New trial reveals biomass fuel potential for used horse bedding

Initial trials have revealed that thousands of tonnes of used bedding produced annually by horse racing stables could be used as an effective source of biomass energy.

Research carried out by Northumberland biomass energy specialist re:heat, has shown the strong potential for recovering and recycling used horse bedding as a sustainable fuel source for the furnaces used in the bedding drying process at the UK’s largest equine shavings’ manufacturer Bedmax’s factory in Patchington, Hampshire.

The move could see Bedmax’s existing coal-powered drying furnaces, which are used to produce more than two million 20 kg bags of dust-free animal bedding annually, replaced by new low-emissions biomass powered heating technology.

This could pave the way for Bedmax to reduce its long-term reliance on fossil fuels, saving hundreds of thousands of pounds in energy costs and helping to reduce the amount of bedding which is disposed of at the end of its useful life.

The research project has been undertaken using bedding waste produced by horses at racing yards in Lambourn in Berkshire. There, tens of thousands of tonnes of waste is produced each year that rather than going for composting, could provide enough capacity to enable the switch over to be economically and commercially viable.

Sample testing and analysis undertaken by re:heat staff in Austria as part of a BRISK (Biofuels Research Infrastructure for Sharing Knowledge) project has confirmed that the used bedding, when mixed with woodchip, has good combustion properties with low-emissions compared to the coal used at present.

Further work is now being undertaken to identify potential volumes and establish the overall economic viability of the project, and Bedmax’s managing director Tim Smalley has been encouraged by the initial results.

“We can see the strong potential for the sustainable re-use of our horse bedding as an alternative biomass fuel for our process drying requirements once it reaches the end of its useful life. This could not only deliver significant financial savings over the long-term but also reduce our carbon footprint.

“It would also provide significant savings for the racing yards, as they would no longer need to send all their waste for composting.

“re:heat has impressed with the thoroughness of its investigative work, and I now look forward to seeing the results of the next phase, which will identify how much waste can actually be recovered and the volumes available for conversion to low-carbon fuel.”

Bedmax shavings are purpose-made to help meet all of the environmental health and welfare issue that can jeopardise a horse’s well-being in the stable.  Manufactured primarily from pine timber, which contains unique and powerful antibacterial properties, and dried to sterilising temperatures means stables are clean and hygienic.  All timber is purchased only from renewable managed forestry sources in the UK, resulting in every bag of Bedmax Shavings being made from fully traceable raw materials.
Funding to support investment in new heating technology for the project would be available as part of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), which was introduced in 2011 to provide financial incentives for non-domestic users to switch from carbon-based heating systems to renewable alternatives such as biomass.

This can enable organisations such as Bedmax to take advantage of renewable heating technology with a guaranteed return on investment within a generation.

Neil Harrison, director at re:heat in Alnwick, added: “This is an exciting project that reflects our experience and expertise in undertaking research work that opens up opportunities for non-domestic energy users to see the commercial and environmental benefits of alternative biomass technologies.

“We are also supporting businesses through the RHI scheme, helping them to unlock the potential of the latest wood-based fuel technologies. This can support growth and expansion through the provision of reliable, low-cost and sustainable energy.”

The project is the latest success for fast growing re:heat, a leading innovator in the field of biomass technologies and systems. The rapidly growing firm, which has a turnover of £3.8m, has also completed major studies for the Department of Energy and Climate Change and a number of other private and public sector clients.