EWB Insight report: October 2017

This month: Developing RED II looks good for the waste and bioenergy sectors while crop-based biofuels face a tough future. Plus a full round up of October's waste and bioenergy facilities

To read this month's report as a PDF click here

REDII clears ENVI Committee hurdle

This month’s decision by the European Parliament’s Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) to back bioenergy meant that its decisions on energy-from-waste were less reported.

The committee was seen by many NGOs as the best chance to get stronger biomass sustainability criteria in place before the process moved on to the Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) Committee, which leads on the opinion and is due to adopt its position on 28 November.

But the ENVI committee, which backed raising the EU renewable energy target to 35% for the period 2021 to 2030 and set stricter criteria for the use of municipal and industrial wastes for energy was less reported. These changes exclude renewable energy support for waste not separately collected.

EfW trade association CEWEP points out, at 12, almost half of the 28 current members of the European Union landfill more than 50% of their waste. So incentives to support efficient energy recovery from residual non-recyclable waste are "interlinked" with climate, energy and circular economy targets.

CEWEP managing director, Ella Stengler, told ENDS the committee's backing for the waste hierarchy was good news for the sector, but there were also waste streams that would never be able to be recycled or reused.

Stengler also referred to the European Commission’s recently published Study for a non-toxic environment, which states: "In the recycling processes, articles (and the materials they consist of) that contain toxic substances contaminate the respective waste streams and are diluted in materials that do not contain toxic substances."

The study goes on to say "it may take centuries to decontaminate a recycled waste stream, even if preventive measures are implemented", and that "materials containing toxic substances should not be recycled, but rather taken out of the circle for energy recovery or other safe disposal".

As a result, Stengler said: "The only alternative to EfW for this contaminated waste stream would be landfilling, so CEWEP supports source separation of waste (including biowaste) as this is a prerequisite to make quality recycling possible.

"However, despite all efforts of source separation, there will always remain some polluted biodegradable part of the residual fraction of industrial, commercial and municipal waste, such as dirty cardboard, multilayer packaging and so on, which is not suitable for quality recycling or composting."

The committee also hit the the biofuels sector backing a move to cut all support for food-based biofuels.The commission had proposed a more lenient reduction from the current 7% to 3.8% by 2030.

Bioethanol trade body ePure said MEPs "cannot agree" about what to do with transport.

Policy Update

The end of sugar quotas across the European Union could prove to be a boost for bioenergy production. A spokesperson for the European Biogas Association told ENDS: "Politically the UK, as well as the EU, is moving away from products and crops as feedstock for anaerobic digestion towards wastes and residues. With sugar beet in particular, it is also much easier to feed the pulp produced by the sugar factory than the raw beet: no soil, no stones, just-in-time delivery and easier storage.

Biofuels will represent 93% of total renewable energy consumption in road transport globally by 2022, compared with just 2% for electric vehicles (EVs), the International Energy Agency said this month. However, the share of renewables in road transport is expected to increase only marginally, from just over 4% in 2016 to 4.5% by 2022.

Research by T&E showed around half of crop-based biodiesel produced in the EU was based on imports. The NGO said drivers were the biggest consumers of palm oil in Europe and "they don’t know it".

The UK government said it would put £557m (€622m) into backing so-called "less established" technologies across its future contract for difference (CfD) auctions. Currently, the next CfD auction is due in the spring of 2019. It will still have a 150MW electricity cap for thermal technologies, which are allocated funds from Pot 2 covering EfW plants using advanced conversion technology (ACT), biomass facilities with combined heat and power and offshore wind. Biomass conversions were excluded after the first auction round.

One of six advanced conversion technology (ACT) plants offered support under the UK’s CfD scheme has pulled out of the process. The Redruth EFW project told ENDS: "Following a change in selected technology Redruth EfW are now developing a project which is not eligible for support under the CfD."

UK water watchdog Ofwat is to force water companies to say what happens to their treated sewage in a move that could be a boost for biogas. Ofwat said the move was aimed at "opening a new market" for using treated sewage to generate energy.

The Slovenian Energy Agency tendered for businesses wanting support for renewable energy projects. The tender includes support for biogas-producing facilities with a capacity of up to 10MW of electricity. Newer biomass facilities co-firing with fossil fuels can also apply, as can those processing wood grown for energy and forestry residues. Facilities producing heat and power with a capacity of of up to 20MW can apply, while electricity-only plants are limited to 10MW.

Trade assocation Waste Sweden sounded a note of caution for the country’s biogas sector only days after record production levels were announced. The sector faces a "disturbing" future due to competition from imported subsidised biogas, which is making life "tough for many" Swedish-based producers, according to the association.

The UK government’s decision to again push back its overhaul of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is a "significant threat" to the country’s climate goals, according to biogas association ADBA. The government said this month the tabling of legislation, overdue since the summer, would not take place until the start of 2018.

Businesses involved in refuse-derived fuel (RDF) manufacture, transport and use launched a voluntary code of practice. The self-enforced code sets a number of recommendations, such as not placing RDF near animal feeds when shipping and strictly adhering to storage and other transport rules set out in permits issued to waste operators and energy recovery facilities.

Belgium’s Walloon government scrapped plans for a biomass tender aimed at supporting facilities with a capacity of more than 20MWe. The government said it would "not pursue" the tender process further owing to "several factors". The move effectively ends utility BEE’s plans for a biomass-fired 150MWe plant in Visé.

Market Update

Three UK companies were fined a total of about £1.5m (€1.6m) after a man inspecting a biomass-fired boiler pressure test lost his leg. Sembcorp Utilities (UK), Central Industrial Services (Northern) and R & A Kay Inspection Services pleaded guilty this month at Teesside Crown Court to breaching health and safety laws in the incident in December 2013. The Sembcorp Biomass Power Station, also referred to as Wilton 10, was put into operation in 2007. It has a capacity of 35MWe and uses around 300,000t/yr of wood.

German biogas association FvB revealed a total of 205 new biogas plants were put into operation last year in the country – 55 more than it had previously predicted. The FvB revealed the new facilities added a total of 45MWe of capacity.

Building firm Clugston Construction and waste management business Viridor both cited an EfW capacity gap as they called for more investment in the sector in separate statements. Viridor said its most recent analysis predicted a 7.5Mt shortfall of UK residual waste capacity by 2030, while Clugston estimated 6.8Mt of residual waste was likely to be available for recovery every year between 2017 and 2025.

Biomass for energy consumption set a new record in 2015, according to a report by European biomass association AEBIOM. In total, 112.3Mt of oil equivalent (toe) was consumed across the EU, which was a 6.53% increase on 2014 and two percentage points higher than the average annual growth rate of 4.83% recorded between 2000 and 2015.

UK building firm Interserve issued a more detailed update on its current financial troubles, saying it is unsure when two waste wood-fired and one waste processing facilities would be completed. The update confirms there is "significant uncertainty" around the timing of commissioning of these plants, which it does not specifically identify. Interserve also says it has put a further £35m (€38.9m) into finishing the plants on top of the £160m (€181.4m) it had already set aside.

Dutch waste business N+P completed a majority takeover of its Subcoal subsidiary as international demand for its waste-derived fuel rises. N+P said it had now bought the whole Subcoal business for an undisclosed fee due to it predicting "exponential growth" of between 500,000 and 750,000 tonnes over the next five years.

Danish Investment company Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners refinanced the Brigg and Snetterton biomass-fired plants in the UK for a total of £250m (€280.5m). Snetterton has a capacity of 44.2MWe and can process up to 250,000t/yr of straw, while Brigg has a capacity of 40MWe and can process the same amount of feedstock.

The percentage of EfW plant operators expecting improvement in their business during the year has dropped by almost half, according to the Waste-to-Energy industry barometer 2017. Only 22% of facilities expected business to improve this year, down from 40% in 2016’s report.

Drax sold subsidiary Billington Bioenergy in a £2m (€2.2m) deal that sees the power station take a share in its new owners. Aggregated Micro Power Holdings sealed a deal for £1.6m (€1.7m) of shares in AMPH and £400,000 (€448,500) in cash. As a result, Drax owns 1,624,365 ordinary shares in AMPH, which has a total of 39,434,787 ordinary shares.

The Drax Group contributed almost £1.7bn (€1.8bn) to the UK’s gross domestic product (GDP) last year, a report by Oxford Economics revealed. The group’s majority biomass-fired power station and related businesses also supported more than 18,500 jobs across the UK.

UK-based EfW business Renewi issued a positive trading update for the year ending 31 March 2018. In light of a "particularly strong performance" in September, the company now expects to deliver a result "significantly above its previous expectations".

Finland-based Valmet lowered its expectations for the energy market from good to satisfactory as it published its first half of 2017 results. The Finland-based business said between January and September its orders increased by 11% to €2.5bn from €2.2bn in the same period in 2016. Comparable earnings before interest, taxes and amortisation (EBITA) rose to €150m from €140m. But the growth came from Valmet’s paper and services business, while its pulp and energy business saw sales fall.

Facilities Update

US-based investment firm Strategic Value Partners hired advisers as it considers a number of options for its Cory Riverside Energy EfW business, including a possible sale. ENDS understands SVP has appointed JP Morgan and Credit Suisse to look at strategic options for the business, with its value expected to be "well in excess" of £1bn, according to sources. The business includes a 750,000t/yr EfW plant in south-east London and waste supply infrastructure, including barges used to take waste to the plant.

Metsä Group officially opened its €1.2b bioproduct mill in Äänekoski with Finnish president Sauli Niinistö the guest of honour. The mill’s primary role is to produce pulp and other bioproducts, such as lignin, textile fibres and biocomposites. However, it will also produce biogas and biofuel pellets from sludge. In total, the facility is expected to increase the share of renewable energy production in Finland by two percentage points on its own.

Fife Council approved plans for a large-scale EfW plant to be built in a former opencast coal mine. The Scottish authority's Central Area Planning Committee backed the views of its officers and gave the plant the greenlight. According to planning documents, the EfW plant will process 200,000 tonnes of waste a year and have a capacity of 20MWe, with an additional parasitic load of about 2MWe.

Irish planning body An Bord Pleanála’s sixth target for making a decision on an €160m EfW plant Ringaskiddy facility was missed this month. The planning body has set a new deadline of 19 December.

Veolia spent €1.5m on adding 1MWth of biomass-fired capacity to its district heating network in Valladolid, north-west Spain. The project, which is jointly funded by Veolia, the European Commission and the City of Valladolid, will serve about 12 buildings and 398 homes.

Finland's Fortum installed a 120-tonne generator at its under-construction Zabrze cogeneration plant in Poland. The PLN 870m (€196.6m) new plant, which is due to be completed by the end of 2018, started construction last year and it will be able to fire on a mix of RDF, biomass and coal.

Switzerland-based Hitachi Zosen Inova revealed its fifth contract to build a facility in Italy using its dry fermentation Kompogas technology. HZI is working with Italy-based partner Cesaro Mac Import (CMI) to build the plant in Foligno, north of Rome. due to open towards the end of next year, the plant will process about 40,000t of organic refuse and 13,500t/yr of garden waste and produce more than 14,000 m³ of biogas daily.

Suez opened a recycling and RDF producing plant in Aberdeen, which will eventually supply the Scottish city’s under-development EfW plant. The £27m (€30.2m) plant will process 30 tonnes an hour of municipal solid waste into refuse-derived fuel and also deal with about 20 tonnes an hour of co-mingled recycling. Currently, the RDF is shipped aboard for energy recovery, but Aberdeen City Council is developing an EfW plant to process it. A deal for the plant is due to be announced next spring.

BDI BioEnergy International revealed it will press ahead with plans to build a algae-to-product plant in Austria. BDI said it would invest about €16m in the plant, which will be built at the Ökopark near Hartberg. As a first step, the plant will produce algae-based additives for the food supplement and cosmetic industry.

Germany-based Weltec Biopower has doubled the electrical capacity of its 0.5MW biogas plant in Iffendic, France. The facility, operated by the firm’s French subsidiary, Weltec Agripower, was put into operation in 2014. It is owned by beef and pork farmer Samuel Morand.

The UK planning inspectorate refused an appeal by Crouchland Biogas in West Sussex over the planning consent for its anaerobic digestion plant, biogas tank, lagoon and associated infrastructure. The scale of the operation was held to contravene adopted local waste policies resisting the location of such development in the open countryside.

Germany-based CropEnergies’ bioethanol production rose to 567,000m³ in the first half of this year, up from 450,000m³ in the same period last year. Re-commissioning of the firm’s UK facility in Wilton was mostly behind the increase in production.

EnviTec Biogas opened its 20th biogas-to-grid facility under the EnviThan brand. The German company opened the facility in Solschen, Lower Saxony, and it will have a capacity of about 700m3 of biogas annually.

Veolia announced a deal to operate a wastewater plant in La Chauvinière, which will also see it add a biogas producing facility at the site. Le Mans Métropole, an urban community of 19 municipalities, awarded the contract to Veolia for its plant in La Chauvinière from 2018 for nine years yesterday.

Finland-based BMH Technology won a contract worth SEK 120m (€12.56m) to supply feedstock handling equipment to Mälarenergi’s new boiler plant. The under-development facility is known as block 7 of  municipality-owned Mälarenergi’s Västerås power station. Precise specifications have not yet been revealed, but the fuel-handling system will be able to deliver 700m³ per hour to the storage silo and 350m³ per hour of feedstock to the boiler.

Denmark-based Linka put into operation a biomass-fired 1MWth boiler plant at Yester Farm Dairies in Gifford, Scotland. Linka, which worked with UK-based Manco Energy on the project, built the system to replace the dairy’s use of two oil and natural gas fired boilers with biomass.

The Nordic Investment Bank agreed a SEK 1.5bn (€158m) loan to allow the Henriksdal underground wastewater treatment plant to expand and become the largest such facility in the world. Back in 2015, German biogas company Schmack Carbotech was awarded a contract to upgrade biogas produced at the plant, which now has the capacity to produce up to 3,000m³/h of raw biogas, which is turned into 180 million kilowatt-hours of biomethane per year.

Dansk Halbyggeri started building a ski slope on the now operational Amager Bakke EfW plant in Copenhagen. The ski centre will include ski hire, a cafe, changing facilities and an area to view the slope. Amager Bakke can process up to 400,000t/yr of waste and has capacities of up to 63MWe and up to 247MWth, depending on local demand.

And finally…

The Helsinki International Horse Show ramped up the horsepower as it sourced 100% of its electricity through processing equine manure at Fortum’s Järvenpää power plant. The utility said the show’s venue, the Helsinki Ice Hall, was supplied with about 140MWh through the facility processing the equivalent of 14 horses’ total annual manure. The Järvenpää plant has capacities of 130MWth and 50MWe and is usually fired on woodchips and peat.

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