Anaerobic digestion trade body calls for ban on Russian natural gas imports in open letter to the UK Prime Minister


The Chief Executive of the Anaerobic Digestion and Biomethane Association (ADBA), Charlotte Morton, has sent an open letter to the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, in which she calls for the phasing out of Russian natural gas imports as well as oil, and highlights how boosting the production of biomethane could not only provide an additional layer of sanctions against Vladimir Putin for the horrors of the war in Ukraine, but also strengthen the UK’s long-term energy and food security.

“Dear Prime Minister”, she says,

“I am writing to you to share our support for your recent announcement to phase out imports of Russian oil by the end of the year in response to Vladimir Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. However, we would further implore that this ban is extended to include Russian gas. We also welcome your commitment to set out an energy strategy to address the UK’s long-term plans for greater energy security.

As part of its response to the Ukraine crisis, the EU has already announced it will double its ambition for biomethane production to 354TWh by 2030 to end its reliance on natural gas imports. As a leader in anaerobic digestion (AD), the UK should follow this example.

Biomethane from AD should be an integral part of the UK’s energy strategy. Last year, the UK imported 24.6TWh of natural gas from Russia. With immediate government backing, this gas demand could be directly replaced with home-grown biomethane within the next four years. Moreover, by 2030, the UK’s AD sector could deliver its full potential, generating an estimated 55-76 TWh of biomethane – over two to three times the amount of gas the UK currently imports from Russia.

Biomethane is the only ready-to-use technology capable of immediately greening the gas grid, currently responsible for 23% of total annual emissions. By utilising the UK’s existing gas infrastructure, biomethane is a cost-effective option. Moreover, biomethane and hydrogen are highly complementary – each gas can be converted to the other – and together, they can deliver a net zero gas sector. In fact, converting biomethane to green hydrogen can be net negative.

Finally, biomethane is generated by recycling methane emitting organic wastes. Therefore, the AD sector alone could deliver 20% of the UK’s commitment to the Global Methane Pledge.

In addition to this, current energy prices are inducing a global fertiliser shortage threatening food security as warned by the CEO of Yara. Russia has put a six-month moratorium on the export of mineral fertiliser. The low carbon fertiliser known as digestate, a by-product of biomethane production, is a ready replacement for its mineral counterpart. This temporary cessation of artificial fertiliser production has also resulted in an industrial CO2 gas crisis. As a by-product of biomethane production, AD plants also create bio-CO2 gas, suitable for industrial use. The current industry produces enough bio-CO2 to meet the UK’s entire industrial demand.”

She concludes by calling for a meeting with the PM and Ministers to look at the measures needed to swiftly ramp up biomethane production to replace Russian gas.