And so we are just over half way there…….

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With the ATBEST project having reached the halfway point, Project Coordinator Sam McCloskey reflects on the progress and achievements to date.

What lessons have we learned along the ATBEST project journey and what have we got to look forward to in the future?  We have just received our formal feedback from the EU Project Officer from the project mid-term review that took place in Essen, Germany in May 2015. It is a credit to the Project Manager, all of the ATBEST fellows and their Academic Supervisors that feedback was very positive. Let’s summarise the achievements to date:

  • 12 Early Stage Researchers in post – all studying for PhD’s
  • 2 Late Stage Researchers – linked to industry
  • 8 Project Partners in 4 countries (5 Academic Institutions and 3 Industry partners)
    • UK, Ireland, Sweden, Germany
    • Three regional meetings – Belfast, Cork and Essen
    • Two summer schools – Germany & Sweden
    • Dissemination activity including articles, events and posters
    • A wide range of training activity for the Fellows
    • Secondments to industry are now taking place

 

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The research projects follow the life cycle of biogas production from optimum feedstock in to the biogas plant through to maximising the output and use of the biogas product. Projects cover a range of solutions to issues that industry is facing including the use of novel probes, biogas for transportation, the gas grid, fuel cells, storage and logistics. So far there have been a number of notable scientific highlights including:

  • That the addition of hydrogen from surplus renewable energy production increases the methane yield from mono-digestion of grass silage (Markus Voelklein & Professor Jerry Murphy)
  • Methane production from co-digestion of grass silage and cattle slurry compares well against mono-digestion with grass silage (Himanshu & Padraig O’Kiely)
  • Miniature probes can provide online monitoring solutions to AD plant and the ability to detect unstable conditions within AD plant early (Professor Dr Michael Bongards. Dr Christian Wolff & Rob Eccleston)

 

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Going back to basics then, the original aim of the project was “to develop new and innovative technologies for the biogas sector, to enable Europe to implement its Energy 2020 strategy and to address the challenges of increasing energy demand and energy generation costs.” Is the project on target to achieving those aims?

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Well, the ATBEST research puts biogas production right at the heart of the three pillars of sustainability, where traditionally it has been viewed as environmentally acceptable there has been scepticism over the social and commercial viability of large scale biogas production. The project aligns with EU biogas policy in the SET Plan and the EU 20/20/20 vision and specifically focuses on maximising the sustainability of biogas production, enhancing the commercial value of the biogas product and at the same time, providing jobs and opportunities not just for the 14 researchers but for the industry as a whole.

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However, there is plenty of work still to be done in the remaining 18 months of the ATBEST project and the team has much to look forward to. Plans are being put in place to road map knowledge / technology transfer from each of the research projects with potential pathways to product and service commercialisation now being developed. There is also the November 2015 meeting in Belfast followed up by the summer school in Northern Ireland and our final conference in Linkӧping in Autumn 2016.

Well done to all the ATBEST team for the successes so far and keep up the great work!

Sam McCloskey (ATBEST Coordinator)

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