EWB Insight: June 2017

This month: RED draft revealed, issues at the Poolbeg EfW development, Biffa to develop two energy recovery plants and Sweden loses imported biogas legal argument

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Bioenergy sector gives RED card to sustainability proposals

Draft proposals from  the European Parliament’s lead MEP on post-2020 biomass sustainability standards emerged this month.

According to the draft, written by Green MEP Bas Eickhout and seen by ENDS, only biomass waste and residue streams would be counted towards member states' renewables targets under the EU’s revised Renewable Energy Directive (RED).

The draft, which still needs to be voted on in parliament, echoed calls by the anti-bioenergy lobby and would effectively end support for food-based biofuels and many wood pellet-fired facilities, which sourced their biomass from virgin timber.

Eickhout also proposes extending the scope of the sustainability rules to power stations with capacities between 1MW and 20MW.

As they stand, the proposals could "jeopardise" bioenergy, Jean-Marc Jossart, general secretary of trade association Aebiom told ENDS. "Ignoring the multifaceted ground reality of the forest industry, by arbitrarily listing which types of wood waste and residues are suitable for bioenergy, will limit the opportunities for forest owners to better manage their forests thanks to additional sources of incomes," he said.

"Overall, this report ignores the role that bioenergy can play to reach climate and energy objectives while delivering the utmost socio-economic benefits sought in rural areas. At such a critical time, the European Parliament should avoid playing with fire."

The European Biogas Association (EBA) suggests the criteria for small biomass gasification plants should be set in terms of feedstock used. It argues the draft should replace "electrical capacity" with "fuel capacity" equal to or exceeding 2MW for these plants.

The EBA also said the current proposals "bring many opportunities for the anaerobic digestion and gasification sectors". But the draft "significantly underestimates" greenhouse-gas emissions savings for biowaste, which should be taken into account more, the organisation added.

German biofuel trade association UFOP also reported a global "oversupply" of the raw materials needed to manufacture biofuels, arguing that RED policy discussions must take this into account when considering restrictions on what materials can be used to manufacture biofuels. UFOP argues the limit of 7% for biofuels from food-based crops should remain unchanged and even "integrated in the entire package of measures for the decarbonisation of transport by 2030".

Data Watch

European biofuel trade association Epure criticised the European Commission after publishing the latest environmental credentials of bioethanol. Epure said bioethanol production and use in Europe had on average saved more than 66% greenhouse gas emissions over fossil petrol in 2016.

The trade body’s secretary general, Emmanuel Desplechin, said this was the fifth year in a row that bioethanol had improved its environmental credentials. But the commission’s Renewable Energy Directive (RED) proposal would phase out crop-based biofuels such as renewable European-made bioethanol after 2020, regardless of their sustainability or effectiveness, he warned. The proposal is currently being considered by the European Parliament and EU member states. 

Policy Update

UK energy watchdog Ofgem slashed annual funding totalling about £370m (€419.9m) to small electricity producers under its embedded generator payments system. The move, aimed at cutting payments to producers that can provide power at peak times, will specifically hit biogas- and biomass-processing facilities. The payment, currently worth about £47/kW and forecast to increase, is being cut to £3-7/kW over a three-year period starting next April.

Sweden was wrong to deny tax breaks to biogas imported by E.on based on claims its sustainability could not be verified, an EU court ruled. The Swedish Energy Agency’s decision in 2013 to dismiss sustainability claims for E.on imports because they travelled through gas interconnectors was unjustified and created obstacles to trade, according to the judgment published by the EU Court of Justice.

A report by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland shows biogas from animal manure, food waste and grass could provide about 28% of the country’s gas needs by 2050. Currently, only a "small number" of anaerobic digestion plants operate in Ireland, and the report says the country would need an "estimated 900" further facilities to "fully utilise the available resources we have to hand".

German biofuels association VDB criticised the country’s government as figures revealed the amount of biodiesel and bioethanol used dropped at the start of this year. The VDB said diesel consumption rose by 7.4% to 9.3 million tonnes in the first quarter of 2017, while the share of biodiesel fell by about 7% to around 500,000 tonnes. In the same period, bioethanol use fell by 4.4% compared with the same period in 2016, while petrol sales rose by 2%.

German policymakers formalised what had been temporary legislation covering the disposal of waste, mainly from construction, containing hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD). Reclassification of HBCD as hazardous last year caused bottlenecks at processing facilities, until the restrictions on how it could be processed were relaxed.

Denmark’s Maabjerg Energy Centre (MEC) has asked for a "small" government price guarantee of DKK 20 million ( €2.6m) to get its long-planned 2G bioethanol plant off the ground. The project could move off the drawing board after UK-based Pioneer Point Partners expressed interest in investing earlier this year. 

Market Update

Biffa’s annual financial statement revealed plans to build two energy-from-waste (EfW) plants, marking what would be the company’s first move into direct energy recovery facility ownership. Biffa will work with US-based EfW developer Covanta on the facilities, one of which is the fully consented £250m (€283m) Newhurst Quarry EfW plant in Leicestershire. The other appears to be the Protos EfW development Cheshire, which Covanta has an interest in.

Estonia-based utility Nelja Energia opened its first project in the biomass sector. The company, which also uses the name 4Energia, opened a cogeneration plant and pellet factory last week in Broceni, Latvia, having invested €30m. The planned annual production of the pellet factory is "at least 120,000 tonnes", while the biomass-fired plant will have capacities of 19.4MWth and nearly 4MWe.

Spain-based Eqtec signed a €28m contract to build three biomass gasification plants in Croatia for utility Sense Esco, which already has the Belisce 1 gasification plant operational using Eqtec’s technology. One of the plants is an expansion of the Belisce facility.

The Danish port of Aarhus took its largest delivery of African woodchips this month. In total, 20,000 tonnes landed in June as bioenergy business Verdo ramped up its use of the biomass following a trial early last year. Biomass is one of the port’s "strategic focus areas" and it continues to invest in equipment to make "biomass operations as effective" as its general port-container operations.

Majority biomass-fired power station Drax in Yorkshire, UK, is aiming to boost its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) by more than 200% within the next decade. Drax is hoping for EBITDA to top £425m (€485m) by 2025. However, Drax also indicated it could convert its remaining three boiler units to process natural gas, rather than biomass.

Tests on a full-scale jet engine have demonstrated aviation fuel containing a blend of biokerosene works without adversely hitting performance. The study, undertaken by the German Aerospace Centre (DLR)  and Lufthansa Technik, focused on running a CFM56 jet engine, which is used in medium-range aircraft built by Airbus and Boeing.

German car giant Audi and biogas producer Nature Energy signed a deal aimed at boosting the carmaker’s renewable credentials. Nature Energy said it would supply "green biogas certificates" to offset the use of natural gas in about 10,000 Audis sold across Europe. The deal, covering 2017 to 2019, will see the certificates offset the use of natural gas in its gas-powered vehicles such as the Audi A5 g-tron. 

Facilities Update

Swedish utility Fortum Värme launched a tender for a new 54MW waste-fired boiler for its Högdalen cogeneration plant, which serves the city of Stockholm. The facility can currently process up to 700,000 tonnes per year and wants to add a grate-fired system capable of processing both municipal and industrial waste. The scope of the tender includes a system for flue gas cleaning and a boiler building, according to the documents.

A French regional court effectively ordered what is France’s largest biomass-fired plants to close. The Administrative Court of Marseilles cancelled the operating authorisation for the Gardanne plant’s unit four, which is fired on about 850,000 of biomass a year. The court said the conversion was planned "without taking into account" issues such as timber harvest sites and impact on the area’s roads.

US-based EfW plant developer Covanta revealed a gasket was "installed incorrectly" on doors leading to the plant’s fabric filter baghouse, which led to 11 workers being hospitalised at its under-construction Poolbeg facility in Dublin.

Finnish forestry business Metsä Group revealed it is only weeks away from putting its €1.2bn bioproduct mill in Äänekoski into operation. The  facility is expected to increase Finland’s national share of renewable energy by two percentage points. It will produce 240% more electricity than the plant needs, with the excess to be sold to the country’s grid.

The troubled delivery of Europlasma’s CHO Morcenx biomass and waste-fired facility in France ended in success this week, according to developer. The plant has been "validated and commercial operations are starting" at its "nominal capacity" of 10MW. Europlasma said the multifuel gasification plant is the first-of-its-kind to become commercially operational, and it can now press ahead with its other projects, including the ongoing development of sister plant CHO Power Tiper.

Sweden-based anaerobic digestion plant builder Malmberg Biogas signed a deal to overhaul a composting facility in Italy owned by utility Herambiente, its first in the country. The Sant Agata plant will process up to 135,000 tonnes of food waste a year and produce 7.5 million cubic metres of biomethane annually, once the work is completed.

A consultation runs until 18 July as a planned Essex-based EfW plant attempts to turn a draft environmental permit into a full one. Late last year the Rivenhall facility was refused a permit by England’s Environment Agency (EA). At the time, the EA said the stack height for the facility, which is being developed by Gent Fairhead & Co, should be at least 70 metres. The facility, should it go ahead, will process up to about 850,000 tonnes of waste a year. This would incorporate a 100,000 tonnes-per-year materials recovery facility and a 250,000t/yr MBT plant .

A planned north London EfW plant was issued with an environmental permit as the facility moves towards starting construction in 2019. The permit was the final part of the planning process, which was signed off mainly by the government in February this year. The £450-500m (€626-696m) plant is being developed by the North London Waste Authority. Its environmental permit documentation shows the facility’s electrical capacity will be 70MW and it will process up to 700,000 tonnes of waste per year.


Danish waste management firm Kara/Noveren revealed its Roskilde EfW facility processed less waste and produced less heat and power mainly due to a warmer 2016. The company said the facility had a "good year" in 2016 despite its turnover falling to DKK 597.2 million (€80.3m) last year, down DKK 47.5 million (€6.3m) from 2015, as warm weather hit demand for heat.

French utility Engie said work will get under way next month on a woodchip-fired  cogeneration plant in Sisslerfeld, Switzerland. The faility will go into operation at the end of 2018, with its steam sold to industrial companies on the basis of three separate contracts all lasting for 20 years with electricity sold to the grid system. ENDS understands the facility will have a capacity of 36MW and process up to 110,000 tonnes of woodchips annually.

Renewi released details of a 20-year RDF supply contract to the Ferrybridge Multifuel 2 (FM2) facility under construction in Yorkshire, UK. Under the deal, for which no financial terms have been reported, Renewi will supply 50,000t/yr of RDF to the facility, which is being developed by SSE and main contractor Hitachi Zosen Inova. The FM2 facility is expected to start commissioning towards the end of 2018 and is scheduled for full operation by Summer 2019, when the contract with Renewi is set to begin.

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) has opened an investigation after a river was apparently polluted by a biogas facility in Ceredigion, Wales. Effluent from an unnamed anaerobic digestion plant was released into a stream in the Lampeter area.

Indaver says a "small amount of iodine" caused a pink cloud to appear above its Meath EfW plant in Ireland. The company said there were "no health or environmental impacts" from the plume. The Meath facility, which has been in operation since 2011, has processed more than 1.2Mt of waste and produced 770,000MWh of electricity so far.

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