MANCHESTER, England, June 15 /PRNewswire/ --

- First Use of Biogas to Supply UK Gas Grid

- With Photo

The people of Manchester will soon be contributing to a green energy revolution - just by flushing the loo!

In a UK first, United Utilities has teamed up with National Grid to convert a by-product of the wastewater treatment process into gas for injection into the local gas pipeline network and fuel for a fleet of sludge tankers. The ground-breaking initiative is centred on one of the country's largest wastewater treatment plants at Davyhulme in Manchester.

The scheme has been given the green light by winning funding from Defra, coming via WRAP (Waste Resources Action Programme).

Caroline Ashton, United Utilities biofuels manager, said: The team is thrilled to have won this funding which will give the project a huge boost. It has been in development for some time, but now we can put our plans into action and the people of Manchester will soon be using 'poo power' to heat their homes.

Biogas is produced when wastewater sludge is broken down by the action of microbes in a process known as anaerobic digestion.

The biogas then needs to be upgraded to biomethane which is a renewable fuel with similar properties to natural gas. The biomethane can then be safely compressed for use in vehicles or injected into the gas grid.

Caroline explained: Sewage treatment is a 24-hour process so there is an endless supply of biogas. It is a very valuable resource and it's completely renewable. By harnessing this free energy we can reduce our fuel bills and reduce our carbon footprint.

Janine Freeman, head of National Grid's Sustainable Gas Group said: Biomethane is a fuel for the future. Renewable electricity from sources such as wind power is already available, but this is the first time we will be able to supply renewable gas to consumers. This pilot is an important step in helping deliver a low carbon energy future.

Not only are we reusing a waste product, but biomethane is a renewable fuel, so we helping to meet the country's target of 15% of all our energy coming from renewable sources by 2020.

This pilot project should supply gas to about 500 homes and the overall potential of biomethane from a plant like Davyhulme would be to supply a small town of about 5,000 homes.

The plans involve installing the upgrade equipment, a gas compression and fuelling station, plus a pipeline to link into the local gas distribution network. The GBP4.3 million project should be operational by early 2011.

One of United Utilities' sludge tankers has already been converted to run on diesel and compressed natural gas, and this has confirmed that a dual fuel system does not affect the engine performance of such heavy vehicles.

Caroline explained: When we have the kit in place to utilise the gas produced on site, we should be able to save hundreds of thousands of pounds a year in fuel costs with the 24 tankers we aim to convert initially.

National Grid say there are no fundamental technical difficulties to injecting biomethane into the gas distribution network. Several plants in Europe have demonstrated this is a safe way to deliver renewable gas generated from domestic sources.

Dr Richard Swannell, Director of Retail and Organics at WRAP, said: The United Utilities' project was chosen because it will demonstrate cutting edge technology, helping to drive the effective use of Anaerobic Digestion. Working with National Grid, the project aims be the first in the UK to process and inject biomethane into the gas grid on a commercial scale. By using biomethane as a fuel for sludge tankers it could also help our country make more widespread use of renewable energy.

To meet the conditions of the grant, the new installation at Davyhulme will be used as a demonstration plant for engineers and politicians to visit from around the world.

Caroline Ashton added: This is just the latest exciting chapter in the story of Davyhulme. The plant was leading the world nearly 100 years ago when modern treatment processes were developed there, and it's wonderful that this kind of innovation continues today.

Notes to editors:

Photo caption: Caroline Ashton, United Utilities biofuels manager with Johnny Johnston, National Grid project manager.

United Utilities

In 2006 United Utilities was the first UK water company to announce an integrated strategy with the aim of reducing its carbon emissions.

The company seeks to achieve a 26% reduction on its 2005/06 emissions baseline by 2012. This will be achieved by cutting its own emissions by 8% and the other 18% will come from renewable energy contracts. These reductions will continue beyond 2012 with the aim of halving the current level of emissions by 2035.

United Utilities is a FTSE-100 company and the largest listed water company in the UK, with 9,000 employees, and a turnover of more than GBP2 billion.

Its headquarters are in NW England where it looks after the water and wastewater needs of seven million customers, as well as providing major environmental and infrastructure investment for the region. The company is also the UK's market leader in operating and maintaining services and plants for other utilities' companies, including gas and electricity as well as water and wastewater. Such engineering and planning expertise and experience has led to a further range of contracts internationally, with United Utilities providing services to a total of 20 million people across Europe, the Middle East, Australia and the Philippines. The company has a strong corporate and social responsibility programme, investing GBP3 million a year in community activities, and frequently setting the industry pace on carbon reduction measures.

National Grid

National Grid is an international electricity and gas company and one of the largest investor-owned energy companies in the world. We play a vital role in delivering gas and electricity to millions of people across Great Britain and northeastern US in an efficient, reliable and safe manner. We believe the power of action can play a major role in safeguarding our global environment for future generations and tackling the effects of climate change, providing all our customers with the highest standards of service through network investment and through our talented, diverse workforce.

National Grid owns the high-voltage electricity transmission network in England and Wales and operates the system across Great Britain. It also owns and operates the high pressure gas transmission system in Britain and its distribution business delivers gas to 11 million homes and businesses.

National Grid manages the National Gas Emergency Service freephone line +44(0)800-111-999*.

*All calls are recorded and may be monitored.

A picture accompanying this release is available through the PA Photowire. It can be downloaded from or viewed at or

For further media information, contact: Helen Wilson at United Utilities on +44(0)1925-237088; Isobel Rowley at National Grid on +44(0)1926-655275 or +44(0)7917-211116