Energy from the biomethane facility will supply AstraZeneca's sites in Macclesfield, Cambridge, Luton and Speke with 100 gigawatt hours (GWh) per year, equivalent to the heat demands of over 8,000 homes. Once operational in early 2025, the partnership will reduce emissions by an estimated 20,000 tons CO2 equivalent (CO2e), adding renewable energy capacity to the national gas grid.
The anaerobic digestion facility and long-term partnership with Future Biogas provide a blueprint for wider commercial adoption of renewable gas in the UK. A dynamic biomethane market is seen as crucial to the UK achieving net zero.
Juliette White, Vice President, Global Sustainability & Safety, Health & Environment, at AstraZeneca, said, “Today’s commitment of £100 million shows we are serious about decarbonizing the discovery, development and manufacture of medicines and securing a sustainable future for our sites across the UK and globally. In leading from the front on the commercial adoption of clean heat, we are innovating to expand the usage of renewable energy, contributing to the circular economy and accelerating our progress towards net zero.”
Biomethane represents the most immediately available and viable solution for low-carbon heat demand. It is ready to use, compatible with all existing infrastructure, and its combustion is carbon neutral. By sleeving the gas through the grid, biomethane can be delivered directly to AstraZeneca, and its carbon savings can be robustly tracked from production to use.
Future Biogas CEO Philipp Lukas, said, “AstraZeneca’s ground-breaking investment in green gas affirms its status as a global leader in the transition to net zero. The opportunity to combine unsubsidized biomethane production with regenerative farming benefits local farms and supports the growing focus on soil health and sustainable food production. Future Biogas expects this model to be adopted by many other innovative organizations with strong net zero ambitions.”
UK farms and sustainable land management sit at the heart of this gas supply agreement. The production of biomethane will support farms in their transition to more regenerative practices. Bioenergy crops will be grown as part of diverse rotations, including food crops, cover cropping and providing opportunities for companion cropping.
This co-production of food and energy offers multiple environmental benefits – increasing crop yields, reducing the demand for pesticides and herbicides, enriching biodiversity, and improving soil health – while decarbonizing food and energy systems.
The wider use of regenerative farming techniques, such as minimal tillage, and cover crops ensures that only the most sustainable crops are supplied for biomethane production. In addition, anaerobic digestion co-creates a carbon-rich biofertilizer, known as digestate, displacing the need for artificial fertilizers, and replenishes soils with organic matter which is, again, essential for healthy soil and its ability to act as a carbon sink.
Overall, Future Biogas is targeting the growth of 'carbon neutral' crops, whereby carbon sequestration in soils outweighs any carbon emissions derived from the crops' cultivation. Furthermore, Future Biogas will capture CO 2 from the biogas production process and transport it for permanent geological storage. This process delivers GHG removals – actively reversing emissions.