A career spotlight into anaerobic digestion site management

At Eco Verde Energy (EVE), we’re not just about creating renewable energy solutions; we’re about developing the talents and skills of the people who drive our success.

In this blog, we dive into the experiences and insights of Tyler Warman, the dynamic Site Manager at our Ellough anaerobic digestion (AD) plant in Beccles, Suffolk.

Shortlisted for the BREA awards in 2022, Tyler’s journey from one-time scaffolder to leading a critical green energy facility offers a unique insight into routes to the AD sector.

What does an AD site manager do?

Tyler describes his role as the site manager of a 12-megawatt anaerobic digestion facility.

Responsible for the daily operation and output of the Ellough AD plant, his work involves transforming feedstocks, like maize and sugar beet, into biogas, which is refined into biomethane and fed into the national grid.

Ellough is the largest gas-to-grid AD facility in the East of England, converting 100,000 tonnes of energy crops into sustainable gas, powering up to 9,000 local homes and businesses each year.

The plant also supports local farmers to become more sustainable with the production of digestate, an eco-friendly alternative to synthetic, carbon intensive fertilisers.

Tyler emphasises the meticulous planning, preventive maintenance, and the importance of health and safety in his daily responsibilities.

As the site manager, Tyler’s daily responsibilities can include:

  • Consulting with operators and contractors to plan daily issues and projects
  • Reactive planning, supervising checks and maintenance
  • Optimising the flow of feedstocks and ordering parts to ensure site performance
  • Enhancing operational output and planning the maintenance schedule to avoid downtime
  • Managing staff, training and development
  • Conducting site inspections to ensure proper operations
  • Assisting operators with maintenance tasks
  • Balancing administrative duties with hands-on site work

Read Tyler’s blog on five things to consider when maintaining an AD plant.

Journey into AD

Tyler’s foray into anaerobic digestion (AD) started through spotting an ad at a recruitment agency, while looking for operations and maintenance engineer roles.

His career journey began with a stint in the service industry at McDonald’s while studying electrical engineering in college. While searching for an apprenticeship, he worked as a scaffolder and his determination led to a successful four-year apprenticeship in electromechanical engineering.

During this apprenticeship, Tyler learned a variety of skills including service repairs and installations for many different industries, including oil and gas, water, and food manufacturing.

His first role in AD began in 2019 as a Site Operator at Ellough. When EVE took ownership of the site in 2020, Tyler quickly progressed his career and was soon promoted to his current role as Site Manager.

He believes this diverse background has enriched his skills, making him adaptable with the interpersonal and hands-on skills needed for managing a team and suppliers. This enables him to switch from the demands of back-office to on-site work. Tyler enjoys this variety and pace, and it is part of what appeals about his role as a site manager.

Tyler says there is no typical entry route to the sector among his team and notes that most of his new recruits come from transferable engineering, maintenance or operational backgrounds with experience in mobile plant engineering or factory work.

He notes that hands-on mechanical experience, such as handling motors, gearboxes or pumps, stands recruits in good stead for operational roles.

Leadership and Management

As the youngest Site Manager at EVE, moving into management was a significant shift for Tyler.

Since starting his Site Manager role, Tyler has implemented new systems and improved the site’s energy output by 20%.

He values a hands-on approach and believes in supporting his team both on the ground and administratively. He attributes the site’s success to having a well-rounded, hardworking and pro-active team.

Tyler’s strategic thinking has also led to improvements in site safety and environmental performance, while delivering cost savings. His efforts in rolling out new health and safety training underscore his critical role in advancing the team’s skills.

This inclusive leadership style has created a collaborative, efficient working environment at Ellough.

Addressing the AD awareness gap

Prior to joining the industry, Tyler’s knowledge of the AD sector was scarce. He is quick to mention that AD wasn’t a well-known career path in schools, indicating an awareness gap about this vital industry. Among friends and family, Tyler notes that his job is understood as ‘working at a renewable gas plant’.

Looking to the future, he believes it is vital for the sector to address this lack of awareness to promote the benefits of AD for meeting the UK’s climate goals and for attracting new talent to the sector as we transition from fossil fuels.

Want to learn more about the AD process? Watch our anaerobic digestion animation video

Myths and misconceptions in AD

Tyler addresses common misconceptions about AD, noting that despite logistical challenges of transporting feedstocks, it is a sustainable process.

Concerns from those outside the sector often centre on farmland being used for energy crops and diesel emissions from tractors. At sites like Ellough, every aspect, from diesel usage to farm distance, is meticulously calculated to ensure the process meets Ofgem’s sustainability criteria.

Notable achievements

In 2022, Tyler was highly commended for the Young Renewable Energy Professional Award at the British Renewable Energy Awards, recognising the impact of his early career achievements and leadership potential.

Tyler is passionate about recruiting others into the renewables sector. He says his proudest achievement is bringing in new members of staff with no prior experience of AD and developing a competent team capable of maintaining high operational and safety standards across all aspects of the site.

As a leader, Tyler notes he would not ask his team to do anything he is unwilling to do himself and believes in the importance of having an open dialogue. It is important, he says, for them to feel confident in approaching him if they need support or guidance on how to carry out certain tasks.

Impact on Climate Goals

Tyler’s work contributes significantly to net zero goals, with Ellough supplying green gas to local homes and businesses, displacing the need for natural gas and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

This is something he is proud of, and he stresses the importance of AD in tackling unavoidable food waste, building the UK’s energy resilience and in assisting sustainable farming practices.

Advice for Aspiring AD Professionals

For those eyeing a career in AD or renewables, Tyler’s advice is to explore various roles across different industries.

This exposure provides a broader understanding of the valuable transferrable skills needed to succeed in AD such as interactions with colleagues and contractors, understanding process control, implementation, and delivery.

Linking back to his earlier point on education, Tyler also emphasises the need for greater investment in industry-specific training and qualifications to streamline pathways into AD careers.

While the industry presents its challenges, Tyler believes that the diversity of work, problem-solving, and daily learning opportunities in AD offer immense job satisfaction.

Tyler’s journey and insights paint a vivid picture of the opportunities and variety in the AD sector. His commitment to innovation, team development, and sustainability embodies the ethos of Eco Verde Energy. As we continue to champion green energy solutions, it’s the dedication and expertise of individuals like Tyler that drive us forward.

Be part of the renewable future with EVE

Eco Verde Energy (EVE) has a clear vision of being the best AD and green energy services provider, shaping a sustainable, carbon-neutral world.

We’re more than just an AD service provider; we’re educators, advisors and passionate advocates leading the drive for a circular economy.

EVE is always looking for talented people to join our team.

From consultative roles to hands-on operational tasks, the opportunities are vast and varied. All we ask is that you have an interest in renewables and a drive to help our team decarbonise the UK’s energy network.

To see our latest vacancies, please visit ecoverde.energy/careers or contact hr@ecoverde.energy