Interview with Darragh Magee (Owner of AEG Ltd)
Due to the latest challenging legislation across Europe in relation to the required reduction in emissions, it is now common for farmers and for those working within the Agricultural sector to tackle and effectively manage the issue of harmful gas emissions generated for the surrounding regions.
In recent years the industry has seen the increase in demands for effective solutions which will significantly reduce the emission of harmful gases such as ammonia, Hydrogen Sulphide (H2S) and methane emissions. The challenge for many in the agricultural sector is to incorporate a solution within their farming practices, which is not only effective in reducing emissions to the specific levels set by EU law but also cost effective and does not pose any significant disturbances to their day to day operations.
History of AEG Ltd
AEG Ltd are an organisation with close connections and experience within the agricultural sector who have seen first-hand, the increase in demand and urgency to find a solution to tackle harmful gas emissions. Darragh Magee (Managing Director at AEG Ltd) explains how AEG Ltd have become a synonymous organisation for uncovering solutions for farmland owners to tackle harmful gas emissions on a huge scale, “AEG was incorporated in 2015, specialising in slurry and digestate storage and management. The individuals in the team have over 30 years’ experience within the sector and have partnered LECA since 2010.” He goes onto explain that “when we started looking at this market the objective was to control odour from agricultural slurry and digestate from AD plants for mainly social reasons, such as reducing odours for the local community.”
To emphasise the emerging changes within legislation with the agricultural sector, he explains, “today everybody is aware of the necessity to reduce emissions from livestock production with particular attention being paid to the pig and dairy sectors. In general farmers are being required to increase their slurry storage from 4 to 6 month’ capacity and are being obliged to cover slurry storage tanks and lagoons.”
Deadlines Facing the Agricultural Sector
The challenge facing the agricultural industry is the long-term solution for reducing gas emissions. Due to the nature of the agricultural sector, it has been found that the most important level of thinking for this issue is to uncover a consistent solution, “In the UK this requirement is currently being spread over a seven-year period starting with the larger pig units who have to cover all slurry stores by February 2021. Larger dairy farmers and middle sized pig farmers will then follow, with smaller units in both sectors needing to cover all slurry by 2025 and the smaller farms by 2027.”
“The ‘Storing Silage, Slurry and Agricultural Oil (SSAFO) Regulations are being amended in the UK in 2021 to bring digestate and liquid food waste under the same regulations as slurry. The introduction of IPPC permitting across the industry will follow. This will mean that the market demand will grow considerably over the next 5 years.”
The Challenges of Brexit
The challenges created by Brexit, does not mean that UK farmers can rest on their laurels that the emission of dangerous gases will not impact them, as the ripples felt by the European directives will still be felt in the UK agricultural sector, “Due to Brexit and its move away from the CAP, the UK is implementing the new ‘Agricultural Act’ with its drive being environmental improvement and its main emphasis being “public money for public good”. If British livestock farmers are to survive, they will have to reduce emissions or be forced out of production by having their permits withdrawn.”
How Does LECA Aerotop Provide an Effective Solution?
It was discovered in 2015, that LECA LWA could provide an effective solution in eliminating the emission of harmful gases, this was through historic research conducted by LECA Denmark and then tested and applied in the Agricultural market directly. Darragh reflects on this time period, “Following a successful comparative trial comparing polymer treated LECA with ‘LECA Aerotop’, the product was introduced to the market in 2015.”
He goes onto explain how LECA Aerotop can scientifically achieve the results and why the solution has been effective, “The internal structure of LECA Aerotop enables it to float to form a cover. This cover reduces the effect of ‘wind whip’ across the surface of the slurry which would otherwise lift the escaping gases into the atmosphere. Its irregular shapes and sizes mean the aggregates form a jigsaw like barrier that prevents gases passing through it. This cover also reduces the effect of ‘wind whip’ across the surface of the slurry which would otherwise lift the escaping gases into the atmosphere.
The iron oxides in the clay mineral structure of the LECA acts as a catalyst for chemisorption of Hydrogen Sulphide (H2S), Ammonia and Methane and other organic compounds. To provide a long term solution to reducing emissions, LECA AeroTop is treated with a hydrophobic coating to prevent it absorbing moisture and sinking. Alternative aggregates have been found to start sinking within 3 to 4 months of installation. Furthermore, the disposal of LECA AeroTop is not a problem as it is a natural and organic material that can be spread to the surrounding land and then ploughed in safely. The fact that the EU and the UK recognise LECA as BAT (Best Available Technique) is a testament to the effectiveness of this excellent solution in reducing emissions.”
Ease of Delivery Through Pneumatic Delivery
Furthermore, to the science behind LECA Aerotop, Darragh also believes the ability to pneumatically deliver the material, positions LECA Aerotop as an even greater solution, “It makes installation quick and easy. Providing suitable accessibility can be achieved and furthermore, LECA AeroTop can be blown onto any lagoon irrespective of its shape or size.” He goes onto confirm that, “We have blown LECA onto tanks up to 18m high. It is a great advantage that you can blow LECA AeroTop without having to carry out any preparatory work to the tank, lagoon or surrounding area.”
The feedback over the last 5 years have been positive from the Agricultural sector who have chosen LECA Aerotop as a key solution, “Our repeat orders from customers who want to install LECA AeroTop onto new tanks or lagoons as they increase their storage capacity speaks for itself. We also find it makes neighbours in local area happy as by controlling emissions you dramatically reduce offensive odours.”
The Future for the Agricultural Sector
In thinking about the future, Darragh feel both optimistic but apprehensive too, as he understands the momentum on the significant shift on public and local authority attitudes towards the environment and waste gas emissions, “Agriculture contributes 24% of global greenhouse gases, 65% of which comes from the livestock sector. With all the regulatory pressure being put on European and UK agriculture to reduce emissions in line with the Paris Accord, the industry has no alternative but to comply. In addition, there is the international drive towards green energy to reduce the use of chemical fertilisers.”
“This will inevitably result in greater and more strategic use of slurry and digestate for both arable and grass production. The financial benefit of reducing ammonia loss to the atmosphere is substantial. With 34.5% Ammonium Nitrate costing about £210.00 per tonne (Euro231.00) reducing ammonia loss to atmosphere makes sound financial sense. The environmental, social and economic significance of covering slurry and digestate storage with LECA AeroTop are indisputable.” But Darragh remains hopeful that AEG Ltd in partnership with LECA can provide a way forward in the challenging years ahead for farmers to maintain their livelihoods and the industry.