United Kingdom: new pilot supports biogas as vehicle fuel in Cornwall

United Kingdom: new pilot supports biogas as vehicle fuel in Cornwall

Cornwall Council is combining ambitious plans to introduce renewable fuel sources for its vehicle fleet with a ground-breaking scheme to boost the future of farming and create more green jobs for residents. Together with Cormac, which looks after its fleet, the authority has joined forces with six of its Cornwall Council Farms estate-owned dairy farms and a Cornish technology company to trial the production of biomethane made from manure slurry in a pilot scheme believed to be the first of its type in the world.

If successful, the program could be rolled out to hundreds of small-scale farms across Cornwall and create significant opportunities for farmers to diversify their income streams, save on operating costs, join the green economy and contribute to helping fight climate change. The move also signals the start of the Council’s transition to running a low emission fleet and investment in sustainable agricultural technology to create more green jobs for residents and boost Cornwall’s economic recovery from the pandemic. 

Over the last two years clean energy company Bennamann Ltd has been testing a patent-pending engineering method to turn farm waste – such as cow manure and grass cuttings – into biomethane. Its pioneering work has been supported by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Growth Program’s Energy Independent Farm project, which is financed by the European Regional Development Fund and led by Bennamann in partnership with the University of Exeter and Chynoweth Farm Partners.

Having already started trialing its processed biomethane in a tractor and Cormac’s fleet of tarmac hot boxes, Bennamann’s capture technology will now be expanded in sealed slurry lagoons on six Council-owned dairy farms located across Cornwall. The biogas project is the first step in the Council and the Corserv Group’s program to transition towards carbon neutral fleet operations by 2030.  

The £1.58m Council-funded pilot will see Bennamann collect and upgrade the biogas produced at the farms before delivering it to Cormac to fuel a fleet of 77 road maintenance trucks. Farms taking part in the program can sell the captured biomethane and develop a new revenue stream.

“As we work on tackling the climate emergency and our Covid recovery this zero-carbon pilot will not only transform our Cormac fleet and cut emissions, it brings investment to our farms and our agricultural and technological sector in Cornwall to create long-term, quality jobs in the green economy,” said Edwina Hannaford, Cornwall’s cabinet member for climate change and neighborhoods. “Biomethane could play an important role in helping Cornwall become carbon neutral by 2030, and this new technology developed by an innovative Cornish company will allow small scale farmers to join the growing biomethane market for the first time.”  

Chris Mann, Bennamann co-founder and chief executive, commented: “We are passionate about delivering a local clean energy revolution that brings commercially viable, sustainable production and distribution of small-scale farm biomethane sourcing to the marketplace. And this ground-breaking pilot represents a significant milestone in achieving that ambition. We are proud to be a Cornish company that has the potential to radically change the global energy market and look forward to delivering a successful pilot that will put Cornwall at the forefront of pioneering renewable energy innovation, as well as help the Council achieve its zero carbon goals and post pandemic recovery plans.”  

Al Hoare, group central services director for Corserv, manages the Cormac fleet, said: “Our ambition is to transition our fleet to ultra-low emission vehicles by 2030, supporting one of our key priorities of tackling climate change and increasing sustainability. While testing is still ongoing, this partnership could be a game-changer for Cornwall.”

“Cornwall has a growing reputation as a clean energy pioneer and this project could be transformative for rural communities and the environment by using farm waste to produce zero-carbon fuel,” added Mark Duddridge, Chair of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership.


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