EWB Insight report: Feb 2019

This month: Is the UK halfway through building a portfolio of EfW plants, facilites progress in Corby, Darwen and the Rookery South EfW faces yet another day in court

UK has developed half the EfW plants it needs

Talk at this week’s Energy From Waste conference in London covered a number of topics, but there appeared to be consensus that the UK was about halfway through developing a portfolio of EfW plants.

Consultancy Cobalt Energy’s managing director, Ian Crummack, opened the conference saying that with more than 40 EfW plants either opertional or close to being so, the UK was about "halfway" to reaching the capacity it needed.

Crummack described starting out in the sector in the early 1990s when landfill was still the best option financially and because older-style incineration plants were being phased out.

As Crummack pointed out the development of the UK’s current stock of EfW plants started in the mid-1990s, massively boosted by the landfill tax, which was introduced in 1996.

Since then it has taken almost a quarter of a century to get to this stage with the majority consensus still reporting a looming capacity gap for treating residual-waste in the UK.

As EfW plants continue to face local opposition, it could take until 2044 for the UK to complete the 40 remaining plants its needs to close the gap.

Policy Update

The European Commission's directorate-general for energy issued a tender for "swift, consistent and cost-effective implementation" of sustainability criteria for biomass under its second Renewable Energy Directive, known as RED II. Worth €500,000 the work is expected to last for up to 17 months and bidders have until 10 March to apply.

Two contracts were awarded as part of the European Commission's plan to create a single platform for the biofuel sector. The deals, worth a total of €1.8m, were awarded to Greece-based consultancy Exergia and Italy-based research body the Renewable Energy Consortium for Research and Demonstration (RE-CORD).

The UK government rejected claims that a no-deal Brexit could result in piles of waste bound for export and overflowing slurry stores. It said there was already a process in place to ensure the continuity of notified waste shipments in the case of no deal, which was set out by the European Commission in November. The UK said it had received agreement to roll over 98% of existing consents for waste exports to the EU from the UK – agreeing 545 out of the 556 current approvals.

The UK government also launched a consultation into how separate food waste collections will work and promised to offer councils financial support for transporting it to biogas-producing plants. The move, expected by 2023, will cost between £180m (€205m) and £260m (€296m) in England, with the government promising financial support for municipalities.

The third round of the UK’s contracts for difference (CfD) renewable support scheme is due to start on around 29 May with its Pot 2 of "less-established technologies" including ACT, 5MWe+ biogas plants and biomass cogeneration facilities. All projects would have to be delivered in 2023-2024 and 2024-2025.

The UK household recycling rate increased by just half a percentage point in 2017. EfW levels continue to soar with the 2016 figure of 7.3Mt almost four times the 1.9Mt treated in 2014.

Trade body the Irish Bioenergy Association (IrBEA) called on the country’s government to move forward two key pieces of legislation it says would boost the bioenergy sector. The government should "immediately open" its planned Support Scheme for Renewable Heat (SSRH) and progress with a feed-in-tariffs (FITs) for biogas production.

The French government is to decide in the autumn whether coal-fired power plants can continue running on biomass after the country ends generation from the polluting fuel by 2022. France and EDF are working together on a possible conversion of two coal plants in north-western France – the Cordemais power plant and a facility in Le Havre – with the government citing the "necessity of maintaining security of electricity supply" in the area.

France has 76 biogas-to-grid facilities in full operation and is experiencing huge growth in biomethane production, but the sector remains "fragile", according to an annual review by GRTgaz. The review found grid injection increased by 75% last year compared to 2017, to a total of 714GWh. However, the report raises concerns about the country’s proposed multi-year energy programme, known as PPE. PPE is creating "uncertainties" related to injection volume targets, purchase price and conditions for launching calls for tender.

Market Update

Geminor said it was now England’s largest exporter of waste after analysing figures from the Environment Agency. A total of 3.09 million tonnes of RDF and SRF left England for other European countries last year, which was a drop on 2017. Geminor said it exported 420,500 tonnes of that total. The figures further show N&P Alternative Fuels was the second largest exporter with 363,500t shipped, followed by Biffa Waste Services with 355,800t.

US-based investment fund Coltrane Asset Management called for the whole board of Interserve, except chief executive, Debbie White, to be removed after it announced new details of the Fit for Growth debt-reduction plan. The plan will see interserve debts swapped for equity, which will wipe out the value of current shareholders.

In a related development, Dougie Sutherland a director at UK-based Interserve who was involved in its EfW and biomass-fired power business left the company shortly after the shareholder revolt over its debt-reduction plan. An spokesperson for Interserve told ENDS Sutherland was involved in the sector and said the company’s director of infrastructure, Chris Tyerman, would be "closing out the remaining projects, working closely with the existing EfW team".

The majority biomass-fired Drax power station claimed to be the first facility in the world to capture carbon dioxide from burning wood. The project sees Drax partner with Leeds-based C-Capture – a spin-out from the University of Leeds’ department of chemistry – and invest £400,000 (€457,000) in what "could be the first of several" pilot projects involving CCS.

Alternative Use Boston Projects, the developer of what would be the UK’s largest EfW plant, says it is still in negotiations for the supply of up to a million tonnes of RDF a year for its proposed facility. A waste-sector source told ENDS the plant’s remote location made it "untouchable" in terms of supplying waste.

Gloucestershire Constabulary told ENDS it was "evaluating" whether a criminal act took place around the scrutiny of a local authority’s contract for the Javelin Park EfW plant. NGO Community R4C, which has also filed a lawsuit over the same contract, alleged that Gloucestershire County Council chief executive, Peter Bungard, "may be subject to a charge of misconduct in public office". A spokesperson for the council said the claim was "false and misleading".

Biogas plant developer Hallwick Energy issued an update on its business, almost four years since its last statement. It said it was "building new sites" through its sister company Rika Biofuel Developments. Rika’s website is currently under development.

Facilities Update

France-based Suez launched a new consultation into plans for another UK-based EfW plant, this time in Darwen, Lancashire. It would process up to 500,000t/yr, but no electrical capacity was given. Suez plans to ask for planning consent later this year.

London-based investment fund AssetGen Partners’ delayed waste gasification plant in Hoddesdon appears to be nearing operational status and recruiting staff. France-based Bouygues Energies & Services won the contract to build the plant from AssetGen Partners in April 2015; at the time the plant was due to open in the first half of 2017.

EfW developer Brockwell Energy told ENDS it will use its recently consented 23.7MWe Westfield Energy Recovery facility as a "lynchpin" for regenerating the rest of the site. Fife Council backed plans for the plant, which is to be located at the Westfield opencast coal site near Kinglassie, Fife, and fired on 200,000t/yr of RDF. The facility will also recycle a further 50,000t/yr on-site.

Anti-energy recovery NGO Bedfordshire Against Covanta Incinerator (BACI) secured an appeal hearing following its failed judicial review of the Rookery South EfW plant’s environmental permit last year. The facility is due to process 585,000t/yr of municipal waste and have a capacity of 50MWe. The development previously survived another judicial review covering its planning consent in 2014 and also won the UK’s first development control order in 2013.

Resource Recovery Solutions (RRS) confirmed its Derby-based waste gasification plant was still not fully operational despite previously saying it expected to complete work last year. RSS, which is a joint venture between waste management firm Renewi and building firm Interserve, confirmed to ENDS the plant remained in commissioning. Once open, it is due to process 190,000t/yr of waste and have a capacity of 12MWe.

The waste gasification and anaerobic digestion elements of Engie’s Surrey Ecopark are due to start hot commissioning soon. Developer Engie said the gasification part of the complex, which will process RDF will start steam-blowing in March. The AD element was expected to start hot commissioning "in early March".

Local authority Lancashire County Council told ENDS it was considering starting the procurement process for an EfW plant to deal with its residual waste after 2025. Currently, the council says it has no direct deal to send waste to an EfW plant, but it does turn waste into RDF, which is sent elsewhere for energy recovery.

In a related development, investment fund Miller Turner revealed it would submit plans for a new £200m (€229m) EfW plant in Preston, Lancashire, this spring. The facility, known as the Longridge Road Energy Centre, will be able to process up to 395,000t/yr of waste and have a capacity of 40MWe.

Local authority Northamptonshire County Council also told ENDS it was considering an EfW plant as part of its "long-term strategy" for residual waste management. However, in response to a freedom of information request it said: "To date, no decisions have been made." Currently, the local authority explained it has four contracts in place to treat and dispose of residual waste using "spare capacity in merchant facilities".

Lakeside Energy from Waste says it has secured a potential new site for its EfW plant, currently sitting in the path of Heathrow Airport’s proposed new runway. Lakeside, which is a joint venture between Grundon Waste Management and Viridor, hopes to secure various permissions to move its site about 600 metres north-west of its current location. The facility, which only opened in 2010, has a capacity of 37MWe and processes up to 410,000t/yr of residual waste.

England’s Environment Agency has opened a consultation into an environmental permit for a vast expansion of the Riverside EfW plant in south-east London. Running until 13 March the permits covers a new EfW plant, a biogas facility, infrastructure for heat production, solar PV and and battery storage unit.

Switzerland-based Hitachi Zosen Inova (HZI) confirmed it will go ahead with a dry fermentation anaerobic digestion facility after agreeing a deal to buy Sweden-based Jönköping Energi Biogas on 1 February. It plans to rebrand the business as HZI Biogas Operations. No financial aspects of the deal were revealed. The plant will process up to 40,000t/yr and produce 35GWh of biogas a year to be processed into biomethane.

Evercreech Renewable Energy’s Shepton Mallet-based biogas plant will be one of the largest in Somerset after winning consent to almost double its feedstock from 55,000t/yr to 95,000t/yr and upgraded to biomethane production. The change would increase the plant’s current capacity from 3MWe to the equivalent of 4.8MWe of biomethane production for grid injection.

Buckinghamshire County Council said the "prematurity" of an application for a biogas and waste management facility should also be considered by a planning inspector at a public inquiry due to start in March. Veolia ES Landfill was turned down for planning consent for the plants in Gerrards Cross in December 2017, but has since appealed.

Lincolnshire County Council approved plans to diversify the range of feedstock processed at Moor Bio-Energy’s biogas plant near Grantham due to non-domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) rules. Moor told the council it wanted to introduce liquid food waste and chicken litter in order to meet RHI rules specifying that at least half of the biogas generated must arise from waste feedstock.

Denmark-based biogas plant developer Djurs Bioenergi scrapped a tender for the construction of a facility in Grenaa. Back in 2016, the company had first tendered a deal worth a total of DKK 57.4m (€7.5m) for the development of a 5.3 million m3 biomethane-producing facility.  

Netherlands-based Twence issued a tender for "planned and unplanned maintenance" of modifications of its biogas plant in Hengelo, which began operating in April 2014. The facility was built as a pilot project with a "combi-digester" allowing it to processes a mix of organic waste, roadside grass clipping and sewage. Its wet line can take 9,000t/yr while a solid line takes 2,000t/yr. The work is set to take 36 months and bidders for the contract have until 15 March to submit and offer.

UK-based Yorwaste said it has "officially mothballed" its Harewood Whin landfill site as waste has been diverted to the Allerton EfW plant. The 320,000t/yr of waste Allerton site features both a 24MWe capacity EfW and 1.1MWe biogas facility. The plants were declared operational in March last year.

UK-based utility company Yorkshire Water has submitted plans for its new biogas-producing plant near Huddersfield to Calderdale Council, but the local authority has yet to assign a date for a hearing on the project. The plans focus on replacing an ageing sludge incinerator with a state-of-the-art biogas plant.

Renewable energy plant developer Akuo Energy confirmed it has put an €87m biomass-fired plant into operation in France. Denmark-based Aalborg Energie Technik built the plant at the Gemdoubs Novillars paper mill. It has capacities of 20MWe and will supply about 63MWth in the form of process steam to the paper mill.

Scotland-based local authority The Highland Council revealed plans to build a facility to produce RDF through processing up to 83,000t/yr of waste, which would be taken to EfW plants "elsewhere in the UK", according to the council. The council says it deals with about 140,000t/yr of waste of which it recycles 43% and sends the rest to landfill, a process costing it about £11m (€12.5m) a year.

Ireland-based AgriChemWhey says it is making progress on what it claims will be a first-of-a-kind industrial-scale plant to valorise dairy processing by-products into several added-value bio-based products. The plant, which has been backed by EU funding, is currently at the pilot stage with "installation and commissioning of the downstream process ongoing", according to the company.

Finland-based firms Fortum and Chempolis joined with Indian state-owned oil refinery company Numaligarh Refinery Limited (NRL) for the ground breaking of a new biorefinery in India. Indian prime minister, Shri Narendra Modi, laid the foundation stone for the plant, which is due to be completed by June 2021. The plant will convert bamboo to biofuel.

Finnish utility company Lounavoima moved forward its planned Korvenmäki EfW facility by awarding a series of crucial contracts. The two main contracts saw Germany-based Steinmüller Babcock Environment will supply the boiler to the 120,000t/yr facility, which will be built by Finland-based Fira.

Belgium-based ISVAG said plans for its new EfW plant have been backed by local Flemish authorities, which agreed with 11 out 12 of its proposals following a consultation into the development. The new €175m plant is due to be built next to the existing plant in Boomsesteenweg. The only issue raised against its plans was whether the planned demolition of the current EfW installation would take place when the new facility opened.

Denmark-based utility Fjernvarme Horsens confirmed it ended a tender process for replacing boilers at its EfW plant, which opened in 1992, without a signing a deal. The two-line plant can process up to 82,000t/yr of waste and has a capacity of 35MW, which is mainly used for heat production. Horsens had previously given a timeline that hoped to see design work on the project start last month with construction starting by April 2020 with the new system ready to test by October that year.

German utility company RWE admitted a potentially dangerous leak of coke granules took place at its 650,000t/yr Essen-Karnap EfW plant. The accidental leak from the 38MWe EfW plant was due to a "defective" flue gas filter at the plant, which appears to have allowed coke of 5-10 millimetres in size to escape into the atmosphere, according to the statement.

France-based Valor Béarn-SMTD issued a tender related to the "design, implementation, financing of the modernisation, operation, maintenance and upkeep" of its Pau-based EfW plant. The work is planned to start next January and last until the end of 2039, according to the documents. Prospective bidders having until 17 April to apply. The 5.5MW plant first opened in 1987 and can process up to 85,000t/yr.

The Barry Biomass facility was to set to take woodchips as it ramps up its commissioning process. The work is likely to cause some "intermittent noise" and "steam". The facility secured an environmental permit under its technical name Biomass UK No.2 last February. The permit was the final obstacle to operating the otherwise fully consented facility, which will process 86,400t/yr of waste wood and have a capacity of 10MWe.

An open letter opposing plans to convert Ireland-based ESB’s West Offaly peat-fired plant to biomass has been signed by 33 environmental NGOs. The NGOs, including UK-based Biofuelwatch, oppose plans to run the station after 2020 and what it calls its "gradual conversion to biomass". The 153MWe power plant is the country’s largest such plant fired on peat.

Germany-based Weltec Biopower revealed it had secured a contract to build a 80,000t/yr biomethane-producing facility in England. It is due to be operational later this year and will produce 7.3 million m³ of biomethane annually for the grid system. The plant, which has been ordered by West Yorkshire-based Lanes Farm Energy, will process leftover food waste to make up "more than half", with cattle and chicken manure and some grass silage and rye making up the rest.

Viridor’s 30MWe Trident Park EfW plant signed a deal with Pembrokeshire County Council to process 20,000t/yr of residual waste. The contract will last for eight years and began last December, Viridor said in February. In 2017, Trident Park won approval to increase its capacity by 75,0000t/yr and expand the area it sources waste from. The plant was opened in 2015.

Finland's Valmet secured a deal worth up to €15m to supply Metsä Group's Joutseno-based pulp mill with a wood handling line. The mill replaced its use of natural gas with a 48MWth biomass-gasification system in 2017. Valmet said the new line would make it possible to process larger amounts of fiber wood at the site.

And finally...

The long-running planning saga of Veolia’s Hoddesdon-based EfW plant could be drawing to a close. Not only did the plant secure and environmental permit this month, but the government also confirmed a timeline for the a final decision on the plant after the Planning Inspectorate submits its report.

A decision is now expected by 7 May this year, but Norfolk County Council abandoned a similar deal, which included an EfW plant with Cory Environmental and Wheelabrator, in 2014 when the government missed decision deadlines. The Hoddesdon plant, should it get planning consent, will process up to 350,000t/yr of waste and have a capacity of 33.5MWe.

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