Farmers in Cornwall are to trial a new 'green' fuel made from manure slurry in what is believed to be the first scheme of its kind in the world.

Cornwall Council and Cormac, which looks after its fleet of vehicles, have joined forces with six of its county-owned dairy farms and a Cornish technology company to trial the production of an alternative green fuel.

If successful, the programme could be rolled out to hundreds of small-scale farms across Cornwall, giving farmers the chance to diversify their income, save on operating costs and help fight climate change.

The move also signals the start of the council’s transition to running a low emission fleet and investment in world-leading sustainable agricultural technology, designed to create more 'green' jobs for residents and boost Cornwall’s economic recovery from the pandemic.  

South West Farmer:

A graphic showing the process

Over the last two years Newquay-based clean energy company Bennamann Ltd has been testing a patent-pending engineering method to turn farm waste - such as cow manure and grass cuttings - into biomethane, a zero-carbon fuel that can be used to power heavy goods vehicles and farm machinery.

Having already started trialling its processed biomethane in a tractor and Cormac’s fleet of tarmac hot boxes, Bennamann’s technology to capture gas will now be expanded in sealed slurry lagoons on six council-owned dairy farms across Cornwall. 

The £1.58 million council-funded pilot will see Bennamann collect and upgrade the biogas produced at the farms, before delivering it to Cormac to fuel a fleet of 77 converted road maintenance trucks. 

Farms taking part in the programme can sell the captured biomethane.

Deputy council leader Adam Paynter, whose role covers the Cornwall Council Farms Estate, said: “This capital investment in first of-a-kind, covered, slurry lagoons can provide a commercial return for farmers and enable a rollout across all dairy farms in Cornwall, nationally and potentially globally.  

“Farmers will also benefit from better slurry storage and use, savings on fertiliser and electricity bills.” 

South West Farmer:

Work has begun to build a slurry lagoon at the first of six farms, Trenance at Saltash

The new programme is part of the council’s climate change action plan to help Cornwall become carbon neutral by 2030 and the first step in making its vehicles carbon neutral.

Along with a new electric bikes scheme for council staff, over the coming months the council will also be introducing a new fleet of electric pool cars, as well as piloting electric vans and fire service vehicles. 

South West Farmer:

The locations of the six farms

Chris Mann, Bennamann co-founder and chief executive, said: “We are proud to be a Cornish company that has the potential to radically change the global energy market and look forward to delivering a successful pilot that will put Cornwall at the forefront of pioneering renewable energy innovation, as well as help the Council achieve its zero carbon goals and post pandemic recovery plans.”  

Bennamann's pioneering work has been supported by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Growth Programme’s Energy Independent Farm project, funded by the European Regional Development Fund and carried out in partnership with the University of Exeter and Chynoweth Farm Partners.