EWB Insight report: May 2018

This month: Legal action over a UK EfW plant has prompted calls for a change in the law, an RDF "loophole", biomass plants face feedstock shortages and a full facilities round up

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Call for policy change after EfW plant snubbed

A consortium of Northern Ireland-based business groups have proposed a solution to a planning "logjam" sparked by a successful legal action against an energy-from-waste plant.

Earlier this month NGO Noarc21 was successful in a judicial review that overturned the planning consent of the Arc21 EfW plant, which led the region’s Department for Infrastructure (DfI) to say it would "not take any further decisions on regionally significant applications".

The legal challenge argued that Northern Ireland’s DfI permanent secretary, Peter May, should not have approved the facility while no minister was in charge of the department.

However, businesses groups including the CBI NI, Construction Employers Federation, NI Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Quarry Products Association NI, Manufacturing NI and the Freight Transport Association have now called for special legislative measures to "restore stable governance" by temporarily empowering senior civil servants to "take crucial day-to-day decisions".

The groups said "for more than a year" businesses and individuals across have engaged with departments to request policy direction, make important tendering and procurement decisions and decide regionally significant planning applications.

According to a statement: "The recent Belfast High Court judgment on the Arc21 Incinerator has, however, called into question the ability of the civil service to continue to exercise these duties, not just on planning and infrastructure decisions, but across a range of policy areas."

The group said to avoid "a lengthy period" of decision-making uncertainty, two potential legislative solutions should also be considered:

1. Temporarily amend section 4(1) of the The Departments (Northern Ireland) Order 1999 to allow permanent secretaries to make decisions in the absence of a minister until devolution is restored as per section 4(3) of the order. This option could be undertaken at the same time as re-establishing NI Assembly Statutory Committees to provide additional scrutiny and transparency.

2. Focusing on infrastructure planning decisions only, extend the existing decision-making powers of the Planning Appeals Commission to incorporate ‘Regionally Significant’ planning applications. (See Notes to Editor for more details).

The Arc21 EfW facility, which is set to use a grate incineration system, was planned for the Hightown Quarry near Newtownabbey, 7.5 kilometres north-west of Belfast.

The plant, should it ever now be built, would have an electrical capacity of 14MW and process up to 300,000 tonnes of waste per year.

Policy Update

ENDS revealed England’s Environment Agency (EA) was investigating a potential "loophole" open to exploitation by businesses exporting refuse-derived fuel (RDF) from England to the rest of Europe. Emails confirmed the EA’s legal team is looking into whether a business should be able to send waste as a notifier and as a consignee instead of sending it directly to a R1-rated energy-from-waste plant.

Environmental campaigners hailed "significant progress" in negotiations on new EU standards for waste incinerators. The final meeting of the technical working group (TWG) for the waste incineration BREF in Sevilla, Spain, at the end of April agreed new, stricter proposals on emissions monitoring. The final draft should be ready by November 2018 with a further meeting set for early 2019.

NGO Zero Waste Europe called for member states to "explicitly exclude" fuels made from plastics from the scope of the revised Renewable Energy Directive, known as RED II. According to the group, if policy promotes the conversion of plastics into fuel, the incentive to redesign plastics is lost in favour of a "lock-in into an inferior technology that produces energy from fossil fuels".

The UK’s National Audit Office (NAO) found that a plan to limit support offered to large-scale biomass and advanced waste-processing plants through the contract for difference (CfD) auction was costly to the public. The government capped these technologies at 150MW of electricity, but the NAO report found the cap directly "enabled" small fuelled-technology projects to "raise the strike price" of larger projects. As a result, this increased the cost to utility bill payers, who fund the subsidies, by around £100m (€114m) a year.

UK trade body the Wood Recyclers’ Association warned that a perfect storm of factors including slow progress on legislation, new capacity and another harsh winter could hit the UK’s supply of waste wood to biomass-fired plants. The WRA said waste wood suppliers continue to face delays in receiving fire prevention plans (FPP) and environmental permits from England’s Environment Agency (EA). The trade body also indicated the sector expected to face increased demand with the need to supply an extra 1 million tonnes of waste wood to new-build biomass-fired plants, which would further stretch supply.

The UK’s Public Accounts Committee said take-up of the country’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is "woeful", branding the scheme, which has supported a number of biogas facilities, as a "failure". The committee found the RHI did not provide value for the £23bn (€26.2bn) it was expected to cost taxpayers through both the domestic and non-domestic streams.

France-based oil company Total agreed to reduce the use of crude palm oil in its new La Mède biofuels refinery, but the commodity will still remain the plant’s dominant feedstock. France’s environment ministry had asked Total to limit the share of palm oil in its feedstocks to try to better align the oil firm’s plans with the government’s commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions and slow deforestation. In its statement, Total said it would restrict the use of palm oil to around 300,000 tonnes a year at the 650,000t/yr biorefinery and would instead use other vegetable oils such as rapeseed, sunflower seed and maize.

The World Biogas Association urged policymakers to take a number of steps to make it easier to develop biogas plants. Its report highlighted the "importance" of separately collecting and treating food waste. However, it states that while most food waste is generated in cities, often only a small percentage of it is available for digestion due to the lack of policies supporting this.

Market Update

UK-based SIMEC and Netherlands-based N+P Group have formed a new joint venture business SIMEC Subcoal Fuels (SSF) to meet "growing demand" globally for waste-based fuel to power formerly fossil-fuel-fired power plants. The new business will supply N+P’s Subcoal fuel pellet and its first customer will be a 900,000t/yr contract to supply the SIMEC-owned Uskmouth facility for the next 20 years.

A leading figure behind a world first CCS project at the Klemetsrudanlegget EfW plant told ENDS it was "confident" the Norwegian government would continue to fund the project. Johnny Stuen, technical director at the City of Olso’s EfW agency, said a decision on the project’s future is expected in "two to three months", but could come "sooner". Earlier this month the government said it was still reviewing the project, while it also dropped another scheme and said it would continue to back a third. However, even if the EfW CCS project does receive funding, a final decision on scaling it up will not be made until 2021 or 2022, the government has said.

 Dutch EfW business AVR and France-based Air Liquide launched what is likely to be only the second project in the world to capture CO2 from an energy-recovery plant. The project, which is due to open next April, is only the second carbon capture project at an EfW plant following another project at the Klemetsrudanlegget EfW plant in Oslo. But unlike the Klemetsrudanlegget project, the Duiven-based project will reuse CO2  in the greenhouse agriculture industry rather than storing in under the North Sea.

UK registered investment fund Antin Infrastructure Partners said it is in talks to buy France-based infrastructure business Idex. Antin, which was incorporated by UK-based Companies House in 2013, hopes to buy the company from current owners Luxembourg-based Cube Infrastructure Managers. Idex’s website states its facility portfolio is made up of at least three biogas-producing plants, a number of "incineration" facilities and at least one waste-sorting plant.

According to Sweden-based Chalmers University of Technology, if Sweden’s current biomass combustion energy plants were converted to produce biosynthetic natural gas (BioSNG) through gasification, the output would be "equivalent" to 10% of the world’s aviation fuel demand. The plants which could be converted to gasification are power and district heating plants, paper and pulp mills, sawmills, oil refineries and petrochemical plants, according to the research. However, the potential of gasification depends on future "economic conditions" and the "willingness" of the industrial and energy sectors to convert, according to the research.

The biggest player in Norway’s dairy sector, Tine, announced plans to move into biogas production using its own waste as feedstock. The company said it had commissioned a report by Rambøll, which showed the project could have "significant" financial and environmental benefits. Tine could supply biogas for its own dairy production and transportation needs as well as become a power supplier to other businesses with biogas derived from its own cows.

Hong Kong-based DP CleanTech snapped up Austria-based IuT Group as it launched plans to become a global waste management business. The IuT deal was a major part of a "new platform" DP is creating to supply services to the waste management sector. Pitten-based IuT is active in the food-waste-powered anaerobic digestion plants, sorting and treatment plants for all types of solid waste, controlled landfills and degasification systems for existing landfills.

Metsä Group's €1.2bn bioproduct mill in Äänekoski is set to be the centerpiece of a joint government and business initiative called Plänet B to promote increased use of biomass. The facility could become a key part of Finland’s drive to generate €100bn and create 100,000 new jobs by 2025 in the bioeconomy, if a joint venture by businesses and politicians goes ahead.

Europe’s wastewater treatment plants could use biogas to shift from heavy users of energy to large-scale power producers, according to the EU-funded PowerStep project. These facilities could be major sources of energy with capacities equal to "12 power plants’ worth" of electricity. Energy would be produced mainly by boosting anaerobic digestion.  

Germany-baased EnviTec Biogas revealed its best financial results since 2011, driven by its own facilities and contracts for other companies’ plants. The company said its earnings before interest and taxes in 2017 rose to €6.5m, up from €4.2m in 2016. The company’s own plants brought in a total revenue of €111.2m, up 9.3% on 2016’s figure, while the plant services business saw revenue rise by 35.3% to €42m. Revenue in the plant construction sector was up by 51% to €45.6m last year compared to 2016.

Facilities update

Irish planning body An Bord Pleanála has awarded planning permission to a 240,000t/yr, 18.5MWe EfW plant in Ringaskiddy, Cork, which was proposed by Indaver. The decision came after An Bord Pleanála missed ten previous self-set dates to decide on the application, which has promoted legal action from NGO CHASE, which is opposed to the development.

An "illegal blockade" by scaffolders at Hofor’s under-construction BIO4 biomass-fired plant took place this month. Hofor said the blockade ended after several days with work on-site "now back to normal". Hofor said it had offered the workers "close collaboration" concerning any issues that might arise regarding the scaffolding work at the facility, which was accepted. The BIO4 plant will process 1.2 million tonnes of woodchips per year and is due to enter commercial operations in the second quarter of next year. The plant will have capacities of 415MWth and 150MWe.

Swindon-based Advanced Plasma Power says it is building a consortium to help deliver a waste gasification plant with the capacity to process up to 100,000 tonnes per year. Chief executive Rolf Stein revealed the plans during a presentation at the World Waste to Energy and Resources Summit in London this week. Stein did not say what the facility’s potential output would be, but, like the two smaller versions of the facility APP has developed, it would process refuse-derived fuel. Stein did not name names, but said he was "building a consortium of investors and fuel suppliers", adding that waste supply was "becoming business critical".

Powdered metal-producer Höganäs and engineering firm Cortus Energy say the "world first" biomass gasification plant they are developing will open on time in June. The plant will produce biosynthetic natural gas (BioSNG) from forestry-based residues, which will replace its natural gas use in its metal production. An investment of about SEK 100m (€9.7m) is an "important step" in spreading the use of gasification technology to more companies, according to the companies.

The Templeborough Biomass Power Plant completed its first firing on wood having delayed the process earlier this month. The plant said the work started on 16 May and further test firings were due to take place for up to the following 10 days. Earlier this month the plant said it had to put back plans to fire on wood for the first time. When the facility is operational, later this year, it will use about 260,000t/yr of  mainly waste wood.

St1 and SCA formed a partnership to develop "large-scale production" of renewable fuels from tall oil at St1's refinery in Gothenburg. The aim of the partnership is to build a new facility to produce advanced renewable fuels from tall oil with a capacity of 100,000t/yr. Construction of the new facility, subject to planning consent and final approval from both companies, is expected to cost around SEK 500m (€48.9m) and is planned to open by 2021.Tall oil is a residual product from the production of kraft pulp in SCA’s mills in Östrand, Obbola and Munksund.

UK-based Energy Technologies Institute’s (ETI) pilot biomass gasification plant will be operational around June or July, it has been confirmed. Coming in at £12m (€13.6m) the development cost of the plant was "far too high", but the ETI added "we accept that as it’s a first-of-its-kind". The facility, which will have an equivalent capacity of 1.5MWe, will convert about 40 tonnes a day of RDF into bioSNG.

UK-based Viridor is so far expecting "under certain circumstances" to receive £69m (€78.6m) from its former contractor Interserve in relation to its Glasgow EfW plant build. Viridor has previously said its costs for the project increased by £95m (€108.1m), due mainly to its decision to remove Interserve from the build. The plant is due to open this year and will process up to 200,000t/yr of waste and have a capacity of 15MWe. Viridor also confirmed the Glasgow facility, along with ones in Beddington and Dunbar, were in commissioning.

Finnish utility Riikinvoima hired Honeywell to overhaul its Leppävirta EfW plant by installing its Experion Orion control-room technology. US-based Honeywell installed the system for an unspecified fee and said it will help the plant operate "safer, faster and more consistent operations". The plant, which was the first in Finland to use circulating fluidised bed boiler technology, went into operation in 2016. Austria-based Andritz won the contract to build the facility in 2014. It can process up to 145,000t/yr of waste and has capacities of 16MWe and 38MWth.

Finnish utility Lounavoima tendered for the first part of a contract to build an EfW plant with a capacity of 120,000t/yr in Korvenmäki, Salo. The plant will be built next to a landfill site and will process municipal solid waste as its "main" feedstock, according to the tender. Lounavoima said it would tender the EfW plant in six lots with the current tender issued to cover the first lot, which includes the supply of a grate, boiler and steam turbine generator. No outputs for the plant are given except for the fact it will be a cogeneration facility

France-based Valor Béarn tendered for the overhaul and operation of its Lescar-based EfW plant. The work is due to start in autumn next year the plant will run until 2039. The contract covers the replacement of one the facility’s two lines, which process up to 85,000t/yr and produces 30,000MWhe annually.

Poland-based Investeko confirmed it secured the contract to build a 5MWth EfW plant in Lipnie for PUK TPO. It will work with IOS Thermex on the plant, which will be fired on sewage "enriched" with waste. The contract for the build is worth about PLN1m (€233,600), according to Investeko, and will "strengthen" its position in the energy-recovery sector.

Poland-based Polenergia said it is due to hear whether its 120,000t/yr biomass-fired plant would be backed by subsidies. The plant, which is due to have a capacity of 31MWe, gained planning consent in 2017. Polenergia said it would hear before the end of the first half of this year whether the facility would be able to enter Poland’s latest auction round for renewable energy capacity.

Netherlands-based Bin2barrel said it was developing a plant to turn about 35,000t/yr of plastic into biofuel and naphtha – a raw material for new plastics. The biofuel produced by the plant will be the same quality as diesel and "just as sustainable" as other forms of biodiesel, according to the company.

NGO Bedfordshire Against Covanta Incinerator (BACI) raised enough funds to serve judicial review papers on the Environment Agency and Covanta. The action is against the EA and includes Covanta as an "interested party" and relates to the former awarding of an environmental permit to the latter’s Rookery Pit Energy Recovery Facility. Covanta, which began working on the plant with France’s Veolia in 2016, previously saw off a judicial review to the plant’s planning consent in 2014.The plant also won the UK’s first development control order in 2013.

Austria-based Andritz secured a contract to supply a biomethanol cleaning and purification plant for Södra’s pulp mill in Mönsterås, Sweden. Andritiz said the facility was scheduled to start operating in the third quarter of next year, but did not disclose any financial details. The facility designed to produce 5,000 tonnes of biomethanol per year, which can be used in shipping as a stand-alone fuel or in biodiesel production, as an additive in petrol and as a raw material in the chemical industry.

UK-based Caerphilly County Borough Council approved Bryn Power’s application to temporarily extend the hours for deliveries to an in-vessel compost facility and biogas plant for a period until April 2021. The application sought permission to extend the hours when waste could be brought to the site from local authority collections and from civic amenity sites to Saturday afternoons, Sundays and bank holidays. The facility, in Gelligaer Road, Gelligaer, can process up to 30,000t/yr of waste and has a capacity of more than 1MWe.

And finally…

A number of platers working on the Energy Work Hull EfW plant have returned to the build after initially being laid off, it was reported in May. The 15 platers, who prepare steel or other metal plates and sections for the facility’s boiler, were initially made redundant last week. However, after a 15-minute negotiation the workers were all reinstated, according to the report. Construction contractor M+W previously confirmed that workers walked out of the facility's build over safety fears.  

The plant, which is currently in hot commissioning, is due to have a capacity of 25MWe and will process up to 240,000t/yr of waste when it opens later this year.

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