Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Producing your own bioethanol or biogas

Produce your own bioethanol or biogas

You may need a pollution prevention and control permit or waste management licence if you produce your own bioethanol or biogas.

See the page in this guideline: Do you need a permit or licence to produce biofuel?

Producing bioethanol

You can make bioethanol fuel from a variety of sugar and starch-rich materials, mainly by fermentation and distillation.

When you produce bioethanol, the by-product is a residue called dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS). DDGS are classified as a by-product and not a waste if they are used without further processing, either as animal feed or as a fuel. Waste management controls will not apply to your DDGS if you meet these requirements, eg you do not need to transport it using a waste carrier or with a waste transfer note.

Producing biogas

Biogas can be produced from biodegradable materials including maize crops and wastes, including municipal or food wastes. The biodegradable material is turned into a gas by anaerobic digestion, using bacteria to break down the organic matter without oxygen in specially designed digesters.

You can then upgrade the biogas, for example using a membrane separation technique, to remove the CO2 and impurities and produce biomethane. You can use biomethane as a vehicle fuel.

In Scotland

You should use guidance from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) to help you assess whether your biomethane is a waste or not.

SEPA: Is it waste? (PDF, 52K)

The solid waste from anaerobic digestion is called digestate and it can be used in a similar way to compost.

If you produce digestate from biodegradable wastes that meets a certain standard then it will no longer be classed as waste. If you don't achieve this standard then you must follow waste management controls when you handle, transport or apply the digestate.

In Northern Ireland

The Environment Agency, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) and the Waste and Resources Action Programme have created a quality protocol for anaerobic digestate from biodegradable wastes. If you follow the protocol you can produce a high quality digestate which can be sold without waste management controls.

For example, if it is not classed as a waste, you do not need to transport it using a waste carrier or with a waste transfer note.

WRAP:The Quality Protocol for anaerobic digestate

If you don't achieve the standards in the quality protocol then you must follow waste management controls when you handle, transport or apply the digestate.

Quality standards for biofuels

You must meet quality standards to sell your fuel in countries within the European Union. These standards apply to biofuel and blends containing biofuel. The European Committee for Standardization (CEN) promotes standards for the safety of workers and consumers and to protect the environment.

CEN: Search for European Standards

Further information

Contact your environmental regulator

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Permits

NIEA - Apply online

SEPA - Application forms