Is small the future for EfW plants?
This month saw an indication that more smaller-scale energy-from-waste plants could start development as the sector looks to avoid the planning pitfalls that befell a number of facilities this month.
In June two large-scale EfW facilities fell at the planning stage. South Lanarkshire Council turned down a 190,000-tonne-per-year waste-gasification facility by Clean Power Properties and Britaniacrest Recycling’s 180,000t/yr was sunk by West Sussex County Council.
At the same time, a 20-day public inquiry begun into Veolia’s 350,000 t/yr Hoddesdon-based EfW plant and a legal appeal over the removal of the 300,000t/yr Arc21 Northern Ireland-based EfW facilities planning consent started.
While these developments are struggling with planning-related issues, Biffa’s financial results issued this month showed it is taking another route. The results confirmed plans to develop an EfW plant to process just 30,000t/yr with a relatively low price tag of £5m (€5.7m).
The plant is planned for Swansea, Wales, and a previous application appears to have been turned down for planning consent earlier this year. Biffa said this month that an application had been submitted for planning consent, although it was not clear whether it was for a new plant or an appeal over this refusal.
EfW expert consultancy Tolvik director, Adrian Judge, told ENDS he was "not sure" recent developments indicated a trend towards smaller plants. He said: "There has always been a desire for ‘local’ scaled facilities."
Judge also said there was a trend in the rest of Europe for smaller plants in more rural areas "where economics is a less significant factor", but currently there were "relatively few examples of this" in the UK.
EfW plant developments such as the operational facility in the Shetlands and Amey’s under-development 44,000t/yr facility on the Isle of Wight were highlighted as examples of interesting smaller-scale facilities, according to Judge.
However, local authorities are still likely to cause problems for smaller plant as this month also saw Calderdale Council turn down plans by Calder Valley Skip Hire to build a small-scale "incinerator".
The facility, which would have operated at the firm’s site at Mearclough Road, Sowerby Bridge, would have processed just 3,650t/yr at a rate not exceeding 1t/hr.
The EU adopted four new directives setting binding requirements on waste management, which enter into force in early July, and form part of the circular economy strategy. The rules state that by 2025, EU countries will need to recycle 55% of their municipal waste, rising to 60% in 2030 and then 65% after a further five years. The mandatory recycling rates vary according to type, with the 2030 targets ranging from 30% for wood-based packaging to 85% for paper and cardboard. The figure for plastic packaging is set between the two at 55%.
The EU’s last round of trilogue negotiations on RED II concluded with an agreement on a 32% renewable energy target and increased policy certainty for the bioenergy and biofuel sectors. Crucially, for the biomass sector the EU agreed that bioenergy would count towards the target, which covers the period up to 2030, and would be able to apply for financial subsidies. The agreement also set a target of 14% renewables in transport by 2030 and capped crop-based biofuels at a maximum of 7% for member states by 2020.
Switching Europe’s vehicles to "low-carbon fuels" could cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and slow "potential uncertainty" around the longer-term emissions intensity of electricity vehicles, a report by trade body ePure revealed. It predicted that a "high percentage" of cars with internal combustion engines will still be on Europe’s roads "for decades" so switching them to low-carbon fuels such as bioethanol would lead to "significant" environmental benefits.
Talks on a UN-sponsored aviation GHG reduction scheme struggled because of disagreement on elements around offsets and biofuel rules. An annex, which had been expected to catalogue rules on biofuels and offsets, was not included in the talks due to the divisions between ICAO, campaigners told ENDS.
New UK standards for waste burning, including gasification, were clarified by the government for projects wanting contract for difference (CfD) support. Any project must prove a 70% overall efficiency, a primary energy saving of 10% and the unchanged 10% heat efficiency rating – all of which are gross calorific value.
UK trade body the Environmental Services Association (ESA) claimed "simple policy interventions" could see £10bn (€11.4m) of private sector capital invested in the EfW sector. The financial investment would support the diversion of up to 60 million tonnes of waste from landfill, while delivering 50,000 jobs and further boosting UK GDP by £3bn (€3.4bn).
The RDF Industry Group has called on UK and EU leaders to protect the £500m (€569m) a year RDF export market as Brexit looms. A key call was to "ensure" a trade deal is reached with the EU (and EEA) which provides for a 0% tariff on its export.
London mayor, Sadiq Khan, set out recycling targets for London to be achieved by 2025 and 2030 with food waste collection and reuse a top priority. He says councils will need to offer all properties that have kerbside recycling collections a separate weekly food waste collection by 2020. However, some councils such as the London Borough of Barnet have scrapped separate food waste collections, arguing the process is too expensive. The move has long been seen as crucial for biogas plants which need more feedstock.
Northern Ireland’s Department for the Economy (DfE) launched a consultation on proposals for the long-term future of the non-domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme. The consultation has a "primary focus" on small and medium sized biomass boilers, which cover the "majority" of projected expenditure on the non-domestic RHI. The consultation has been criticised by trade body Renewable Heat Association for Northern Ireland (RHANI), which said it would "be hard to manage" as the true root causes of the problem have not yet been fully determined and many of the "key facts" presented by DfE are "controversial, not recognised nor agreed".
The shutdown of traditional power plants combined with lower support for biogas-derived electricity could leave Germany facing energy shortages, according to biogas trade body FvB. It said biogas plant stocks will be "successively reduced by lack of investment incentives and simultaneously increasing technical requirements". This loss "would coincide with the shutdown" of conventional nuclear and coal-fired power plants from 2022.
Investor Privilege Finance backed improved Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) funding levels to boost the UK’s biogas sector. The farming and related food sectors are expected to lead a charge in the development of facilities, either on-farm or for turning food waste into biomethane, with "double-digit growth" expected.
Trade body the Renewable Energy Association (REA) said a "growing number" of UK-based haulage firms will soon be able to feel the benefits of switching their fleets to biomethane. The REA said the door to growth was opened after the first supplier to the sector secured support under the Renewable Transport Fuel Certificates (RTFCs). Biomethane-to-transport supplier CNG Fuels said it had last week had its application for RTFCs approved as the first biogas supplier.
UK-based specialist EfW consultancy Tolvik highlighted a near static year of development in the energy recovery sector throughout 2017. Waste processed by EfW plants increased by 7.7% in 2017 to 10.9 million tonnes last year, but due to "improvements in the operational performance" of existing plants rather than new facilities.
UK-based private equity investor Foresight Group expanded into Germany’s bioenergy sector by snapping up five biogas facilities from the Lindhorst Gruppe for an undisclosed fee. The plants have a total capacity of 21.5MWe, sell heat and certified biofertiliser and are currently supported by Germany’s EEG subsidy.
UK-based 3i’s €402m acquisition of EfW and biogas plant owner Attero was cleared by the European Commision. 3i is paying €201m to buy a 50% stake in Attero, which is one of the largest waste treatment and disposal companies in the Netherlands, with Germany-based DWS buying the other half for the same amount. Attero owns two energy-from-waste plants, two sorting and pre-treatment facilities, six biogas facilities, seven composting facilities and ten landfills.
UK-based Viridor’s portfolio of EfW plants – eight operational, three in commissioning and one under-construction – are now represented by the Confederation of European Waste-to-Energy Plants (CEWEP). This year Viridor facilities will process 2.9 million tonnes of residual waste and produce 242MW of electricity.
Not-for-profit housing company River Clyde Homes tendered for a contractor to take over a troubled heating network that is mainly fired on biomass. The scheme features three biomass-fired boilers with a joint capacity of 1.5MWth, but has suffered a number of issues with residents claiming the system does not work.
Waste management company Veolia suggested more businesses take-over responsibility for their own power generation. It backed on-site cogeneration plants fired on biomass by-products and electricity-producing biogas facilities.
Finland-based businesses Valmet and Turun Seudun Energiatuotanto (TSE) revealed they have worked together to develop a "comprehensive" system to support the delivery of biomass feedstock. The "internet-based" system was being implemented "for the first time" at utility company TSE's new multifuel plant in Naantali. The vast €240m facility will eventually process up to 1.2 million m³ of wood per year and have capacities of 146MWe and 250MWth.
Velocys says it has secured further development funding of £4.9m (€5.5m) for next the stage of its UK-based waste-to-jet fuel project from the country’s Department for Transport under its Future Fuels for Flight and Freight Competition (F4C). The company completed an initial feasibility stage and is taking the project forward with oil-giant Shell and BA. Advanced Plasma Power, which has developed a gasification plant in Swindon, is supplying the technology.
Finland-based Gasum said it will no longer sell biogas directly from its portfolio of 12 plants after a deal with Suomen Kaasuenergia meant business would instead market it directly to consumers. Gasum will still supply biogas to its wholesale customers.
Development of the Rzeszów EfW plant appears to have hit a major stumbling block with the handover date for the facility postponed indefinitely. Developer PGE GiEK cited both the project’s "complex nature" and the "nature of the delays", as it revealed the plant would not be operational in early July as previously planned. It is planned to have capacities of 15.4MWth and 4.8MWe or 7.87MWe when operating in electricity-only mode. It is due to process about 100,000t/yr on one line.
A public inquiry into the Hoddesdon EfW plant proposed by Veolia got under way this month and is scheduled to last for about 20 days, spread out until 2 August. Inspector Jennifer Vyse opened proceedings, which are due to hear from Veolia and a number of local authorities including Hertfordshire County Council. The Hoddesdon plant is planned to process up to 350,000t/yr of waste and have a capacity of 33.5MWe.
An appeal is also underway over the decision to strip the under-development Arc21 EfW plant of its planning consent. NGO Noarc21 successfully brought a judicial review over the plant’s construction permitting, arguing a civil servant should not have approved the facility in lieu of an elected official, but the region’s civil service appealed. The plant would have a capacity of 14MWe and process up to 300,000t/yr if it ever gets built.
A judicial review against the Environment Agency’s decision to award an environmental permit to Covanta’s under-development Rookery Pit Energy Recovery Facility will be heard over two days. NGO Bedfordshire Against Covanta Incinerator (BACI) said. If the plant becomes operational it will be able to process up to 585,000t/yr of municipal waste and have a capacity of 50MWe.
Plans for a 180,000t/yr EfW plant have been sunk by West Sussex County Council after residents strongly opposed the development. The council’s planning committee ignored the municipality's officers, who had backed the planned EfW plant, by voting to turn down the application from waste management firm Britaniacrest Recycling. The company had hoped to build a facility with a capacity of 21MWe in Horsham and could still appeal the decision.
France-based Suez opened its Wilton EfW plant in the UK. The facility, which has a capacity of 49MWe, was handed over in 2016, but an opening was put off while "technical issues" over railway infrastructure were resolved. The £250m (€295m) project involved construction by CNIM Clugston of a 430,000t/yr municipal solid waste-fired plant to serve Merseyside and Halton, plus a new rail transfer station at
Suez also declared a second EfW plant open, having confirmed a ceremony was recently held for its Cornwall-based facility. The Cornwall Energy Recovery Centre (CERC) facility, which is located near St Dennis can process up to 240,000t/yr waste and has a capacity of 20MWe, was declared fully operational in March last year.
John Laing Environmental announced plans to spend about £8.5m (€9.6m) to "significantly expand" biomethane-generating capacity at its Hatfield Woodhouse biogas plant. The works are expected to be completed in late 2019, although it was not clear by how much production would increase.
An innovative biogas-to-grid facility featuring new technology is almost fully operational after several years of development. The plant, which is located in Kalundborg, is the first joint venture between biogas technology developer Bigadan and multinational utility company Ørsted. The plant is expected to process about 300,000 tonnes per year of leftovers from insulin and enzyme production from Novo Nordisk and Novozymes and produce up to eight million m³ of biogas per year.
Germany-based utility MVV Environment Services started work on the new Baldovie EfW plant in Dundee. The build will last for two years for the plant which is due to process 110,000t/yr of waste. It will have capacities of 9MWe and 17MWth when operated in cogeneration mode.
Norway-based Rekom announced it signed a deal to supply a Germany-based EfW plant owned by Energie Anlage Bernburg (EAB). The company did not confirm precise details of the RDF deal but said it was "one of the biggest" supply agreements the company would hold in the European market. EAB’s EfW facility, which was opened in Bernburg in 2010, is permitted to process up to 552,000 tonnes per year of RDF, but is likely to average about 450,000t/yr. The plant has a capacity of 215MWth and 35MWe.
Denmark-based Arcon-Sunmark says it has created a "unique" power plant for an Austrian utility. The plant supplies about 240KWth to the city of Graz and combines landfill gas, solar thermal and natural gas technologies. Arcon-Sunmark said it hoped the facility would become an exemplar for future facility developments, based on the combined technologies.
Utility Turun Seudun Energiantuotanto (TSE) tendered for the supply of heat recovery systems for its multifuel-fired cogeneration plant in Naantali, which became operational at the end of last year. The annual average heat recovery of the flue gas condenser is about 40MW and the maximum heat recovery is about 65MW, according to TSE.
Netherlands-based Waterschap Rivierenland tendered a contract for the construction of a biogas plant in Tiel. The company said it wants to "centralise" its wastewater treatment and the processing of the sludge it produces. The plant would need to be able to produce "at least" 48,545GJ/yr of power and would go into operation in mid-2020. Construction would start in October, according to the tender.
Several vacancies are going to be up for grabs at the under-construction Parc Adfer EfW plant in Wales, which is being developed by US-based Wheelabrator Technologies. Once operational next year, the plant is expected to process 200,000t/yr of waste sourced from five Welsh municipalities and have a capacity of 14.4MWe.
London Stock Exchange-listed Eqtec signed an agreement to develop a £19.2m (€22m) waste gasification plant in Asia. It has signed an MoU with Indonesia-based Pt Citra Metro Jaya Energi (Citra), which is part of the Citra Metro Group’s energy division. The plant, which will have an electrical capacity of 12MWe, will be built in Hanoi, Vietnam. Feedstock for the plant will be a form of black pellet developed by Citra and derived from municipal solid waste.
Switzerland-based Satom hailed a trial of food waste collections as a "success" after expanding the business-only collections to households. All the food waste collected is treated in the company’s Villeneuve-based biogas plant. The company said the trial had a take up rate of 60%.
A consultation run by Wiltshire Council into Northacre Renewable Energy’s plans for a 22MWe waste gasification plant closed this month. The authority plans to make a decision on the plan by 24 July, according to its website. The facility will process SRF made at its neighbouring plant, which is blended with waste from commercial and industrial outlets from around Wiltshire in southern England. Previously, the firm has said its plant would use gasification technology supplied by Chinook Sciences.
A tender has been issued for a "demonstrational" scale biomass gasification plant in Orhei, Moldova. The plant should be able to supply heat and power, but must come in for a small budget of €226,500, which has been awarded from the EU’s EuropeAid budget.
Spain-based GBS delivered the first batch of boiler components for Ence’s biomass-fired plant, currently under construction in Huelva, Spain. The delivery included modules of the 40MWe boiler and tie beams, which will secure the boiler once it is operational. The plant is currently due to open by the end of next year.
Sweden-based OX2 said the first spade has gone into the ground as it starts work on a SEK50m (€4.7m) biogas plant in Helsingborg. The new facility, which will be located in an industrial site called Vera Park, will process 40,000t/yr of food waste compared to a current plant at the site, which can process 24,000t/yr. Precise biogas capacities of the new facility have not been disclosed, although plans are to be operational next summer.
Hydro-testing started on the boiler at Engie’s Surrey Ecopark in southern England, UK, the company revealed this month. The process involved pushing high-pressure warm water through all the pipework to test its integrity in preparation for hot commissioning. The park, which is being built for the county council, will feature a waste gasification unit that will process 44,700t/yr of residual waste, alongside its biogas plant, which will be capable of processing 44,000t/yr. As a whole, the Ecopark site will have a capacity of 3.6MWe, with most of this to be exported to the grid. The park is due to open later this year.
An MP raised a parliamentary question asking whether the government would "take action against" the Runcorn EfW plant for "exceeding its environmental permit level for waste disposal". MP Dr David Drew, who represents Stroud, asked the written question, which was answered this month.
However, parliamentary under-secretary for DEFRA, David Rutley, replied that the Environment Agency would not take enforcement action, as it had authorised the increase on a "temporary trial basis" due to the plant’s routine shutdown period being shorter than usual.
Rutley added that the plant would need to apply to officially vary its permit if it wanted to take more waste on a regular basis. The Runcorn facility is owned by Viridor Laing Greater Manchester and processes 850,000t/yr of waste and has capacities of 70MWe and 51MWth.