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Stochastic Anaerobic Digestion Economic Assessment Tool

What is anaerobic digestion?

Anaerobic digestion is a process by which micro-organisms break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen, leading to the production of biogas and bio-fertilisers. Anaerobic digestion technologies convert the methane in biogas into (renewable) electricity and heat with a low carbon footprint.

What is the SADEAT tool used for?

SADEAT is a decision support tool for assessing the economic feasibility of anaerobic digestion projects. It is developed with MATLAB software and utilises an advanced user friendly interface. SADEAT is freely available to download and is compatible for installation on computers operating on a Windows platform.

Why do we need SADEAT?

There is increasing public support for low carbon renewable energy generation in many (developed) countries. This has in turn necessitated governmental support for low carbon renewable energy sources such as anaerobic digestion technologies. For example, the UK and its devolved parliaments have introduced a number of policies designed to incentivize investments in anaerobic digestion projects. Among these are policies aimed at enhancing anaerobic digestion economics (e.g. feed-in-tariffs, renewable heat incentives, etc.); and policies aimed at channelling the potential of biodegradable waste for low carbon renewable energy generation (e.g. landfill ban for biodegradable waste, ban on macerators, legislation requiring separate food waste collections, etc.). Together, these policies have created significant opportunities for the anaerobic digestion industry in the UK.

Despite these governmental interventions and the opportunities created therefrom, there are a limited number of freely available tools for assessing the economic feasibility of anaerobic digestion projects. The available tools are typically simple spreadsheets and have important methodological limitations. More rigorous and user friendly tools are needed by stakeholders in the industry to robustly assess the economic feasibility of anaerobic digestion projects. With this in mind, SADEAT was developed by researchers at The James Hutton Institute to help private firms, academics and policy makers who seek to consider investment opportunities in anaerobic digestion projects and/or explore policy options for the industry.

How does SADEAT work?

Underlying SADEAT are 4 economic models, each outputting a decision support indicator of the economic feasibility of a user specified anaerobic digestion project. The 4 indicators are:

  1. net present value,
  2. modified internal rate of return,
  3. breakeven electricity price and
  4. breakeven heat price.

The 4 indicators complement one another, and together, they give a holistic overview of the economics of a user specified anaerobic digestion project.

Also, as implied in the name, SADEAT adopts a stochastic methodological framework. The other freely available anaerobic digestion decision support tools use a deterministic methodological framework. The problem with a deterministic framework however is that it typically uses a single value for particular anaerobic digestion inputs that we know are stochastic. For example, the methane content in biogas from anaerobic digestion processes can fluctuate between 55% and 80%. A stochastic approach can take this into account by allowing multiple simulated cases of a single anaerobic digestion project to be calibrated according to the probability distribution of the values of the stochastic input. Users of SADEAT can specify uniform or triangular probability distributions for all stochastic anaerobic digestion inputs, and can simulate up to 10,000 cases of a single anaerobic digestion project. A distribution of each of the 4 decision support indicators is then drawn from the simulated cases to give the user a robust picture of the likely economic outcome of an anaerobic digestion project over its lifetime.

Where can I find help with SADEAT?

SADEAT comes with a full user guide. Users are encouraged to reference the guide for details of the functionalities of the tool. Also, users may email the author of SADEAT at or for further assistance with the tool.

The legal bit of SADEAT

SADEAT is an indicative early stage decision support tool. The information or results produced by SADEAT are subject to the quality and accuracy of data inputted by the user. Every effort has been made to ensure that SADEAT is user-friendly and free of errors. Notwithstanding, users are encouraged to check and challenge all results before any reliance, publication or use. SADEAT is available under the GNU General Public Licence. Users are encouraged to read the terms and conditions of the licence.

Download latest version of SADEAT

Screenshot showing research tool

SADEAT metadata

Size of SADEAT executable file: 580 MB

Current version: 1.0.1

Legal Software License: GNU General Public License

OS: Microsoft Windows

Minimum installation requirements: 2.00GB RAM, 1.50 GHz frequency

Support email for questions:;




Areas of Interest

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.