Research Spotlight

Reverse Coal Project

Creating a Greener, Cleaner Future

Peatlands are one of the most fertile lands in the UK for food growth, but the process emits excessive CO2, which can be detrimental to the environment. A new project featuring academics, farmers, and engineers, including a team from the Lincoln Institute of Agri-Technology (LIAT) and the School of Engineering at the University of Lincoln, is working to mitigate these issues, paving the way for climate-resilient and more sustainable agriculture.

The project, called ‘Reverse Coal', is taking place at the Lapwing Estate, a 5,000-acre estate near Doncaster, and sees a shift to indoor farming using a sustainable biomass fuel source as its power. The energy comes from growing biomass feed stock, which is then subjected to a thermochemical treatment called pyrolysis to create a source of energy. The pyrolysis will also produce biochar which will then be stored in a unique storage facility demonstrating that CO2 can be permanently captured.

Reverse Coal has been receiving praise for its pioneering approach, picking up the Highly Commended accolade at the internationally recognised UK and Ireland Green Gown Awards, and featuring as a positive case study in the Government’s Environmental Improvement Plan 2023, highlighted as an example of how peatlands can be more responsibly managed.

The Reverse Coal Project

Led by a team from The Lapwing Estate and the University of Lincoln, the Reverse Coal Project serves as a crucial stepping stone towards a scalable and sustainable future. It demonstrates the potential of innovative solutions to address environmental challenges, paving the way for broader adoption and positive impact on a global scale.

YouTube video for The Reverse Coal Project

The global food system is responsible not only for 30 per cent of CO2 emissions but also 60 per cent of nature loss, so a radical transformation is needed. The aim of this project is to reverse the impact of coal via an engineered natural solution to extract carbon from the atmosphere and return it back into the geological reserve for long-term storage.

"Reverse Coal sequesters carbon and produces food with positive environmental impact," explains Dr Amir Badiee, who along with Professor Simon Pearson from LIAT, is leading the project.

"Fossil fuels have been used for so long in food production that their negative impact can not be understated, but this project proves that there is a better way. It solves the inherent dilemma of bioenergy crops: the loss of land from food production."

It’s fantastic to see this being highlighted in the Government’s environmental strategy, and receiving the Green Gown Award is an immense honour. It is a profound validation of our commitment to net zero transition and underscores the significance of the project in contributing to net-zero research.

Judges at the Green Gown Awards were impressed with the huge potential of the scheme, declaring it to be an 'incredible project' and a 'timely' and 'important piece of collaborative research on carbon capture and peat land restoration'.

The Green Gown Awards UK and Ireland has been recognising sustainability excellence in Higher Education since 2004 and are delivered by the EAUC – The Alliance for Sustainability Leadership in Education, in association with UKRI – UK Research and Innovation.

The Reverse Coal Project has now been selected for both Phase One and Phase Two of the Government’s Greenhouse Gas Removal Programme, which will provide funding for the scheme.

Meet the Expert

Dr Badiee is active in the fields of material development and characterisation with interests in solar energy and alternative fuels. His research is backed by respected institutes and companies such as British Steel, CATCH, Pilkingtons Glass.

Meet the Expert

Prof Pearson is Director of LIAT and Professor of Agri-Food Technology. His research interests include agri-technology applications such as robotic systems, automation, energy control and management, food safety systems, and novel crop development.

Discover More

Read more about the Reverse Coal Project and the innovative and impactful research that is taking place at the University of Lincoln.