Can horse bedding be effective as a sustainable fuel source

The UK’s largest equine shavings manufacturer, Bedmax, could be set for major financial savings, while also boosting its green credentials, thanks to research conducted by a Northumberland-based biomass specialist.

Working with the Alnwick based firm re:heat has found used horse bedding can be effective as a sustainable fuel source for the furnaces used in the bedding drying process at Bedmax’s factory in Hampshire.

Now, Bedmax is examining the possibility of replacing its existing coal-powered furnaces with new low-emissions biomass powered heating technology.

The furnaces produce more than 2m 20kg bags of dust-free animal bedding annually.

The change would therefore allow the company to reduce its long-term reliance on fossil fuels, saving several hundred thousand pounds in energy costs while reducing the amount of bedding disposed of at the end of its useful life.

The research project has been undertaken using bedding waste produced by horses at racing yards in Lambourn in Berkshire.

There, tens of thousands of tonnes of waste are produced each year and are used for composting.

Sample testing and analysis undertaken by re:heat staff in Austria as part of a BRISK (Biofuels Research Infrastructure for Sharing Knowledge) project, however, has confirmed that, when mixed with woodchip, the waste has good combustion properties with low-emissions compared to coal.

Further work is now being undertaken to identify potential volumes and establish the overall economic viability of the project.

However, Bedmax’s managing director Tim Smalley has been encouraged by the initial results.

“We can see the strong potential for the sustainable re-use of our horse bedding as an alternative biomass fuel for our process drying requirements once it reaches the end of its useful life,” he said.

“This could not only deliver significant financial savings over the long-term but also reduce our carbon footprint.

“It would also provide significant savings for the racing yards, as they would no longer need to send all their waste for composting.

“re:heat has impressed with the thoroughness of its investigative work, and I now look forward to seeing the results of the next phase, which will identify how much waste can actually be recovered and the volumes available for conversion to low-carbon fuel.”

Founded in 2011 by Neil Harrison and Ben Tansey, re:heat, which has an annual turnover of around £3.8m, works to assist businesses in converting from fossil fuels to sustainable, low-carbon wood fuel heating systems.

The company has also seen the amount of consultancy work it undertake treble in the past year, with a further 50% increase expected within the next 12 months.

Recently, re:heat was tasked with advising the UK Government on the future costs of biomass in a mass market through a report produced with the Glasgow-based renewable energy consultants Steve Luker Associates.

If Bedmax presses ahead with a switch to biomass, it will be able to take advantage of funding through the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), an initiative introduced in 2011 to provide financial incentives for non-domestic users switching from carbon-based heating systems to renewable alternatives.

re:heat director Neil Harrison said: “This is an exciting project that reflects our experience and expertise in undertaking research work that opens up opportunities for non-domestic energy users to see the commercial and environmental benefits of alternative biomass technologies.

“We are also supporting businesses through the RHI scheme, helping them to unlock the potential of the latest wood-based fuel technologies.

“This can support growth and expansion through the provision of reliable, low-cost and sustainable energy.”

 

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