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Digester Remediation: Blame Game Must Stop for Failing Farm Biogas Plants

Remediating digesters when commissioning new plants fails, is becoming a crisis in which disputes over liability are all too common. In this article, we have to report a lack of willingness among some suppliers to sort out teething problems that are in danger of leading the whole industry into disrepute.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Farmers, and Stakeholders,

In our industry, critique is seldom without cause. Today, we face a dire situation that compels us to speak up and join with Landia, and the following Press Release—not to assign blame but to highlight a critical issue impacting the UK's biogas sector, especially our farming community.

The allure of low initial investments has misled many into adopting biogas plant designs ill-suited for the UK's unique combination of feedstocks and our local environmental and operational conditions. The trend toward highly price-competitive bidding from international contractors who implement inferior cost-cutting solutions has resulted in numerous operational failures, undermining the financial viability of projects and damaging the industry's reputation.

It's crucial to understand that the seemingly higher upfront costs of engaging local UK designers and builders are, in fact, investments in efficiency, sustainability, and long-term success. These experts possess intimate knowledge of our specific UK challenges and offer bespoke solutions that genuinely perform under local conditions.

Our call to action is simple yet urgent: the agricultural community must do much more to prioritize quality and suitability over short-term savings. The future of many anaerobic digestion plants in the UK hinges on our ability to make informed decisions that ensure the longevity and profitability of biogas plants.

As you read the following press release, consider it a blueprint for moving forward. Together, we can foster a robust, successful biogas industry that supports our farmers, meets our energy needs, and advances our environmental goals.

All buyers need to think long and hard about the fact that there is an inherent difference between a contract that is awarded for any process that will be fed a product and one that will handle a waste output:

  • A product is made to a specification, and therefore, if the buyer finds the equipment supplied does not deliver the specified output, and can show that the plant has indeed been fed the specified input quality, the contractor or supplier is liable under “fitness for purpose” law.
  • A waste is a variable material, a byproduct of another process, and therefore any specification agreed upon within a contract will be general in nature, and invariably any variation is contestable in law when the real data is available.
  • All buyers need to be aware that recourse to law for waste contracts will always be subject to this fact, and therefore local reputation and “track record” are far more important to the success of these projects than the vast majority of investments where input quality can be guaranteed.

Thank you.

Effective, reliable mixing systems are critical to digester remediation and the smooth-running of a biogas plant.
Effective, reliable mixing systems are critical to the smooth running of a biogas plant.

Press Release, 4 March 2024: 

Tackling Biogas Plants that are failing

In the UK biogas industry, where numerous plants are failing, customers and suppliers must put an end to the blame game and start working together.

Mis-Sold Equipment: A Persistent Issue

According to a long-established manufacturer of pumps and mixers for biogas/AD digesters, failing plants are a bad hangover in the UK for customers who were mis-sold equipment that was never going to be suitable for feedstocks that are different from that in most parts of Europe.

Everyone Loses from a Failing Plant

Paul Davies from Landia wants to help turn failing AD plants into successful ones.
Paul Davies from Landia wants to help turn failing AD plants into successful ones.

“At the moment,” says Paul Davies from Landia, “these failing plants mean that everyone is a loser.

“Take a farmer, for example, who has made a major investment in an AD plant. He knows all there is to know about cows and grass but initially needs expertise in helping make his biogas plant work. He’s understandably unhappy because his biogas plant is an absolute pain and is not working properly.”

“Those who financed it aren’t happy because the plant isn’t making any money. The equipment suppliers aren’t happy because it’s not working properly.”

The Need for Accountability

“Digester remediation: What we need is someone to take responsibility”

He added: “The farmer blames the process provider, but they point out that a different feedstock is being used from what was perhaps originally stated, and the farmer then says to the process provider that they made decisions sitting behind a desk and didn’t ask enough questions!”

Stopping This Downward Spiral

“Sadly, failing plants give the industry a bad name, and it pains me to say that. It has become a big downward spiral, with everyone covering their own backs. What we need is someone to take responsibility.”

A Call for Responsibility and Collaboration for Digester Remediation

“I simply don’t understand equipment suppliers who don’t want to make things right for their customers.  Some have had little or no backup at all.

“It is very poor form to walk away, or not go that extra mile to make matters right. “

“With the best will in the world, it can take 18 months to iron out all the challenges of setting up a biogas plant, but with the right equipment and the right people pulling in the same direction, it is very much worth it, as successful, very profitable AD operators will tell you.”

Landia's GasMix utilizes biogas and liquid recirculation to fully mix the digester and improve biogas quality.
Landia's GasMix utilizes biogas and liquid recirculation to fully mix the digester and improve biogas quality.

Critical Failures and Solutions

He continued:

“The main area of failure in the UK has been in the mixing systems, which are critical to the smooth-running of a biogas plant.

“Farmers and other AD investors were sold package plants that were just fine for maize, but ended up with major crust problems here because we’re using slurry with grass. Us seeing digesters burdened with metre upon metre of crust is all too common.

It’s meant to be the business of making gas, not crust. Those thinking that ‘any old mixer’ will do the job are hopelessly wrong, and it’s the farmer who is left with a malfunctioning tank. For slurry/grass, you may need a separate hydrolysis tank, but either way, a very robust mixing system is a must.

Frustrated, the farmer and the process provider often start throwing more and more power at the application to try and rectify it, but it is not the answer—and a real shame when you should be trying to fine-tune a system so that you’re getting the maximum amount of energy from a minimum of what you’re putting in!”

Biogas in Energy Production is Important for Meeting Sustainability Goals

‘Producing energy from waste is something we should be proud of’

“We are a pump and mixer manufacturer; not a process consultant nor do we seek to be digester remediation experts, but increasingly we’re having to step up and help because nobody else is prepared to.”

The Landia Chopper Pumps and venturi nozzles constantly recirculate the mixture of liquid and gas.
The Landia Chopper pumps and venturi nozzles constantly recirculate the mixture of liquid and gas.

Landia Stepping Up to Do Essential Troubleshooting

“Troubleshooting is a challenge, but our customers welcome it, especially when many others seem totally bogged down in the blame game. Meanwhile, the farmer isn’t producing any gas, which is ridiculous.”

The Urgency of Retrofitting and Improvement

“Maybe we should be perfectly happy with all the retrofit work that we keep winning, but it is alarming that package plants with totally unsuitable mixers for UK biogas plants are still being sold! 

I can certainly understand the frustration and stress of farmers and other AD/biogas operators who were made some very big promises; only to see now that many of those so-called ‘experts’ who sold them the equipment are no longer even in the industry.

Some of those who remain have no concept of customer service, and, quite frankly, a distinct lack of knowledge, because they’ve never really gotten their hands dirty at an AD plant, and don’t seem to have much grasp of joined-up thinking.

A Call for Industry Unity

‘Turn these failing plants into successful ones’

“It is time for some handholding and a will to turn these failing plants into successful ones. There are companies on board who are making this happen, but we need more of it. Producing energy from waste is something we should be proud of, even though the media seems obsessed instead with solar and wind power.  Let’s work together to make things right and show everyone that this is an industry that is moving in the right direction.”


UK Phone: 01948 661 200

— Digester Remediation PR Ends —

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