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Cabling for Anaerobic digestion (AD)

Renewable energy sources are becoming increasingly popular, as people seek to find ways to reduce their costs and their carbon footprint. The ability to turn waste material into power and heat through the process of anaerobic digestion is also on the rise, with over 470 plants already active in the UK.

Anaerobic Digestion

But to be done effectively this needs to happen in a carefully controlled environment, with smart use of technology to monitor the process. Anaerobic digestion cabling is a core part of that, connecting key parts of the infrastructure. See our page on Cabling for Anaerobic digestion 


What is Anaerobic Digestion?

Anaerobic digestion is the process by which waste material such as manures, crop residue or industrial waste is turned into gas that can be used as fuel. In this process, the biodegradable waste material is broken down by microorganisms in the absence of oxygen to product biogas.

The biogas produced then consists of 60% methane and 40% carbon dioxide. It also produces and solid liquid residue called digestate. This works very well as a soil conditioner for land fertilisation

Biogas can be burned as fuel, or further refined into renewable energy sources to be sold.

Anaerobic Digestion Plants distinguishes between these are two main types of plants:

  • Heat and power (CHP) – On-site anaerobic digester used to create power, heat or both
  • Power to grid (BtG) – Anaerobic digester plant used to create biomethane to be sold to the national grid

As technology has advanced the process has become more data driven. In addition with emphasis on sensors providing data on the environment and relaying back information on the process. Anaerobic digestion cabling has also become a lot more important over time.

The cabling for these plants has very specific requirements and must be suitable for the environment. Whether you are looking at a smaller, on-site facility for generating your own energy. Likewise a much larger dedicated plant, many of the components will be the same.

  • Power, heat, light – Essential elements for the safe and effective running of the plant
  • Sensors – Provide data about the environment of the plant
  • Instrumentation – Display the information relayed back from sensors
  • Control panel – Control unit to regulate the environment
  • Ethernet connectivity – Data cabling connects the various components ensuring the smooth running of the plant. Also connects to the internet for cloud storage of data.

Invest in solid foundations

These infrastructure components are vital to the successful operation of your anaerobic digestion plant. Thus choosing wisely now will also help to future proof your investment for the long-term.

The environmental agency have strict set guidelines on the installations of these plants. Therefore specific regulations and guidelines apply on installing the data cabling for these systems

As the majority of the cabling is buried there must be strict adherence to containment along the route. This is to provide protection to the cable. Furthermore as protection to the environment from the cabling installation

These containment and cabling routes must also be well documented for future works in these areas. Thus to avoid accidental digging of the structured cabling infrastructure. Furthermore damage to the control of the plant itself

According to the NNFCC there were another 327 plants are in the process of being built in 2018.

What type of Structured Cabling is used in Anaerobic Digestion Plant and Equipment?

Due to the long distance nature of linking these systems fibre optic cabling is exclusively used to link and control this plant. The fibre optic cables are singlemode and larger core sizes are installed to give both future expansion and redundancy in the case that a core or set of cores should become damaged.

The majority of the length of the fibre optic cabling is buried within an underground containment pipe but armoured rodent proof sheathed cables are used to further protect the cable from animal damage

Due to the long distance of the cabling links which is some cases exceed 10,000 metres pits are sug along the route to assist in pulling the fibre along the large distance. This pits can either be accessible manholes or permanently sealed once the fibre is installed

Challenges and Insights

When installing fibre optic cabling across a large distance and buried in the ground there are of course challenges and obstacles that present themselves

The large distance the cable has to travel ensures that many types of terrain are encountered. These can be travelling across open fields, crossing roads, running through private and public land and crossing between boundaries.

Some of the route will be permissible and others will require rights of way permissions which can take time to receive

The land itself can be a challenge in that the route needs to be dug and the cable installed before then sealing and filling the routes straight after to protect the safety and environment of the land

Many factors of installation have to be co-ordinated for the single installed of the fibre optic cable

The ground can also change very quickly before or during installation. A dry field awaiting installation can suddenly become waterlogged before or during the installation making all the elements of the installations much more challenging and safety aware

This also effect the access to the land to undertake the installation. Driving the cable drums and pulling equipment onto the land is of course much easier in the dry than after a heavy downfall of rain

The future of Anaerobic Digestion Plant

According to the NNFCC there are another 327 plants are in the process of being built and each of these require the same consideration of cabling expertise, design and installation

The market is growing and therefore the cabling infrastructure requirements will grow also

Also as the technology required to operate and monitor these systems the requirements for the structured cabling to link them will evolve. New systems will require higher bandwidth allowance and therefore increased cabling standards

If you’re looking to upgrade your Anaerobic Digestion Cabling or are in the process of building a new facility, we can help with the design and installation.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch for more information or to speak with one of our cabling experts.

About NM Cabling Solutions – Data Cabling Specialist

NM Cabling is a technology and network cabling integrator working throughout the United Kingdom.

We have created a comprehensive Knowledge Centre for our industry which can be viewed at