EWB Insight: February 2017

This month: The UK urged to ditch "ill defined" circular economy package, Commission debates over recycling type and volumes and is the EfW sector facing a "transitional" period

UK should ditch EU circular economy package

The EU’s proposed circular economy package is "ill defined" and "poorly thought through", according to a report by a UK-based think tank.

Policy Exchange’s report Going Round in Circles, released 1 March, claims the proposals will cost British businesses and households an additional £2bn (€2.3bn) over the next two decades.

The centre-right think tank argues Brexit is an opportunity for the UK to "generate more energy from its waste". This could be achieved by redirecting the £280m (€327m) it says was spent last year on exporting UK waste overseas.

Its conclusion contradicts a report carried out in 2015, which said the 2.6 million tonnes then shipped abroad would add just 0.8% a year to total UK renewable electricity generation, if processed for recovery domestically.

Policy Exchange’s report further urges the UK government to use Brexit to define its "own approach to waste and resource policy". It also says the UK should focus on "maximising the resource productivity" of its own economy.

The think tank urges the UK to also seek to "minimise" the carbon emissions and wider environmental impacts of waste management and resource use.

Policy Exchange’s head of environment and energy, Richard Howard, who co-wrote the report, said: "The circular economy package focuses too much on the means rather than the ends. The UK needs to take back control of our rubbish and develop a more coherent set of waste policies which better serve UK businesses and households, as well as the environment."

FCC Environment communications director, Kristian Dales, added: "The fact that waste management companies are paying to export waste out of our country for incineration is simply not sustainable.

"It glosses over the fact that the UK urgently needs increased investment in its own waste infrastructure, which will not only enable us to better manage the waste, but will also help to safeguard the UK’s long-term energy security."

FCC said it "provided some funding" to the report, but a spokesperson added: "We had no control or even say in the contents so the content is independent and reflects the views only of Policy Exchange."

The report also makes the following key recommendations:

  • Household Waste Recycling Centres should also be collection points for reusable items, which can then be sold or redistributed to local charities. This approach is "bizarrely" illegal under current waste rules.

  • Local Authorities should use one of three standardised systems for collecting waste and recycling – simplifying the more than 400 systems which currently operate across England.

  • Government should encourage innovation in the recycling and reuse of materials, and help to develop markets for scrap materials.

  • Government should also promote efficient forms of EfW, for example using black bag waste to create biogas.

The think tank’s report comes just over a month after the EU released its much-anticipated WtE communication, which the energy recovery sector said lacked "facts and science".

Data Watch


German production of bioethanol was slightly down on 2015 last year with a total of 738,169 tonnes produced, compared with 739,821 tonnes the year before, figures from bioethanol trade association BDBE revealed. This indicates the sector could be levelling out as production has seen little change since 2014 after a period of year-on-year growth since 2011.

Policy Update

The quality of recycling, not just the volume, will determine how much of Europe's municipal waste will be burned for energy, a European Commission official told an event in Brussels. Veronica Vecchio described the EU’s stance on EfW as a "work in progress" dependent on numerous interlinked policy stands, from waste to eco-design.

Germany proposed incentivising the use of long-lived wood products over energy use of wood under the revised EU law on LULUCF. According to the government, if member states increase the share of wood used for energy at the expense of material use, it could result in debits under the carbon neutrality rule even if the total amount harvested remains the same.

The UK government launched a consultation looking at ending a "transitional period" aimed at supporting under-development biomass cogeneration projects. The consultation came little more than a month after the transitional period came into force.

Arrangements for the UK’s next contracts for difference (CfD) auction were reported to have been finalised. Detail contractual changes will only emerge nearer the time of the April auction. What is known is the funding framework excludes applications for anaerobic digestion units and EfW facilities with CHP already involved in a renewable heat incentive application also cannot apply. However, biomass conversions yet to be commissioned are eligible.

Changes to the UK government’s support system for biogas were criticised by the sector. The changes include lowering tariffs for all anaerobic digestion plants producing only electricity from April. Trade associations called the move "disappointing" and accused the government of a "lack of ambition" for biogas.

The Flemish Energy Agency (VEA) gave developers of projects generating renewable heat six weeks to apply for a share of €12m in subsidies. Support is available for projects such as biomass-fired heat with capacity over 1MW as well as waste heat and biomethane facilities. Flemish anaerobic digestion trade association Biogas-E said the news was welcome despite the application window being "relatively short".

The number of biomass-fired projects awarded funding in the Netherlands under the sustainable energy production (SDE+) subsidy fell dramatically last year, while still attracting the largest single share of financial support. Of the 3,354 projects supported in the spring round, more than half involved biomass in some form. But in the autumn round out of a total of 2,197 successful projects 2,047 were solar, figures released in February showed.

Market Update

A huge waste-to-products business spanning nine European countries was given a green light when Dutch authorities signed off the merger of Shanks and Van Gansewinkel.  The process to complete and launch the combined group should be complete in early March. The combined group will have "unique capabilities and the scale, capability and expertise to grow profitably over the longer term", according to Shanks.

Engineering firm Aker Solutions said it was "confident" the Norwegian government would pursue its carbon capture and storage technology for EfW plants. Aker’s world first" test at the Klemetsrudanlegget EfW plant in Oslo achieved a 90% carbon capture rate. The trial, which was applied to a "small slipstream" of the facility’s flue gas did not affect its waste processing or output.

Two biomass boiler suppliers born out of the Burmeister & Wain (B&W) shipping yard in the nineteenth century have been reunited after one went insolvent earlier this year. Burmeister & Wain Scandinavian Contractor (BWSC) completed a deal to take over Burmeister & Wain Energy (BWE) following the latter’s insolvency. The companies have operated independently for 150 years.

US-based wood pellet exporter Enviva predicted it would achieve "robust growth" this year. Developments with the UK’s Drax, Denmark’s DONG Energy and the Netherland’s SDE+ supporting biomass conversion, were cited by the company as positives for 2017.

France-based Veolia said revenue falls in its French waste arm were "partially offset" by growth in its energy recovery and landfill activities last year. The business said its overall waste revenue increased globally by 0.5% to €8.4bn in 2016. But the firm’s domestic market struggled with its French waste business revealing revenues fell 2.4%. However, a "sound level" of performance from its French energy recovery activities and landfill volumes, which taken on their own were actually up 5.4%, partly mitigated the fall in collections, according to the results.

Torrefied biomass pellets rather than "white" (non-torrified) wood pellets should be used in small-scale decentralised biomass boilers, according to Dutch local authority the Province of Gelderland. The Municipality funded work by black pellet maker Blackwood and engineering firm Boonstoppel, which found torrefied biomass offered "improved combustion behaviour" and "more stable heat output".

PowerHouse Energy and Peel Environmental signed an MoU to work together on developing waste gasification facilities using the former’s technology. Protos, a subsidiary of Peel, got the green light late last year for a 350,000 tonnes-per-year RDF-fired plant with a capacity of 35MWe. It now appears the site in Chester will use PowerHouse’s system. Under the MoU, the two could also develop a further five EfW plants at unspecified locations.

Finnish engineering firm Valmet revealed solid 2016 financial results despite orders falling in its pulp and energy division.The company’s overall net sales remained near the previous year’s level at €2,926bn compared with €2,928bn in 2015. But, in spite of increasing orders in all of its business lines, including automation, its pulp and energy arm saw its number of sales orders fall by 9% from 913 in 2015 to 826 in 2016.

France is set to dramatically increase its use of RDF, with its combustion becoming a "mainstay" of the nation’s waste management. German consultancy Ecoprog said France’s energy transition, announced in 2015, meant RDF was seen as a "wider resource" and it use was growing.

Viridor revealed it had begun working with Doosan Babcock to complete its Glasgow EfW plant. Viridor previously ended a relationship with Interserve at the Glasgow Recycling and Renewable Energy Centre (GREEC). The plant is planned to handle up to 200,000 tonnes of waste annually and have a capacity of 15MWe.

Research by Propellets Austria showed Eastern Europe’s pellet production capacity to be rising fast as other parts of the continent slow down. Production growth was driven by the Balkans and the Baltic States in particular, while 2015 saw Russia became the largest pellet producer in Europe with a capacity of 2.1 million tonnes a year, just ahead of Germany’s 2Mt.

A joint venture was announced between a Macedonian and a Slovak company to build a €10m wood pellet manufacturing plant. Publicly-owned Macedonian Forests and Slovakia-based Holz Consulting will construct the facility, which will consume wood waste and agricultural residues. The Macedonian government announced the plans without giving details of production capacity.

North Ayrshire Council in Scotland said it was seeking a consultant to support a plant to make money from "woodland assets" and "brownfield land". The authority said it saw an energy sector expert as a key potential partner.

Waste management firm Attero signed a decade-long deal that could see a total of 4.5 million tonnes of Dutch IBA (incinerator bottom ash) reused. The IBA will be processed by Inashco and sold on by aggregate producer Boskalis through the businesses’ joint venture Ash Cleaning Company Netherlands (ACNN). ACNN will build a new IBA processing plant in the port area of Nauerna solely for the Attero contract.

The first concrete blocks made from IBA sourced from Twence’s EfW plant in the Netherlands were revealed. The blocks will be used to pave an outdoor car show area at a large Volvo dealership near Hengelo.

Valmet unveiled new test equipment to help optimise performance at  biomass-fired plants. It said the Chip 'n' Bark Moisture Analyser (CBA) could replace "time consuming" oven dry laboratory measurements taking up to 24 hours per batch. The CBA can operate continuously and uses microwave technology to immediately measure woodchip, bark, forest residue biomass or recycled wood moisture.

Facilities Update

The UK government signed off on a development control order (DCO) allowing the construction of an EfW plant in north London. Plans for the £450-500m (€626-696m) plant will be finalised in April. Preparatory construction work could begin in 2019, according to developer NLWA. The facility had to get government approval because its design electrical capacity is more than 50MW.

Plans to develop Denmark’s first full-scale second generation (2G) bioethanol plant were again killed off by the country’s government. Plans for the facility were developed as part of the Maabjerg Energy Centre (MEC). They were revived late last year after a previous stoppage. But the government said it had been unable to find the private investment needed.

Developer Orthios revealed it had terminated an agreement with SinoFortone Group to receive £2bn (€2.7bn) in investment to build two 299MWe biomass power stations in Wales. Orthios said it remained committed to developing at least one of the two projects, on the island of Anglesey, and would release further details shortly.

Suez’s Wilton EfW plant was handed over after construction, but remained not fully operational due to continuing technical issues affecting its rail transfer station for waste deliveries. The £250m (€295m) project involved construction by CNIM Clugston of a 430,000 tonnes-capacity municipal solid waste-fired plant to serve Merseyside and Halton, plus a new rail transfer station at Kirkby. Both facilities were meant to be completed and operational by October last year.

Final testing took place at the biomass-fired 42MWe Tilbury Green Power plant. Steam blowing got underway to test the integrity of the boiler and its connected pipework, according to engineering firm Aalborg Energie Technik (AET). AET said the project, which is due to be operational early this year, is on time and budget. It will process up to 270,000 tonnes per year of waste wood when operational.

Aberdeen City Council, Aberdeenshire Council and Moray Council released a tender for construction of a £150m (€206m), 150,000 tonnes-per-year EfW facility at a derelict industrial site at East Tullos. The partner councils expressed willingness to discuss a guaranteed minimum tonnage and/or exclusivity over all three authorities’ residual municipal waste "if this represents best value". The EfW plant, which gained planning consent last year, will be fully financed by the three local authorities.

EDF subsidiary Dalkia revealed a foundation stone was laid for its €22m biomass-fired heating plant being built to serve the French city of Joué-lès-Tours. The plant is due to open in 2019 and its two biomass-fired boilers will provide up to half the city’s annual district heating needs.

Finland’s Vantaa Energia revealed plans to carry out a biomass conversion at its power plant in Martinlaakso. The work could cost up to €40m and will convert a currently disused boiler to fire on locally sourced biofuel. Conversion will start this summer and the new boiler should be operational in early 2019.

France-based Blue Paper unveiled plans for a €22m power plant to be fired on its own biomass waste. The company said it would start building the facility next month and planned to open it next year. The plant will take waste from the business’ paper manufacturing activities, totalling about 25,000 tonnes of mainly waste wood a year.

RDF business Andusia announced a deal with new supply partner Chambers Waste that will see an additional 7,000 tonnes of waste per year shipped to AEB in Amsterdam. AEB operates six grate lines at two sites north-west of the Dutch capital, the Afvalenergiecentrale (waste energy centre), which opened in 1993, and Hoogrendement Centrale (high-efficiency centre), built in 2007. The firm can process 1.4 million tonnes of waste per year.

Engineering firm Spencer Group announced it had almost completed three 36 metre high wood pellet silos at the Port of Tyne designed to hold biomass for the soon-to-be-converted Lynemouth Power Plant. Each silo has capacity to store 25,000 tonnes of wood pellets. Between them they will handle a total of 1.8 million tonnes per year, to be sourced mainly from Enviva, a US producer.

Utility company Eon confirmed a SEK2.5bn (€264m) plan to build new energy recovery plants at a waste facility operated by waste firm Ragn-Sells in Sweden. A new EfW plant and a biogas facility are planned at Ragn-Sells’ current recycling operation in Högbytor to the northwest of Stockholm. The biogas facility is expected to be operational in 2018 and the EfW plant in 2019.

Citec France was awarded a sub-contract on a biomass cogeneration plant project by main contractor Eiffage Construction. Eiffage is building the facility for utility company Akuo. It is due to be operational later this year or in early 2018 and will have capacities of 20MWe and 23.5MWth. The facility is being built on the site of the Gemdoubs paper mill, for which it will also provide steam.

Finnish utility company Elenia Lämpö revealed it was considering a €14m facility to replace its oldest biomass-fired heating unit. The new plant would process up to 40,000 tonnes per year of waste wood and have a capacity of about 14MWth. However, the company said it was "exploring various options" for its district heating network in Hämeenlinna to replace an older biomass-fired boiler at the 54MWth Vanaja power plant, which also processes peat and natural gas.

Finland-based KPA Unicon won a contract to supply a biomass-fired boiler to Metsä Tissue’s paper mill in Nyboholm, Sweden. The contract covers the installation, commissioning and training of staff to operate an 8MWth woodchip, bark and sawdust-fired facility. The facility is scheduled to be in operation by the end of October.

Veolia’s plan to develop a 33.5MWe EfW plant in Hoddesdon, UK, was put out to public consultation by Hertfordshire County Council. To be known officially as the Rye House Energy Recovery Facility, the planned plant will process up to 350,000 tonnes of waste per year. Subject to planning consent, construction is expected to start later this year with the facility opening in 2020. The consultation runs until 1 March.

German power plant builder Standardkessel revealed the first boiler column for the Rambervillers biomass-fired cogeneration plant in France was put in position. It was the "first important milestone" in the waste wood-fired project’s construction. It is being built for veneer and wooden panel manufacture EGGER Panneaux & Decors.

The anaerobic digestion element of the Milton Keynes Waste Recovery Park (MKWRP) was completed by Jones Celtic BioEnergy (JCBE). The MKWRP plant, built under a contract with Milton Keynes Council by main contractor Amey, features the biogas plant, a mechanical-biological treatment facility (MBT) and a waste gasification unit. The complex will handle up to 132,000 tonnes of waste per year in total. Overall, it will have an electrical capacity of 7.7MW, exporting around 5.7MWe to the grid.

And finally

GML marked the 50th birthday of its Ludwigshafen EfW plant, which was commissioned in 1967. The facility, one of the oldest in Europe, still processes about 200,000 tonnes of waste a year and produces 64,000MWh of electricity and 214,000MWh of heat annually. The plant began operating 1 February 1967, though it did not officially complete the commissioning process until June.

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