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Dale Vince’s Green Gas

December 13, 2016

By Paul Homewood


h/t Joe Public


Gas Mill Example


Dale Vince has already made millions out of the renewable scam. Now he has turned his attentions to what he laughably describes as green gas.

This is in fact produced by anaerobic digestion, using in his case grass.

His company, Ecotricity, already has one project approved, at Sparsholt College, Hampshire. According to his blurb, it should supply enough biomethane to supply 4200 homes.




However, the locals seem less than happy about Vince’s generosity, as the Hampshire Chronicle reported in October:




A CONTROVERSIAL power plant is set to be built at Sparsholt College.

The new plans for a so-called Green Gas Mill at Sparsholt College have been given the green light after approval by planning chiefs.

The college claims the plant – an anaerobic digester which turns grass into gas – can produce power for nearly 5,000 homes a year.

It would need 60,000 tonnes of fuel to do this which green energy company Ecotricity, who is behind the plans, said would be sourced within a 15-kilometre radius of the college and transported by tractor and trailers.

However many local residents are furious at the plans and argued that facility would cause a huge increase in traffic and had concerns about tractors and trailers using small roads, they also questioned the schemes green credentials.

Sparsholt College say the facility will also an educational facility to train the next generation of green gas engineers.

Back in April the plans were rejected due to traffic issues, but the college and the Ecotricity came back with a revised plan which is subject to a Section 106 agreement with 32 planning conditions.

Winchester City Council planning committee heard from ward councillor for Sparsholt Caroline Horrill who was against the scheme.

Cllr Horrill argued that the scheme was unpopular with 7 parish councils who represent more than 7,000 residents, and said many people who support the application do not live near it.

Cllr Horrill said: "No amount of Section 106 will protect the villages on the traffic forced upon them.

"It is a commercial enterprise dressed up as an educational establishment."

Also heavily against it and speaking in public was councillor Eileen Berry.

Cllr Berry said: "It is an encroachment on the countryside and I have never seen such an ugly building."

Councillors voted eight to one in favour of the facility, and many felt the traffic issues had been dealt with by the revised application.

Winchester city councillor Ian Tait was one of them and said: "If we accept the issues of a changing climate because of carbon usage we can’t have an  environmentally friendly solution without some detrimental aspects, we can’t have our cake and eat it.

"I think this application is in all respects a high quality application."

While councillor Ernie Jeffs alongside Cllr Michael Read said they felt the traffic aspects had been dealt with in the revised application.

Speaking after the decision, college principal Tim Jackson said: "I am delighted that the planning committee have dealt carefully, professionally and objectively with the evidence and come to a logical and good decision.

"I think it is a very important centre that we are going going to establish at the college to focus on the needs of professions and jobs of the future the renewable sector.

Mr Jackson added he hopes that they can address any concerns that residents will have in the future.


After carting 60,000 tonnes of grass backwards and forwards on tractors and trailers, I doubt whether there will be much of a saving left in CO2 emissions.

And understandably the residents are up in arms about the thousands of round trips involved.

Unfortunately for them, the politically correct Councillors did not agree.


However, the problem does not end there. Biomethane, it turns out, tends to have a much lower calorific value than natural gas.

At the moment, consumers are charged according to the average calorific value of gas entering the National Grid network. So the small amount of biomethane entering the grid has to be added with propane, so that the calorific value is equivalent to the rest of the gas in the network.

This of course is not only costly for the biomethane producers, it also rather negates any emission savings.

So step forward the National Grid, who have a cunning plan!



A trail-blazing pilot scheme that aims to further open the door to lower carbon, ‘green’ gas has won £4.8 million of Ofgem funding.

National Grid Gas Distribution, working with DNV GL, a global oil and gas advisory company, has been awarded funding under Ofgem’s Network Innovation Competition.

The money will be used for a three-year pilot study to update the way gas bills are calculated, to take into account more of the  ‘green’, lower carbon alternatives to natural gas likely to be powering homes and businesses in the future.

The initiative aims to cut out the use of propane – a costly greenhouse gas – which is currently being added to bio-methane and other lower carbon gases for gas billing reasons.  This should open the door to more green gas entering Britain’s gas pipeline network and cement its essential role in meeting the UK’s carbon reduction targets for 2030 and 2050.

David Parkin Director of Network Strategy at National Grid Gas Distribution, said: “Ofgem’s decision to award National Grid £4.8 million for this programme reflects how serious the UK’s gas grids are about delivering low carbon heat, as well as delivering a sustainable gas future which works for consumers as well.”

National Grid Gas Distribution will be working in a partnership, which includes DNV GL, a global advisory company which provides software, technical assurance and independent expert services to the gas and energy industries.

Hari Vamadevan, Regional Manager, DNV GL Oil & Gas, said: “We are delighted that this outstanding project has received Ofgem sponsorship. We believe it is important to assess the financial consequences for gas consumers in a future where alternatives are being sought to facilitate a lower carbon outlook.”

Gas consumers are charged on the basis of the amount of energy their gas contains (calorific value). However, the energy content of gas is not measured at people’s gas meters.

Instead, gas network operators, such as National Grid, measure the calorific value of the gas being injected at each entry point on their pipeline networks and work out an average calorific value.

Because new, lower carbon alternatives to natural gas, such as bio-methane, have a lower energy content than natural gas, the current energy calculation process requires that bio-methane producers have to add propane, a costly greenhouse gas, to bring it up to the average calorific value of the traditional gas sources.

The pioneering pilot will look at how customers can be billed using the calorific value of the gas they actually receive, rather than using an average.

This should remove the need for alternative, low carbon gas producers to add costly propane to their gas to bring it up to an average calorific value, and so open the door to more environmentally-friendly alternatives to natural gas.

The study will look at a number of methods for achieving this, including using smart meters to record the calorific value of gas being used by homes and businesses.


Notice the way the problem is somehow blamed on consumers!

And, of course, we know who will be paying for these smart meters and all of the extra administration needed to work such a complex billing system.

And it won’t be Dale Vince!

  1. martinbrumby permalink
    December 13, 2016 6:38 pm

    This is really too daft to laugh at.
    The perpetrators (Vince and his chums), the dimwitted Planning Councillors and the Greenie Activist – Fantasists National Gridsters should all be knocked off the taxpayer’s funding teat and barred from ever sucking on it in future.
    “Low carbon heat” indeed. So low energy gas is a good thing? Why not just pump hot air through the gas pipes?

  2. Joe Public permalink
    December 13, 2016 6:39 pm

    One other issue which Ofgem and Nat Grid may be attempting to ignore is the fact that by reducing the calorific value (CV) of gas, the ‘carrying capacity’ of all pipelines is also reduced.

    This may not be an issue to NatGrid. However, it is gas consumers who are solely responsible for ensuring the pipework within their own properties are correctly sized. For some whose pipework is working at its maximum capacity, the small reduction may affect their appliances or performance.

    It should be noted that the main reason Britain converted its millions of appliances from ‘Towns’ gas to natural gas in the 1970s, rather than continuously convert the gas, was at a stroke, the ‘carrying capacity’ of the then distribution pipework was doubled.

  3. Neil Wilkinson permalink
    December 13, 2016 6:48 pm

    Vince has just had 10 minutes free advertising on the BBC South west news

  4. It doesn't add up... permalink
    December 13, 2016 6:57 pm

    There is more to the gas specification than simply calorific value. The Wobbe Index and Graham’s Law (rate of diffusion inversely proportion to square root of molecular weight) relate to the performance of gas burners, which have to be designed for the gas flowing through them, otherwise the flame may die back or blow off. The richer/wetter gas that has an admixture of C2-C4 hydrocarbons allows a better range of control. Some may recall that the switch from Town Gas to North Sea gas required all burners on cookers and boilers to be replaced.

    What is biogas anyway? “mostly consists of methane and carbon dioxide”…” may require treatment to remove toxic gases such as hydrogen sulfide and volatile siloxanes”…”biogas plants also use purification processes that reduce the carbon dioxide content” Note – not eliminate.

  5. Gerry, England permalink
    December 13, 2016 7:07 pm

    The solution for domestic consumers is simple – ban the use of gas in all homes. There. Sorted. And exactly what they plan to do under the Climate Change Act anyway isn’t it? So why bother with Vince’s scheme at all or do they seriously think they can make enough biogas to replace natural gas? These people are beyond mental. Roll on 20 January and the start of the swamp draining works.

    • Joe Public permalink
      December 13, 2016 7:45 pm

      If the greenies *really* are serious about reducing CO2, they should ban gas from being used wastefully in power stations to generate electricity!

      We at home make use of 50% more heat per unit of CO2 than power stations do.

      Factoid of the day: “Benevolent, caring British Gas banned the use of gas being burnt in *public* power stations, because it wasted so much valuable energy. It was in the early 1990s that Ofgas (Ofgem’s predecessor) decided BG had no ‘right’ to determine how gas was used.

      • Gerry, England permalink
        December 14, 2016 11:34 am

        My view too. Always made more sense to me to use coal for power generation where the combustion by products can be dealt with in one place as opposed to homes using coal for heating – as I was last night. That preserved gas for use in homes and industrial processes. I recall a discussion post tour at JET Culham on the energy policy and the ‘dash for gas’ not being the best idea but then it was part of making sure the miners and rail unions could never hold the nation to ransom again.

  6. December 13, 2016 7:38 pm

    ‘After carting 60,000 tonnes of grass backwards and forwards on tractors and trailers’

    Taken from land no longer available for any more productive uses.

    • Joe Public permalink
      December 13, 2016 7:46 pm

      Come the next famine, the cry will be “Let the peasants eat grass”

    • December 13, 2016 7:54 pm

      Also if you remove the grass and thus stop cows from eating it, then you produce less methane, so you have a double benefit. Not only that, but the price of food goes up, so people can now no longer afford to eat and heat, so you have a population reduction, i.e. a triple benefit. It’s so simple when you are stupid and malevolent.

  7. Rowland H permalink
    December 13, 2016 8:05 pm

    Well, it may not be National Grid’s problem in the future as they are busy selling off the gas pipework to foreigners, notably the Chinese.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      December 14, 2016 11:37 am

      Looking forward to receiving my cut of the deal.

  8. December 13, 2016 8:26 pm

    There’s an awful lot wrong with the information given. It assumes a capacity factor of 93%. ADs do not run at anywhere near that figure because of the unreliability of the feedstock quality and the difficulties in controlling the rate of production of gas.

    The planners and planning committee members did not have the intelligence to ask some serious questions (I’ve seen many planners and planning committee members in Devon who haven’t a clue what they are doing). I haven’t run through the calcs to see if 60,000te of grass will produce 49,000MWh, but it will need at least 4 square miles of farm land to produce the grass. Nobody will have thought through what effect taking 60,000te of grass out of the local farming system will do. The normal inter-farm trade in grass, silage and haylage will be disrupted for miles around. Because of the massive subsidy, the AD will pay a higher price for the grass than the normal price. Many traditional farmers (who are already struggling) will find it uneconomic to carry on at the higher grass costs, but even if they do, they will be having to import grass from much further away.

    Of course the waste from the AD will be liquid digestate, which is a feriliser, but which has to be stored and then tankered away to be sprayed on the fields. The net effect is a doubling of traffic and the complete negation of any benefits. In other words it would be better just to burn the diesel as a primary energy source, rather than subsidise the highly inefficient production of green gas.

    It is just another example of the law of unintended consequences when politicians, who don’t know what they are doing, distort the market by subsidising useless means of generating energy.

    • December 13, 2016 8:30 pm

      I’ve just looked at the calcs, and theoretically, 60,000te/yr of high quality grass is capable of producing at 5MW.

    • December 14, 2016 5:38 pm

      The “3500 tonnes of CO2 saved pa” also appears to contain an admission of how much CO2 will be emitted by the harvesting and processing of the grass:

      According to National Grid, the CO2 emissions for fast responding combined cycle gas turbines (CCGT) are 0.392 tonnes per MWH. Therefore:
      Expected CO2 saving = 49,000 MWh x 0.392 t per MWh = 19,208 tonnes. But only 3500 is actually ‘saved’.

      So it seems 15708 tonnes are emitted in the process of growing, harvesting and processing the grass – ie. 82% of the CO2 “saved” by replacing NG with BG is wasted in the growing, harvesting and processing.

  9. December 13, 2016 8:31 pm

    This is beyond satire.

  10. December 13, 2016 9:04 pm

    Paul I made a comment on BBBC Dec 9th
    Yorkshire Post reports a Dale Vince ant-fracking trick. At known frack sites he’s applying for planning permission for GRASS GAS Mills claiming UK could get all the gas it needs from them. He’s got a pet unicorn as well.
    Most economic way of dealing with excess grass is making it into silage to feed cows in winter.
    Really can’t see world becoming vegetarian.
    Tribal people laugh at westerners who want to farm beans instead of cows.

  11. Joe Public permalink
    December 13, 2016 9:09 pm

    To put things into perspective, someone’s contemplating changing a system that delivers 80 billion m^3/pa to accommodate one that intends to deliver 4.76m m^3/pa.

  12. Robert Jones permalink
    December 13, 2016 9:55 pm

    Once reality intrudes courtesy of the new head of the US EPA (among others) we will soon discover that we will certainly need gas-powered generation to keep the lights on into the future. At that time I would expect fracked gas to provide the best source of a quality fuel with low carbon emissions. Moreover, once the frack well has been built it will run silently without daily movements of vehicles to and from the inconspicuous site.

    As someone living within a Somerset farming community I can report that farmers need all the grassland that they can rent to sustain their dairy herds by grazing and as silage throughout the year. Losing four square miles of grassland that will have to be fertilised, sprayed, cut, ploughed, fertilised etc, so that endless convoys of tractor and trailers can ferry the grass to the digester makes no economic sense and will see farms going out of business. This is another Dale Vince get rich scheme with no regard for the consequences. The Planning Inspectorate needs to become involved.

    • December 13, 2016 10:06 pm

      The Planning Inspectorate is no use. It follows planning law and invariably favours renewable energy schemes because, despite evidence to the contrary, it sees the benefits outweighing the harm and they are “sustainable”. The Planning Inspectorate is a tool used by the Government to over-ride local democracy and force through its policy, whether it is meeting renewable energy targets or housing targets or whatever.

      • Robert Jones permalink
        December 14, 2016 9:44 am

        It might depend upon where we live. Local groups have successfully fought off several renewable schemes (mostly turbines but with some solar) and have won 90% of them in front of the Inspector.

      • December 14, 2016 3:53 pm

        Is there no blowback when you can take a failure like this and wave it back in their face.

  13. robinedwards36 permalink
    December 13, 2016 10:49 pm

    “Biomethane”! What a joke. Methane diluted with carbon dioxide, I’ve just read! Is this really what biomethane is? How are they generating the CO2, or are they collecting it from somewhere? What’s the molar ratio?, and what’s the calorific value – obviously calculatable from the mol rat, but I’d like to see an “official” figure for this. It seems to me that someone in the chain between generating biomethane and it being burnt by the householder (at least, the methane should burn, given appropriate equipment, but CO2 is difficult to oxidise further) is going to have sublime faith in the people who calculate the energy content of the gas at the point of combustion. I would be extremely wary of having anything to do with a product of this sort. Will the local 4200 homes have any choice in what comes into their places?

    The comments of contributors above who know about grass production are very interesting and pertinent I believe. What hasn’t been mentioned so far is the grass tends not to grow at the same rate throughout the year. My lawns cause me considerable grief in April to July, but little in October to March, which is when I burn the great preponderance of my heating gas. Will the production plants store summer grass for use in the cold season?

    It all sounds suspiciously like a scam to me.

    • John Ellyssen permalink
      December 14, 2016 6:54 pm

      My 2 pence and easily could be wrong, however I interpreted that the CO2 would be natively trapped in the grass being processed for biomass.

  14. HotScot permalink
    December 14, 2016 12:09 am

    FFS……..after the UEA debacle, now this. How deep are my effing pockets?

  15. December 14, 2016 8:47 am

    It seems half the plant is missing – why is there no scrubber to remove the co2 (and h2s) and get the product up to specification?

  16. Keitho permalink
    December 14, 2016 3:06 pm

    I did this in the early seventies using anaerobic digesters at my sewerage works. The output was poor, the quality was poor and it was more effort than it was worth.

    We had sanctions on us at the time and I was looking for an alternative to petrol for my municipal vehicles. Peugeot 404 pick ups.

    gave it a good go for about a year and managed to fuel the pick-up for about a week.


  17. David Hamilton permalink
    December 14, 2016 5:00 pm

    Since grass is harvested only two to three times per year the road traffic to transport it at each harvest will be horrendous at around 1000 round trips per harvest if each load is 20 tonnes. Where is the grass being stored between harvest and digestion, in some huge smelly shed?

    Is Mr Egotricity only trying to get wealthier by picking our pockets yet again through green subsidies>

  18. December 14, 2016 5:49 pm

    Another BS figure is the ‘homes powered’:

    49,000MWH pa / 4200 homes = 11,666 KWH pa.

    Ofgem say a typical household consumes 3300KWh pa of electricity and 16,500KWh pa of energy for heating. So the plant will only generate enough gas to heat 3000 homes, not 4200. And if you wanted to supply heat and power it would be less than 2500 homes.

    And this assumes the 49,000MWH figure is valid – which is highly unlikely.

    And of course – you should really offset the energy required to harvest and process the grass – which the quoted CO2 figures suggest is equivalent to 82% of energy generated – so the homes powered figure should be discounted by 82% – leaving you with about 500 homes powered.

  19. Svend Ferdinandsen permalink
    December 14, 2016 8:01 pm

    In Denmark biomethane is treated so that only the CH4 is left before it is sent to the gas net. I have not heard of any adding propane.
    The only place biomethane is used directly is in Copenhagen, because they still was used to gas made of coal. They instead dillute the normal N-gas with air, to make it similar to the old coal gas. The last coal gas plant closed after a hughe explosion that made it to ruins in late 60.

  20. dennisambler permalink
    December 15, 2016 11:19 am

    In the late 60’s I was at an agricultural college which decided to build a digester for poultry manure. It had to be heated to get it to work and eventually erupted on Speech Day.

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