EWB Insight: August 2017

This month: UK EfW capacity row reignites, RHI confusion continues, newly privatised GIB sell off waste and bioenergy investments and a full facilities round up

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EfW report reignites capacity row 

Consultancy Eunomia poured petrol onto the simmering row between it and most of the energy-from-waste industry when it again said the sector was rapidly heading towards overcapacity.

The consultancy’s report makes a series of conclusions, which it says would ultimately result in a number of UK-based EfW plants going bust by 2030, owing to lack of feedstock.

Eunomia’s report, which is now in its 12th year, considers two future scenarios:

  • The UK continues to apply current and planned EU recycling targets, which leads to reductions in residual waste

  • The UK meets existing (household) recycling targets for 2020; thereafter, household recycling rates remain through to 2030, while there is a modest increase in commercial and industrial recycling rates.

In both scenarios, Eunomia forecasts that the UK reaches excess capacity in 2020/21. However, it makes a big assumption that refuse derived fuel exports continue at today’s high levels

The report was attacked as "flawed" and "galling" by the Environmental Services Association (ESA), which represents many in the waste industry

ESA’s executive director, Jacob Hayler, said Eunomia’s findings have been contradicted "by report after report from everyone else who’s looked at our residual waste treatment needs"

Waste management firm Biffa’s chief executive, Ian Wakelin, said the UK needed more investment to create "better infrastructure" so the UK could benefit more from its EfW infrastructure

Fellow waste firm Suez, which is also heavily involved in energy recovery, has also previously stated there would be a national shortfall in EfW capacity of three million tonnes by 2027

Interestingly and backing up Eunomia’s stance, a first draft of the capital’s London Environment Strategy, also released in August, says the city is nearing capacity for EfW. It stated capacity will be "sufficient" once the new Edmonton and Beddington EfW facilities are operational

The Beddington plant is expected to open its doors next year, while the Edmonton EfW plant aims to be operational in 2028.

 Data Watch

The 12th issue of Eunomia’s Residual Waste Infrastructure Review forecasts that the UK’s supply of EfW treatment capacity will exceed the available quantity of residual waste in 2020/21. Were all facilities to operate at full capacity, together they would limit the UK’s recycling rate to no more than 63%.


Policy Update

All pollution permits held by large combustion plants with capacities more than 50MW will be reviewed in the next four years, according to the European Commission. EfW plants are included if the facility processes three tonnes per hour of non-hazardous waste or 10 tonnes per day for hazardous waste. And, if they process waste in co-incineration with other fuels like as coal, such as in certain cement plants. Incineration of waste will be covered by the WI BREF, which is currently being revised and BAT conclusion are "foreseen to be published next year", according to the Commission.

The biofuel sector raised concerns over the long term supply of pharma-glycerin once a proposed ban on fuels derived from rapeseed and other food-based sources come in 2020. Trade association VDB and biodiesel producer C-Thywissen said the proposed ban would hit the production of pharma-glycerin, which is a by-product of rapeseed-to-biofuel production. 

EU-based biofuel-makers expressed relief after a vote on easing measures against biofuels being dumped cheaply on the international market was postponed. The vote was originally called after Argentina took a successful challenge to the World Trade Organization over the EU anti-dumping duties on its biodiesel. As things stand, a new vote is expected on September 7. The duties could be lowered for Argentina to about 9% and for Indonesia to about 5%, according to the German biofuel association VDB.

EU countries failing to assess the environmental impacts of a project can regularise it after it has been built by undertaking a new evaluation including future effects, the EU court ruled. The court ruled on a case where two biogas plants in the Italian province of Macerata were authorised by the Marche Region in 2012 without an environmental impact assessment (EIA).

The Wood Recyclers’ Association called for clarification from UK regulators on the grades of wood acceptable for small-scale biomass boilers under the renewable heat incentive (RHI). It pushed for the information after discovering "inconsistencies" in guidance to boiler makers and fuel suppliers.

Trade body the Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA) also kept up pressure on the UK government to introduce its planned reforms of the RHI. Potential reforms were put on hold because of the general election, but no date was set for when it would restart. ADBA said delays were part of the reason that potentially hundreds of UK-based biogas plants could be shelved.

The policy corrections needed to fix the botched deployment of Northern Ireland’s RHI should remain in place, according to the Department for the Economy. The "cash for ash" scandal rocked the region after an audit found a series of problems with the scheme’s setup, management and delivery, would cost taxpayers close to £500m (€585).

The Welsh government plans to halve food waste across the country by 2025 against a 2006-07 baseline. Scotland became the first country in the UK to set a food waste reduction target in 2016. It aims to reduce food waste from both businesses and households by a third by 2025. 

Scotland’s efforts to reduce landfilling is being foiled by contamination in the recycling stream. The Scottish Environment Protection Agency’s (SEPA) first report looking at the quality of waste said between October 2015 and May 2017 327,760 tonnes of recycled waste was processed with a contamination rate ranging from 0.91% to 42.04% with a national average of 17%. 

Polish renewable energy companies have warned of a likely wave of bankruptcies in the sector, resulting from a recent revamp of the national renewable energy law. The Polish senate passed an update to the law last week tying the amount of the so-called substitution fee to the market price of green certificates.

Market Update

The Bioenergy Infrastructure Group (BIG) moved to create one of the "UK’s largest portfolios" of biomass and EfW assets when it bought the newly privatised Green Investment Bank’s share in several facilities for an undisclosed fee taking its overall portfolio to 20 plants. The plants have a combined generating capacity of more than 70MWe.

 Norway-based Geminor secured a waste contract from Hull City Council in the UK for 46,000t/yr over at least seven years. When the contract was initially announced in April, Hull City said it would be worth £56m (then €66.3m) over 12 years. This included the initial seven year deal plus extension options.

Danish industrial enzymes producer Novozyme saw its bioenergy sales reach DKK1.31 billion (€176m) in the first half of this year a 7% increase. The company said this was mostly due to US sales for conventional biofuels with a high production of bioethanol.

UK-based John Laing Environmental (JLEN) bought biogas business Vulcan Renewables for £15.3m (€16.4m). Vulcan owns a biogas plant in Hatfield Woodhouse near Doncaster, commissioned in October 2013, which was one of the first commercial biogas-to-grid projects in the UK.

UK-based Viridor will continue to treat Greater Manchester’s residual waste at its Runcorn EfW plant despite losing the region’s contract 17 years early. The Greater Manchester Waste Disposal Authority said the contract would be scrapped from 29 September. While the move is a blow to Viridor, it said it would still treat residual waste at the EfW plant for the length of the 25 year deal signed back in 2009.

Utility NGF Nature Energy and farmer’s cooperative BioenergySyd signed an agreement to develop two large-scale biogas plants in Sønderborg worth DKK500m (€67.2m). The plants will both support the municipality of Sønderborg in its plan to be carbon neutral by 2029. 

Lincolnshire County Council launched a £9.1m (€9.8m) tender covering moving about 130,000 tonnes a year of a waste to an EfW plant. The bulk of the waste will be delivered to the local authority owned EfW plant in Whisby Road, Lincoln.

Research by two UK-based universities showed the "untapped" potential landfills could offer as source for a new biotechnology. Bangor and Liverpool universities said using materials found in landfills could lead to better ways of breaking down waste and support biofuel production.

UK building firm Interserve revealed revenues of £1.6bn (€1.7bn), but its operating profits have slumped largely as a result of its exit from the EfW market. In half-year accounts, Interserve recorded a drop in operating profits from £64.3m (€69.6m) this time last year to £46.1m (€49.9m), which it says reflects the impact of restructuring actions.

Germany's EnviTec marked its 15th birthday saying it had delivered more than 400MW of biogas-derived electricity since 2002. Back then the business had just 20 employees, but it now has a workforce of 460 with plants installed in 17 countries.

Facilities Update

Irish planning body An Bord Pleanála deferred a decision over Indaver’s Ringaskiddy EfW plant for the fifth time, this time until 12 September. The plant would be capable of processing 240,000t/yr and have a capacity of 18.5MWe.

Amey's 24MWe Allerton Waste Recovery Park in North Yorkshire has been commissioned. The plant will handle 320,000t/yr of waste and operate a 1.1MWe biogas plant once fully operational. The plant is in its testing stages and is expected to be fully online by the beginning of 2018.

Operations at Metsä Group’s first bioproduct mill have begun. Pulp deliveries from the forestry business’ new mill in Äänekoski will be sent to customers in early September. The construction project was carried out as planned in line with its €1.2bn budget.

UK energy supplier Plutus PowerGen was granted planning consent for two 20MW biodiesel generators at its Southampton site. The company is focused on rolling out nine 20MW sites across the UK, although only one is currently in operation. Five more sites are due to be commissioned by the end of 2017, bringing the total number of 20MW sites to 180MW.

Lithuanian utility Litesko said it would sue the municipality of Alytusa for €34m if it scraps its contract to supply heat from a biomass-fired plant. The company said it "had no choice" but to launch the legal action after Alytus announced it would sue the company for €14.2m over claims of expensive heating supplies and the way the contract was extended. Litesko’s claim includes €25m it spent on a biomass plant, which could be handed over to the city if it loses the contract signed in 2001, which was extended to 2026 in 2005.

Plans for an EfW plant in Scotland were published by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency. The project, now known as the Earls Gate Energy Centre, will provide heat and electricity to CalaChem and other nearby industrial businesses in Grangemouth. The facility, which will now process up to 216,000t/yr of RDF. According to the planning documents the plant will have capacities of 21.6MWe and up to 33.3MWth.

The Nordic Investment Bank and the Swedish municipality of Uppsala signed a 25-year loan agreement worth a total of SEK600 million (€63m). The finance will be used for water, waste water and waste management, as well as for developing biogas production which is run by municipality-owned business Uppsala Vatten och Avfall.

Finland-based plant builder KPA Unicon has revealed a deal to build a biomass-fired plant in Croatia for France-based utility Akuo Energy, which is developing the project through its Croatian-based subsidiary Energostatik. No financial terms were revealed, but the plant will be located in Grubišno Polje and will have a capacity of 5MWe.

The Snetterton Renewable Energy Plant is scheduled to have its official opening on 14 September, according to biomass supplier Terravesta. Construction started on the 44.2MWe capacity plant in January 2015 and was completed early in April this year. The plant can process up to 250,000t/yr of straw which is planned to be sourced from farmers throughout the East Anglia region where the facility is located. 

Tidy Planet says its two EfW plants are generating about 22,500kWe a day at the London airports of Heathrow and Gatwick. The system at Gatwick process about 10 tonnes of waste a day producing about 15,000kW a day, a slightly smaller system at Heathrow produces 7,500kW of net energy per day.

Municipality-owned Zhytomyrteplokomunenergo issued a prior information notice ahead of publishing tender for its biomass-fired heating project later this year. The notice says the business arm of Zhytomyr City Council intends using about €15m to cut its natural gas use and promote using biomass for heat and hot water supply. 

Germany-based MVV’s Devonport EfW plant in Plymouth is to carry out a series of "controlled explosions" inside the boiler to clean out pipework. It will be the first time the facility, which opened last year, will carry out cleaning of the boiler while it is operational. The 22.5MWe facility cost £256.5m (at the time €347.2m) to develop and can annually process more than 245,000 tonnes of waste. It was put into operation in 2015, following four years of development.

Utility firm CEZ says "several bidders" have made binding offers for its Bulgarian assets which it is currently considering.  CEZ’s biggest biomass investment is at the Hodonín Power Plant, which has one unit converted to fire on biomass that was completed in 2009. The unit generated 152GWh of electricity from burning woodchips in 2014 and currently processes about 1,200 tonnes of biomass per day. In total during 2014, the company produced 274GWh of electricity from biomass in Bulgaria.

Eight months after opening Agrivert said its Parc Stormy biogas plant has signed a contract to process 18,000 tonnes of food waste annually for the next 15 years. The food waste will be sourced from the municipalities of Swansea and Bridgend, which have come together in a joint procurement for treatment capacity. The facility processes more than 50,000 tonnes of solid and liquid wastes a year and has a capacity of 3MWe.

Finnish plant builder BioGTS revealed it has signed a deal to build a biomethane producing plant for Biosairila for about €9.7m. The plant will process municipal and agricultural biomass to produce biogas, which will be upgraded to biomethane and mainly used as transportation fuel. Production capacity of the biorefinery will be enough to annually power more than 1,000 passenger cars, according to BioGTS.

UK-based PowerHouse Energy revealed it has completed its first extended technical trial of its distributed modular gasification (DMG) process at its under-development EfW plant. The company is testing technical data ahead of the "commercial roll-out" of the DMG technology.

Construction on Severn Trent’s anaerobic digestion plant in Spondon, which will turn 50,000 tonnes of food waste a year into biomethane begun.The company awarded engineering firm Jones Celtic BioEnergy the contract to build the plant, which is due to be commissioned by the middle of 2018.

A contract for a novel anaerobic digestion plant, which uses a type of thermal hydrolysis never used before in the UK, has been granted at a sewage treatment works near Stoke-on-Trent. Doosan Enpure was awarded the £20m contract to design and build the plant at Severn Trent Water’s Strongford sewage treatment works. The plant will process 80 tonnes of dry solids per day on average, with a peak of 94t/d, and producing a thermally hydrolysed sludge with a target dry solids content of 10% wet weight.

The biomass-fired element of a £330m (€365m) energy scheme officially opened at the University of Northampton’s Waterside Campus this week. The £6.5m (€7.1m) biomass plant, which has a capacity of 1MW, was delivered by Vital Energi.

Utility company Ence has bought a majority stake in a Spain-based biomass-fired power plant from EDF Energies Nouvelles. The plant has a capacity of 27.1MWe, giving it an estimated production of 190,000MWh annually. It is fired on up to 180,000 tonnes of waste from olive oil production.

England’s Environment Agency consulted over the granting an environmental permit to a 40MWe biomass-fired plant being developed by Stobart Biomass Products. The consultation on the Port Clarence Biomass Power Plant opened on 2 August and run until 31 August. It is the last hurdle the plant must clear before it is legally allowed to operate.

Grundon Waste Management won a contract to process air pollution control residue (APCr) from the EnviRecover EfW plant. The company will take about 8,000t/yr of APCr from the EfW facility, which was opened in June by FCC Environment and Urbaser’s joint venture Mercia Waste Management.

And finally....

A worker was fortunate to escape without serious injury after being trapped for three hours in an EfW’s plant waste bunker after his forklift fell into it. The man suffered only minor injuries during the accident at the plant run by the Coventry & Solihull Waste Disposal Company (CSWDC) for the local municipality.

Image: @WestMidsFire

The 4.5MW plant began supplying heat in 2015 and processes more than 220,000t/yr of household and commercial waste.


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