment Scheme, and lease finance provided by Scotia Gas Networks in respect of the gas clean-up equipment. The revenue from the plant will be derived from sale of the gas into the network, and payments under the Government's Renewable Heat Incentive scheme, which has been established to encourage the generation of renewable forms of heat, including biofuels such as biomethane which are capable of producing heat.