A new £20m biogas plant is being constructed in Ireland to treat large volumes of chicken, which will generate 3MW of renewable energy from up to 40,000t of chicken litter each year.

One of the major intentions of the project is to avoid the traditional unhealthy practise of spreading untreated litter on land.

The plant is being constructed by Ireland-based renewable energy development company Stream BioEnergy. It will be co-financed by funds managed by infrastructure and private equity investment manager Foresight Group and regional business development agency Invest Northern Ireland.

The European supplier of large scale biogas plants Xergi will be responsible for delivering the plant and will also be a shareholder in the project.

"The biogas plant will avoid the traditional unhealthy practise of spreading untreated litter on land."

Xergi’s CEO Jørgen Ballermann said: "The plant will convert chicken litter into biogas, which will be used to produce green electricity.

"At the same time, nutrients become an environmentally friendly fertiliser, which can replace chemical fertiliser for farmers."

The company has created a process, which enables biogas plants to be fueled by chicken litter as the only input feedstock.

Jørgen Ballermann added: "Nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen are easily absorbed by plants in the field once the litter has been through the biogas process.

"This minimises the risk of nutrients washing out from the fields into watercourses and causing an adverse impact on the environment, which is happening at the moment."

Located outside the town of Ballymena in Northern Ireland, the new facility will also be able to generate job opportunities, produce green energy, and recycle nutrients.

Expected to become fully operational by early 2018, the biogas plant will sell electricity through the network, supplying power to 4,000 households in the region.

During peak construction periods, the new facility is expected to create jobs for 30 people working on site. Once operational, it will employ 12 full-time members of staff and will create other off-site jobs through a range of professional services.