EWB Insight: May 2017

This month: CEWEP gives some early thoughts on the first draft of the waste incineration BREF, German biogas businesses reveal mixed fortunes and several waste and biomass-fired projects reach crucial stages

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Industry digests WI Bref implications

The development of one of the most important pieces of legislation related to the energy-from-waste (EfW) sector took a major step forward this month.

The European IPPC Bureau published the first draft of its much-anticipated waste incineration best available techniques reference document (WI BREF) towards the end of the month.

The draft will eventually form a legally-binding document, unlike the 2006 version, which provided recommendations rather than legal targets.

EfW trade association CEWEP’s scientific and technical officer, Lighea Speziale, said the complexity of the more than 900 page document meant it was "hard to judge" how it would impact on the energy recovery sector in the long term.

Speziale explained BAT associated emissions levels (BATAELs) in the draft, known as D1, will not lower the emission standards for energy-from-waste plants. According to EU law, the values that the plants currently have to follow are the ELVs from Annex VI of the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED).

The 2006 BATAELs were not legally binding for the plants and were typical "operational values," explained Speziale. They had an informative purpose and were therefore of completely different nature than the current D1 BATAELs, that will be the basis to set new ELVs in permits for all operating conditions and that will thus be legally binding for the plants.

Speziale said: "If we compare, as we should, ELVs from the IED to the BATAELs proposed in D1 then we will see that the upper end of the proposed D1 BATAELs is always lower or equal when a pollutant is not considered a key environmental issue than the relative ELV in the IED.

"The lower end of the proposed D1 BATAELs is always significantly lower than the relative ELV in the IED. Therefore, the proposed BREF legally binding values are stricter than the current IED legally binding values and therefore quite ambitious."

However, the document needs clarifications as it gives "no explanation" of how the values it assigns were derived. Speziale said: "The waste incineration sector has been for several years the most stringently regulated industrial sector. One of the consequences of this fact in the BREF review is that the data collection included emission values, which are, most of the time, incredibly low.

"When emissions reach such low values, the uncertainty of the measurement becomes a very important topic and needs to be tackled to avoid that monitoring requirements become inconsistent with emission limit values (ELVs). We expected to see a mention of this issue and how it is taken into account in the best-available technique (BAT) conclusions. Without this, permitting authorities will lack an important piece of information to be able to use the BATAELs (BAT associated emissions level) as ELVs."

According to Speziale "local drivers" alongside the BREF will also play a role in the choice of techniques applied in the plants. Choosing selective catalytic reduction (SCR) over selective non catalytic reduction (SNCR) is an important decision that has to account for cross-media effects. While SCR may reach lower NOx emissions, the plant will consume more energy and more reagents.

She added: "More than a matter of costs, it’s a matter of complexity of technology."

The WI BREF does not cover co-incineration if it is for the purpose of material production, meaning cement producing facilities were not under its remit

CEWEP is working towards the Bureau’s 8 September target for comments. Depending on the nature and volume of these, it expects a final meeting on the BREF toward the middle of next year, with publication perhaps before the end that year.

Data watch

 A European Commision-backed study sets out four scenarios covering possible developments in the use of biogas in the EU by 2030. For these scenarios, two assumptions were made, according to the feedstock potential and the speed of growth.


The result show biogas production in 2030 will be between 1.9 and 2.7 times larger than in 2014, depending mainly on policy support. The study was prepared by CE Delft, Eclareon and Wageningen Research. 

Policy update

EU countries approved a negotiating position on revised EU waste laws, aiming to lower recycling targets. The position includes a 60% municipal waste recycling target for 2030, compared with 65% proposed by the commission, and a 70% overall packaging-recycling target by 2030 as opposed to the EU executive’s 75%.

Several countries are blocking "ambitious" EU waste policy reform, environmental group EEB said. Despite generally being seen as progressive, Denmark and Finland oppose most proposals to upgrade the EU’s waste legislation. Similarly, Hungary, Lithuania and Latvia "categorically reject" increased ambition on the policy.

In a related development, plans to delay until 2040 a target to reduce landfilling to 10% of total municipal waste generation across the EU have been criticised by CEWEP and the European Biogas Association.

Another European trade association, Municipal Waste Europe (MWE), urged member states to back separate targets for commercial and industrial (C&I) waste in their discussions on proposals for a circular economy. The proposed Waste Framework Directive (WFD), only set targets for municipal waste, but it should also force C&I waste holders to report the annual volumes, MWE said.

An updated study of 14 EU members states has highlighted the environmental benefits of increasing the amount of waste used in cement production, but concluded several issues would block progress. The work was carried out by consultancy Ecofys and commissioned by CemBureau.

A leading civil servant in the Czech environment ministry confirmed the country wants to "follow the example" of western Europe by backing investment in the energy-from-waste sector this autumn. Jaromír Manhart, director of waste management at the country’s Ministry of the Environment, said the country’s €18 per tonne landfill tax would be raised as part of "imposing a better regime". By comparison, the UK’s landfill tax is around €99.3 per tonne.

The UK’s Environment Agency has begun working with the Wood Recyclers Association (WRA) to reassess the classification of hazardous waste wood in the UK. The move followed reports that some operators are using low-grade material as biomass fuel. Trade body WRA said the two organisations were working together to find a solution.

The latest provisional statistics, released by the UK’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy show biofuel consumption grew from 74,000 tonnes of oil equivalent in 2005 to 1Mtoe in 2016. But progress has been erratic since 2010, and usage has now fallen by 19% since the 2014 peak of 1.24Mtoe. The cause of the decline is a combination of falling bioethanol use and sluggish growth of biodiesel.

The EU court ruled that Greece’s Temploni landfill has breached EU waste and landfill legislation, ordering the country to pay the costs. The European Commission announced in 2015 it was taking Greece to the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU), arguing that the landfill located on the island of Corfu constitutes a serious threat to the environment.

Market Update 

Germany-based Schmack Biogas has ended all of its plant construction work due to the "overall weak development" market for new facilities in its domestic market. The company told ENDS that Germany’s "political framework" meant it was not commercially viable to build new biogas plants, but it would continue to maintain a network of about 8,000 facilities, mainly in Germany.

More positively, fellow German biogas firm Envitec Biogas said it hopes to "moderately" increase its EBIT for 2017 after posting mixed results for last year. The company said its 2016 EBIT rose to €4.2m, up from €3.5m in 2015, but sales revenues dropped 6.6% to €162.9m over the same period. A solid financial performance in 2017 now "hinges" on the firm being able to tackle a plant construction order backlog. 

Newly created EfW business Renewi released its first financial results showing a statutory loss before tax of £61.4m (€70.8m) for the financial year ending 31 March. The figures show the business took a large hit of £87.1m (€100.5m) as a result of it merging from UK-based Shanks and Netherlands-based Van Gansewinkel. Renewi said its UK focus was on refuse-derived fuel exports, which were currently suffering. It was planning to upgrade production to solid-recovered fuel.

Orders for a number of Danish firm Aalborg Energie Technik’s facilities supported a bumper year for the biomass plant builder in 2016. The company posted revenue of DKK 439.6m (€59m) in 2016, nearly doubling 2015’s DKK 259.3m (€34.8m), while its operating profit leapt to DKK 76.2m (€10.2m) from DKK 38.5m (€5.1m) over the same period. AET predicted, based on "orders on our books and the market situation in general", that it will post even higher revenue this year.

Danish biomass business Verdo said it cannot afford to keep operating two loss-making production facilities in the UK, as it posted its best ever financial results. Overall, the company said its international energy business reached record revenues of DKK 2.6bn (€350m) in 2016, up by almost DKK 400m (€53.7m) on 2015. However, Verdo also said the business environment for its two UK-based briquette and wood pellet manufacturing facilities in Grangemouth, Scotland and Andover, Hampshire was "unhealthy".

German utility company MVV reported a positive performance in its half-year financial results. The results show EBITDA rose 3% to €300m from €290m in the previous period. Sales were also up 6% to almost €2.2bn. 

German businesses Standardkessel and Baumgarte have come together to form one company. The two, which already work together on EfW and biomass-fired plants, will now be jointly known as Standardkessel Baumgarte GmbH. No financial terms were disclosed.

UK-based accountant Grant Thornton found that 2016 experienced the highest level of waste business activity since 2011, with a 26% rise on 2015 levels. Its report showed 48 deals completed last year.

The Northern Ireland government’s attempts to carry out full inspections of the 2,090 biomass-fired boilers it supported with subsidies has got off to a slow start. A tender for the inspections, which were initially intended to get under way this month, was instead re-issued after an earlier tender failed to find a suitable contractor.

Denmark’s Kara Noveren said it would issue a tender for two waste brokers to help supply its Roskilde-based EfW facilities. The tender is set to seek suppliers to takeover a waste deal that is currently being trialled for a year.

UK waste management firm Viridor reported its growing EfW operation performed above expectations. EBITDA for its EfW division reached £107m (€124.2m), surpassing its £100m (€116m) prediction.

A Welsh waste exporter had its environmental permit partially suspended after it failed to show it can conduct its business without a risk of serious pollution. Sundorne Products (Llanidloes) Ltd, which operates a waste processing facility at Pembroke Dock in Pembrokeshire, is no longer allowed to store waste on its site. However, it will still be able to process it there.

Mannheim-based CropEnergies revealed higher production and sales volumes of its bioethanol led to a record-breaking financial year in 2016/17. The German firm’s financial year, which runs from March last year to 28 February, showed a record annual operating profit of €98m, up from €87m in the previous year. The company produces around 1.3 million cubic metres of bioethanol per year at four facilities in Germany, Belgium, the UK and France.

Germany-based Hitachi Zosen Inova (HZI) BioMethan revealed it has secured four contracts to build biomethane producing facilities worth about €11.7m in France.

Facilities Update

Construction can start on a large-scale waste and biomass-fired plant in Vilnius after the city signed off on the facility’s final height. Plans for the facility involve a biomass boiler with capacities of 70MW electrical and 174MW heat to be built by Poland-based Rafako in a €178.29m deal. A second boiler will be fired on waste and have capacities of 18MW of electricity and 53MW of heat. A consortium of Germany-based Steinmüller Babcock Environment, Polish firm Budimex and Lithuanian-based UAB Kauno will take on the construction under a €149.65m contract for the waste-fired part of the plant.

Waste management business Miejskie Przedsiebiorstwo Oczyszczania (MPO) has launched a tender for an EfW development in Warsaw. The tender runs until 10 August and aims to add an energy recovery facility as a priority for the city’s waste management capabilities.The facility, which is planned to be built in 24 months after the appointment of a contractor, will supply heat as well as electricity.

Multinational firm Veolia, which is headquartered in France, has secured a tender to build a 1.6-million-tonnes-per-year EfW plant in Mexico. The facility has a planned capacity of twice the size of the biggest EfW plant in France. Veolia subsidiary Proactiva Medio Ambiente Mexico will build and operate the plant under an €886m 30-year-contract with the municipality of Mexico City. The plant’s construction is expected to begin this year and will last three years, with the facility intended to be operational in 2020.

An EfW plant employee is recovering in a Czech hospital after falling into a waste bunker. The man suffered chest and leg injuries in the fall but did not lose consciousness. The accident happened at the Malešice EfW plant in Prague, which can process up to 310,000t/pa.

Denmark’s Aalborg Energie Technik confirmed to ENDS it has signed a contract to develop a new 30MWe capacity biomass-fired facility in Russi near Ravenna, in the province of Emilia-Romagna, Italy.

Danish utility Dong Energy’s conversion of its Skærbæk plant to process biomass is nearing completion after one of its two new furnaces successfully burnt woodchips and supplied heat this month. The conversion work started in August 2014 and is due to be completed in October. When operational the plant will process 450,000 tonnes of woodchips a year and have capacities of 320MW of heat and 95MW of electricity.

Dong is also to overhaul its biomass-fired Herning Power Station after agreeing heat supply deals with three utilities. The company announced contracts running from 2019 to 2033 to supply utilities Eniig Varme, Energi Ikast Varme and Sunds Vand- og Varmeværk. Dong says the station will be overhauled to allow it to use currently untapped flue gas through a condensation plant to create more heat and power. Currently, the plant has capacities of 88MWe and produces about 171MJ of heat annually through a 70/30 split of woodchips and pellets.

Irish anti-EfW NGO Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment described the decision to allow Indaver Ireland to submit updated data related to its plans to build a facility in Cork as a "kick in the teeth". Irish planning body An Bord Pleanala allowed the EfW developer to submit new data, which it did this week, despite an extensive planning inquiry having concluded in May last year. The new information related to "discrepancies" in the company’s environmental impact statement over two appendices which reported "inaccurate" soil dioxin measurements.

An anti-incinerator protest group has confirmed plans to formally launch a judicial review over the approval of plans to build an EfW plant in West Yorkshire. Aire Valley Against Incineration said it had presented the planning authority of City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council with a "letter before claim" ahead of formally starting a judicial review. The EfW plant will process up to 100,000 tonnes a year of waste using a moving grate combustion system and have a capacity of around 10MWe.

Construction has started on a 200,000-tonnes-of-waste-a-year EfW plant to serve the Spanish town of San Sebastian. Each line will have a capacity of 41.43MWth, giving the facility an overall capacity of 20.8MWe. The plant is due to open towards the end of 2019. The main contractor for the project is Urbaser, which was bought by a Chinese company last year, while Germany-based Steinmüller Babcock Environment will build the facility.

Siwertell revealed a contract to supply a biomass unloader for the UK-based 299MWe MGT Teesside facility, which is currently under construction. The deal is with the construction contractors, South Korea-based Samsung and Spain-based Técnicas Reunidas, which operate together as TR-Samsung. Siwertell, which is part of Cargotec, said delivery of the equipment is due to take place in October next year. The £650m (€765m) plant is due to open in 2020.

Danish boiler supplier Burmeister & Wain Scandinavian Contractor (BWSC) has won a deal to supply a 100MW heating boiler to a power station in Sweden. The facility, which BWSC’s statement says is in Uppsala, is almost certainly part of a complex owned by utility Vattenfall, although this was not confirmed. Vattenfall tendered for the peat-to-wood-pellet conversion in February last year, with BWSC appearing to have picked up the deal for DKK60m (€8m).

Polish municipality-owned Zaklad Unieszkodliwiania Odpadów (ZUO) has resumed recruiting for its under-construction EfW plant in Szczecin, to be known as EcoGenerator. The move is good news for the development, which was forced to end a recruitment drive last year when its main contractor, Mostostal Warszawa, pulled out of the build. When operational, the site is expected to have capacities of 7.5MWe and 32MWth. It will process up to 150,000 tonnes of waste a year.

Scotland has committed millions of pounds to support an under-development scheme to use heat created by the biomass-fired £200m (€248m) RWE Markinch plant. The Glenrothes District Heating Scheme will benefit from £8.5m (€10.1m) in funding from the Scottish government, according to local authority Fife Council.

Finland-based KPA Unicon and newly formed Portuguese business Termoflorestal LDA have signed a deal for a 5MWe wood dust-fired plant to be built in Juncal, Porto de Mos, Portugal.

Israel-based Ellomay Capital revealed a second deal to buy a biogas-producing facility in the Netherlands. The company used a subsidiary to take a 51% stake in the under-development Groen Gas Oude-Tonge facility. It appears the plant has not yet started construction, but is "shovel ready", with a projected €8.5m price tag and a one-year build schedule also announced.

CCC Waste Management has received planning consent for a waste wood-fired facility in Liverpool, according to a consultancy that helped secure permission for the development. VG Consulting said the business plans to spend £2m (€2.3m) building the 4MWth facility.

And finally...

Bioenergy might have more unintended benefits for the environment, according to a study by the Open University and the universities of Hull and Cambridge. Increasing the amount of land used to grow energy crops could support populations of an endangered species of hare.

The brown hare, also known as lepus europaeus, is on the International Union for Conservation of Nature endangered species list, but has flourished in miscanthus crops planted to supply energy plants, according to the academic study published this month

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