News  |  17 October 2023

Plans approved for the Mersey Biochar project

Planning permission has been granted for a state-of-the-art new carbon-capture facility at Lingley Mere business park in Warrington.

The project, Mersey Biochar, will lock away thousands of tonnes of carbon a year into biochar, a versatile product with a range of uses from improving soil quality to decarbonising the construction industry. Led by climate-action organisations Severn Wye Energy Agency and Pure Leapfrog, a consortium of experts is behind the project which will be hosted by United Utilities at Lingley Mere business park. Construction is due to begin in November, with the unit supplied by PyroCore and the facility built by energy specialists Vital Energi.

Capturing carbon and other greenhouse gases will be critical for the UK’s plans to meet net zero by 2050 and the facility promises to make an important contribution to the country’s carbon-capture potential.

Severn Wye CEO Sandy Ruthven says:

‘Mersey Biochar represents an important step forward in the UK’s carbon-capture ambitions and getting planning permission for the Lingley Mere site is an exciting start. We hope to prove this technology can be used across the UK to help tackle climate change.’

Vital Energi’s Associate Design Manager Rob Greenwood, says:

‘We are delighted to be part of the consortium which will deliver this innovative new project. With the UK set to continue using oil and gas in the short term, carbon capture has the potential to play a huge part in the UK’s transition from fossil fuels to a net zero economy and this project can demonstrate an innovative new application for an existing, trusted technology.’

Mersey Biochar will capture carbon from green waste or ‘biomass’, in this case a byproduct of local forestry management, which would otherwise release its carbon back into the atmosphere as it decays. The carbon is locked in through a process called pyrolysis, which heats the biomass in a virtually oxygen-free environment without the noise or fumes commonly associated with other types of burning. The resulting biochar stores the carbon for centuries and every tonne produced can remove up to 3.6 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere. The facility is expected to produce 700 tonnes of biochar each year.

Research into the viability of the process was funded by the UK government’s Department for Energy Security and Net Zero which then made a further £5m available to scale-up the concept as part of the Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage Scheme.

Paul Gilligan, CEO of decarbonisation specialist partners Pure Leapfrog, says:

‘Receiving planning permission is a significant moment for this project. As we continue along our planned product development pathway, we will see this unit, and more like it in the future, making important contributions to the UK’s carbon capture and storage needs. This technology has an exciting and valuable future.’

Planning permission was secured by integrated planning, design, environment, engineering and safety consultancy Mabbett & Associates Ltd, with no objections to the proposals.

The approval of planning permission for the Warrington site is just the start of this exciting project. The vision for the site is that nothing will go to waste; once the facility’s carbon-capture capabilities are proven, the heat generated by the process is intended to be redirected to heat and power United Utilities’ buildings – part of the company’s long-term sustainability goals.

As United Utilities’ Bioresources and Green Energy Director, Tom Lissett, explains:

‘We are excited to host this innovative technology which opens up the opportunity to decarbonise our office heating requirements at Lingley Mere by capturing and using the heat which is created during the pyrolysis process. It is an important step forward for us in our journey to decarbonising our head office in Warrington.’

Mersey Biochar is funded by the UK’s Department for Energy Security and Net Zero through their Direct Air Capture and Greenhouse Gas Removal innovation programme, established to find new and inventive ways of reducing UK carbon emissions.

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