Collaboration developing technology to turn waste into valuable resources

The University of York and Yorkshire Water are working together to establish a Centre of Excellence for anaerobic digestion (AD) research at the University and Yorkshire Water’s Naburn site as part of a £1.2m project.

The organisations first collaborated in 2016 and delivered the System-60 AD research facility in the Department of Biology at the University of York.

Over the next four years the additional funding will advance the ground-breaking research with the creation of a Centre of Excellence for AD research.

Yorkshire Water has committed £600,000 to the project, which will transform AD performance, delivering environmental and financial benefits, for Yorkshire Water and its customers.

The work conducted will strengthen the university’s bio/circular economy research portfolio, contributing to the regional aspiration to become carbon neutral.

Tom Hall, Yorkshire Water head of bioresources, said: “Anaerobic digestion facilities are vital to the way we treat our sewage sludge both now and into the future.

“We currently treat around 145,000 dry tonnes of sewage sludge each year and this is likely to increase to around 180,000 dry tonnes by 2035 given population growth in our region and new regulations linked to phosphorus removal.

“This collaboration with the University of York is a vital part of Yorkshire Water’s programme for improving the environment and supporting the company’s commitment to net zero carbon emissions.”

Richard Kershaw, Yorkshire Water wastewater innovation programme manager, said: “The strong partnership we have formed with the University of York is helping us to understand how existing anaerobic digestion facilities can be made to perform more effectively.

“This next project will enable us to increase digester throughput, boost renewable energy generation and ultimately provide our customers with value for money.”

Yorkshire Water says it would welcome collaborative input from other water companies.

Plans to scale up the research programme, expand the lab and pilot facilities and build a large-scale test facility have also been proposed as part of a planned submission to the Ofwat Innovation fund in November.

Professor James Chong, University of York, Department of Biology, said: “I’m very excited that a long-term partnership has developed from the work we have carried out with Yorkshire Water.

“This new project represents an important opportunity to develop both our fundamental understanding of the biology underpinning anaerobic digestion and how we translate this knowledge into real world applications, as a critical part of the UK/global drive towards net zero.”

Professor Matthias Ruth, pro vice chancellor for research at the university, added: “The project will contribute to a sustainable green recovery from the pandemic, develop the intellectual foundations underpinning anaerobic digestion, and deliver real-world impact and benefits for the region’s people, industries and environment.

“This long-term partnership will strengthen the bond between the institutions and represents a new chapter in our relationship.”