A GREENTECH firm with links to Aston University has announced plans to build the first of 16 ‘pyrolysis’ hubs in the Wye Valley, which will burn manure from poultry farmers and transform it into charcoal-like biochar.

Onnu says that once all 16 hubs are completed, they will annually produce over 500,000 tons of carbon – which would otherwise be released into the atmosphere – making this the UK’s biggest carbon removal initiative.

Pyrolysis is the burning of materials in the absence of oxygen.

The multimillion-pound investment, spread over four years, will create more than 100 Greentech jobs and will end the land-spreading that has caused well-documented damage to the Wye and surrounding areas, says the firm.

“By using this waste biomass as a pyrolysis feedstock, we turn a problem into a revenue stream for local farmers,” said Giles Welch, CEO of Onnu.

“The resulting biochar will be used as a safe and transportable organic fertiliser forming part of a circular economy in UK agriculture. This is the only genuinely sustainable solution to the problems facing the Wye Valley.”

Onnu will open an office in Herefordshire later this year with six staff, including two land acquisitions experts.

The company has already identified four potential locations for its first site which is planned to start operating in April, 2024.

“These hubs will be no larger than a typical barn and are completely self-contained, self-sustaining units with underground storage,” he said.

“They will create no discernible noise or odours so their operation will have no impact on the surrounding areas.”

Onnu plans to build the hubs across Herefordshire, Shropshire and Powys by 2027.

They will each be strategically located a few minutes’ drive from several dozen local poultry farmers to minimise traffic to and from the site.

Each hub, consisting of two pyrolysis machines, can process 10,000 tonnes of waste biomass a year: once all 16 hubs are built, 1.6 million tonnes of waste biomass would be processed annually, sufficient to account for all the poultry litter produced in the Wye Valley catchment.