Bridges Ventures today announces that it has led an investment with Carbon Trust Investments in AeroThermal Group Limited (“AeroThermal”), a Dorset-based developer of an innovative autoclave based steam treatment technology for waste. The investment from Bridges Ventures and Carbon Trust Investments will be used to build a full-scale AeroThermal Advanced Anaerobic Digestion (AAD) system which provides significantly increased biogas yields from waste including municipal solid waste otherwise destined for landfills. The system enhances energy generation from mixed waste and allows biogas production from numerous ‘problem’ waste streams by eliminating the need for household separation of mixed waste and kitchen waste, reducing pressure on residents and expense for local authorities.

AeroThermal offers a solution to waste disposal that delivers significant environmental benefits by diverting waste from landfill and enhancing the biogas energy recovery potential from waste. Mixed raw waste is processed in a steam filled autoclave at high pressure, breaking down the cell structure of the organics by hydrolysis which increases the proportion of waste available for anaerobic digestion, from which a methane-rich biogas is produced which is then harnessed to generate green electricity. Waste heat is utilised within the system and the remaining recyclable material is sterilised and cleaned, enhancing its appeal to the recycling market.

The UK’s anaerobic digestion market is growing with Defra suggesting that more than 100 million tonnes of waste feedstock is available each year for biogas production which could provide between 10 and 20 TWh of heat and power (enough power to supply over 1 million homes). AeroThermal is well-placed to deploy its AAD system either on a turnkey basis or through the development of merchant site joint ventures, where venture partners provide a waste stream and operating expertise and AeroThermal and its backers provide the processing equipment and funding.  Bridges Ventures and Carbon Trust Investments are keen to support AeroThermal in its pursuit and development of an existing pipeline of opportunities.

This investment builds on Bridges Ventures’ successful record of backing businesses that can achieve intrinsic social or environmental impacts as well as attractive financial returns within the UK’s most deprived areas. The environmental sector is one of Bridges Ventures’ core target sectors.

The management team of AeroThermal has a strong track record of designing and building industrial-scale autoclave pressure vessels for high-specification applications in the aerospace, motor-sport and other industrial sectors. From the Airbus ‘SuperJumbo’ A380 wing forming autoclave at 40m long, to autoclaves that cure 80% of the Formula 1 cars’ carbon fibre parts, the AeroThermal team has been behind some of the most technically advanced and largest autoclaves in the world. The team has applied the same level of innovation and technical expertise to the waste market in the development of the AeroThermal Advanced Anaerobic Digestion Process.

Ian Toll, Chief Executive of AeroThermal Group Ltd, said:
“This funding round is a major milestone enabling AeroThermal to prove its innovative technology at full commercial scale. I am especially pleased to welcome support from such prestigious investors as Bridges Ventures and Carbon Trust Investments as well as to receive support from our existing shareholders, particularly in such a challenging funding environment.”

Philip Newborough, Chief Executive of Bridges Ventures, added:
“Bridges Ventures is excited to back a capable management team to take advantage of the opportunities in the emerging waste-to-energy sector with attractive potential financial and environmental gains. AeroThermal is now well-poised to build upon its technical pedigree to commercialise its autoclave know-how in the waste sector. We are committed to invest further to support the deployment of AeroThermal’s technology, and we look forward to working with the AeroThermal management team to fully realise its potential.”

Peter Linthwaite, Managing Partner of CT Investment Partners, added:
“Carbon Trust Investments is delighted to be backing the AeroThermal team in the development of their business which will help to divert waste from landfill and contribute to the UK’s move to a low carbon economy. By making it possible to generate renewable energy from more types of waste, and by further increasing the efficiency of existing waste to energy processes, we believe that this investment could provide significant environmental and financial returns.”