“We can solve world problems with AD”
Anaerobic digestion can make an important contribution to solving world problems. That will be the main message of keynote speaker Willy Verstraete during AD’16. “As a sector, we have to think bigger than we dare to do now. Much bigger. Specifically by responding to the upcoming hydrogen economy. The world is struggling with climate change and needs sustainable energy. Anaerobic digestion can play a major role in this.”
“We all admire the process of anaerobic digestion, but what we get out of this beautiful process actually does not mean enough. Today we only pick the low-hanging fruit.” You rarely hear these words about biomethanisation. And it is an expert who says it. Professor Willy Verstraete from Ghent University has been active in the business for over 40 years and has won numerous (international) prizes in recent decades with his achievements.
Continue to look further
Verstraete explains what he means by low-hanging fruit. “Anaerobic digestion now extracts, for example, biomethane from residual streams and this goes into the energy grid as a kwh. The residual products are also used in agriculture. It’s very beautiful, but they are all niche applications. We have to look a step further. We must link anaerobic digestion to the hydrogen economy that is coming at us; because hydrogen is indispensible to adress the climate problem.
“With this link, we can fully upgrade all residual production from aerobic fermentation to high-quality products”, continues Verstraete. “We can also fully close the cycle of nutrients. This is absolutely necessary if we want to address the climate problem! And we are obliged to do so for the many young people who are committed to this.”
According to Verstraete, anaerobic digestion is a designated dismantling system for a wide range of ‘waste streams’. “And through the link with renewable energy, such as hydrogen, we come to work in a context of sustainable food production. Our industry now only thinks about strength and heat coupling, not about food, but we have to make that link and realize that it is really possible.”
Do not wait
In his presentation, Verstraete delves deeper into the new application possibilities for anaerobic digestion. “Of course this cannot be done instantly. It will take 20 to 30 years for our branch to really fulfill that key role. Work for the upcoming generation! But we have to give the kick-off right now. We are obliged to try our unique process technology for larger purposes. I cannot wait to discuss the links between anaerobic digestion sustainable food production and climate during AD’16.”
Professor Willy Verstraete will speak on Sunday, June 23rd, on the opening day.