EWB Insight report: July 2019

This month: Waste fires a burning issue for energy recovery sector, Dutch government proposes a waste import tax, Veolia gets another no from the government for a Hertfordshire-based EfW plant and a full facilities round up

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

Waste fires a burning issue for energy recovery sector

A series of incidents involving fires in and around energy-from-waste plants have taken place recently, putting the issue at the top of the agenda for plant operators. 

Earlier this month, a waste transfer station at Viridor’s brand new £205m (€231.8m) Beddington EfW plant caught fire. Up to four fire engines and 25 firefighters tackled the blaze, which was contained within the transfer station. 

The Beddington EfW plant, which was only confirmed as operational in May, has a capacity of 26MWe and can process 300,000t/yr. 

Viridor has not disclosed the reason for the fire, but speculated that a lithium ion battery could have been the cause. The company said the batteries are commonly found in a variety of products, including mobile phones, toys, cameras, e-cigarettes and laptop computers.

The fire followed only a month after fellow waste business Veolia’s Integra North (Chineham) EfW plant was also damaged by a fire, which broke out during routine maintenance work at the site.  

Although the company has not confirmed the reason behind the fire it said it only led to "cosmetic damage". The facility, which was opened in November 2003, can process up to 102,000t/yr of municipal solid waste and has a capacity of 8MWe.

Earlier this year, Viridor had also said lithium ion batteries were "the likely cause" for setting 300 tonnes of waste on fire in January. The fire was in a landfill, next to the recently completed Dunbar EfW plant, and took more than 40 hours and, at its height, 40 firefighters and six fire trucks to tackle.

Viridor also operated the Bolton EfW plant, when the site was hit by a fire in September 2017. The plant is now operated by Suez and takes 85,000t/yr waste and has a capacity of 11MWe.

Policy Update

The wider energy-recovery sector hit out at plans by the Dutch government to curb imports of mainly RDF, citing environmental grounds. Under the plans, the Dutch government is considering a proposal, which could see a tax of about €32 per tonne added to waste imports from January. The Netherlands is the largest importer of UK waste, taking about 1.3 million tonnes of RDF last year. UK-based Andusia said the move would mean Dutch "EfW plants will now lose money and become unviable". 

The European Biogas Association called for the implementation of "EU-wide policies" to create a market for renewable gas. Policymakers need to support the sector to "develop and commercialise" so it "can be competitive by 2030".The trade body also calls for the introduction of "harmonised" EU-wide guarantees of origin to allow biogas to be traded. 

New figures from green group Transport & Environment (T&E) show the EU continued to increase the amount of palm oil it uses for biodiesel, heating and electricity last year. EU consumption of palm oil for biodiesel grew by 3% between 2018 and 2017, with its use in heating and electricity generation increasing by 18% over the same period, although from a smaller base. The study notes the EU’s overall consumption of palm oil fell by 1% last year, driven by an 11% reduction in its use for food and animal feed. 

German anaerobic digestion trade association FvB said the country’s development of facilities "remained at a low level" in 2018, with only 120 plants put into service. At the same time seven plants were shut down. The FvB predicts a further drop in biogas plant development this year by 20%, indicating only around 96 facilities will be added in 2019.

Germany-based Verbio said it bought a biodiesel production facility in Canada after becoming fed up with "political conditions" around its domestic market’s biofuel sector. The country’s government "completely focuses on electric vehicles" and "ignores the potential of existing biofuels" Verbio said. The new plant, which was formerly owned by Atlantic Biodiesel Corporation, has a production capacity of about 150,000t/yr of biodiesel and 18,000t/yr of raw glycerin. 

The UK All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for British Bioethanol demanded the government publish its report into the potential introduction of E10 saying delays are ruining the sector. Two of the UK’s largest bioethanol producers, Vivergo and Ensus, mothballed production last year with the former citing delays to introducing E10 as the main reason. The consultation asked fuel suppliers’ views on increasing the percentage of bioethanol in petrol beyond the current 5% (E5) up to a limit of 10%.

A recommendation by the UK's Committee on Climate Change (CCC) to ban the landfilling of biodegradable waste by 2025 is unachievable because it does not allow enough time to roll out the required infrastructure, according to the waste industry. The industry backs retaining the current 2030 goal. 

Then UK waste minister, Thérèse Coffey, said the government "did not want incineration to become dominant" and if its Resources and Waste Strategy works there will be no need for more capacity. In a more positive move for the energy-from-waste sector she also told the committee she would "not be opposed" to the wider waste industry creating competition for local authorities for energy recovery capacity.

UK-based trade bodies the Wood Panels Industry Federation (WPIF) and the Wood Recyclers Association (WRA) attacked government plans to introduce a ‘stability mechanism’ into the packaging recovery notes (PRNs). The two claim that artificially fixing the market to introduce predictability could end up being "exploited by speculators" and increase costs for the sector. 

The Swedish government tasked the country’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with proposing a series of targets to reduce food waste. Under the plans, the EPA will set out a series of concrete measures to be implemented from next year as part of its environmental quality targets. 

Scotland has recorded a 40% increase in the amount of food waste recycling since it introduced regulations forcing businesses to separate out their food waste for collection. Findings from the Scottish anaerobic digestion and biogas sector survey 2017, as well as the Scottish composting sector survey 2017, show a significant rise in the amount of recycled food waste. About 158,500 tonnes of household and commercial solid food waste was collected in 2017, compared with 111,500 tonnes in 2013.

Prospect union members working for the Environment Agency (EA) joined Unison staff in refusing to carry out out-of-hours incident-response work after they rejected the agency’s 2018 pay offer. Prospect said its EA staff had rejected a deal that amounted to a 1.3% pay rise "imposed by management" in December last year and had "endured years of low pay increases".

Market Update

Saudia Arabia-based Alfanar Group said it would put £1bn (€1.1bn) into developing six energy-from-waste plants at unspecified sites in the UK. It plans to create a subsidiary, Alfanar Energy UK, but did not reveal further details of the project.

AEB Amsterdam confirmed it agreed a financial deal with the municipality of Amsterdam and a "consortium of banks" to keep it operating. Its problems began at the start of the month, when it revealed it was shutting down four lines for an unspecified time and running its two remaining lines at a reduced capacity. It did not specify how much support the company needed. But it explained the new agreement means AEB can guarantee "the orderly diversion" of industrial waste it cannot process because of the closure. 

UK police are looking again at whether there was a criminal offence in connection with the approval of the Javelin Park EfW plant in 2015. In February, Gloucestershire Constabulary dismissed a claim bought by NGO Community R4C, which has also filed a lawsuit over the same contract. However, the force is looking at the case again after R4C asked for a review under the police's Victims’ Right to Review scheme.

England’s Environment Agency revealed illegal waste incidents rose by 50% to 69 last year from 46 in 2017. And on average the EA said it closed "more than two illegal waste sites" every day. The report also raises concerns over Brexit saying "illegal waste activity may well increase" should the UK leave without a withdrawal agreement. 

UK-based Andusia and Mid UK Recycling signed a deal to export up to 20,000t/yr of SRF to the Mediterranean where it would be used to supply two cement-producing plants. No financial terms of the deal were given.  

Trade body the World Biogas Association (WBA) issued a report highlighting that biogas production has the potential to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 3,290-4,360 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year, which is equivalent to 10-13% of the world’s current emissions. The research finds there are currently about 50 million micro-digesters; 132,000 small, medium and large-scale digesters; and 700 biogas upgrading plants operating globally. However, the report says these generate only about 87TWh of electricity, which is between 1.6% and 2.2% of the potential of anaerobic digestion. The potential for the growth of the biogas industry is "therefore extraordinary". 

Liquid Gas UK backed the increased use of bioLPG, which is derived from a blend of waste, residues and sustainably sourced materials.The association said it was "laying the marker" down for the industry to have moved to 100% bioLPG by 2040. The statement goes on to say bioLPG represents a "cleaner energy future" for the almost two million off-grid homes in the UK, as well as "the thousands of businesses" from mobile caterers to rural manufacturers, B&Bs and farms that rely on off-grid fuel sources 

Netherlands-based Host started construction of what will be its first Microferm+ biomethane producing facility. Host said it was building the facility in Guichen, France. It would use its Microferm technology, which has been designed to process agricultural feedstock and manure-to-biogas and also features an upgrading system, using membrane separation technology.

Scotland-based Levenseat secured a waste contract from local authority Scottish Borders Council worth £47m (€52.3m). Levenseat’s gasification plant is currently meeting its operational performance targets while nearing the end of the commissioning process. Presumably, when operational the EfW plant will process some of the waste, although the notice does not give tonnages or specify how the waste should be disposed of.

A consortium led by France-based Suez signed a 25-year deal to supply heat to municipality-owned Beogradske Elektrane in Belgrade from an under-construction EfW plant. The deal, which was witnessed by French president, Emmanuel Macron, and his Serbian counterpart, Aleksandar Vucic, will see Beogradske Elektrane reduce its natural gas consumption by 80%. Suez and Japanese firm Itochu won the contract, worth €285m, to build and operate the EfW plant in Belgrade in 2017, forming the joint venture Beo Cista Energija (BCE). Luxembourg-based investment fund Marguerite then joined the consortium by buying a 20% stake in BCE last year. The EfW plant will have capacities of 30MWe and 56MWth and process up to 700,000 tonnes of waste.  

Facilities Update

Veolia said it was "disappointed" after its second attempt to develop an EfW plant in Hertfordshire. The UK government went against the advice of its planning inspector by snubbing the development, which was planned as part of a deal with Hertfordshire County Council. Veolia started developing the Hoddesdon EfW plant in 2016, when the government quashed the planning consent for its New Barnfield, facility in July 2015. The Hoddesdon EfW plant would have processed up to 350,000 tonnes per year of waste and have a capacity of 33.5MWe. 

UK-based Rolton Kilbride is considering whether to appeal a decision to turn down an application for its Sunderland-based EfW plant. Sunderland City Council’s planning committee rejected the plans for the plant. Should a future appeal succeed, the Sunderland-based gasification plant will process up to 215,000t/yr  including RDF and have a capacity of 27MWe.

Ireland’s state-owned utility company Electricity Supply Board (ESB) was refused planning consent to start converting the peat-fired 153MWe West Offaly Power Station to biomass. Planning body An Bord Pleanála turned down ESB’s application citing traffic issues, which it felt would "endanger public safety". As things now stand, the facility and its related ash disposal facility sites will close down on or before 31 December 2020, when their operational licenses expires.  

Coal-to-waste plant developer Simec Atlantis Energy confirmed a test has showed its conversion of the Uskmouth power plant was working. It said it has achieved a: "stable self-sustaining flame with combustion performance within expected parameters" through processing specifically made waste-derived pellets at the plant. The project is the world’s first conversion of a coal-fired power station to fire on waste and is expected to generate 220MWe of baseload power by processing up to 900,000t/yr of waste.

Switzerland-based Hitachi Zosen Inova BioMethan (HZIB) won its first contract to build a biomethane-producing plant in Denmark. HZIB did not give details of the company that had ordered the facility, but said it would upgrade 900m³/h of biogas into biomethane and process an unspecified amount of manure, ground litter with straw and other biomass. 

UK local authority Derbyshire County Council allowed EfW developer Future Earth Energy (FEE) to make changes to its already approved 15MWe Drakelow facility. The facility will no longer be a single-line-based gasification system and will instead feature a three-line system. The plans also allow the facility to run for 30 years rather than 25, which was required by the investors. FEE previously told ENDS it hopes to start building the plant in the third quarter of this year. 

Danish biogas giant Nature Energy took over another facility after buying the 150,000t/yr Trige-based facility from Bånlev Biogas for an undisclosed fee. The company has already said it wants to expand the plant’s already large processing capacity to 180,000t/yr now that the deal has gone through.

The DKK1.2bn (€161m) biomass-conversion project at the formerly coal-fired Asnæs Power Station took a major step forward with the arrival of woodchips for processing. Owner Ørsted said it was starting six months of commissioning work as the project aims to complete before the end of this year. The new woodchip-powered turbine has a maximum capacity of 25MWe and a total of 129MJ/s of process steam and district heating. 

The UK government has allowed an under-construction EfW plant to vastly increase its electrical capacity. The Lostock Sustainable Energy Plant could boost its capacity from 60MWe to 90MWe, it would be achieved through the "installation of more efficient technology" and use of waste with a "higher calorific value than originally anticipated". The project is being developed by Denmark-based Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP) and Spainish-owned FCC Environment and will be built on land owned by Tata Chemicals Europe (TCE). 

UK-based Hills Group subsidiary 25MWe Northacre Renewable Energy completed the final part of a planning saga for its waste-gasification facility. Hills confirmed to ENDS that Mendip District Council gave it planning consent for an underground cable connection, without the application having to go to a formal planning meeting. In June the developer also secured planning consent for the cable from Wiltshire Council, which was needed as the application site straddled the Wiltshire-Somerset border. 

UK-based biogas plant operator Holme BioEnergy won a planning battle with a local authority over proposed changes to its planned Park Farm facility in Yorkshire. A planning inspector ruled the changes to the facility’s layout and increasing its feedstock from 30,000t/yr to 80,000t/yr, would not harm the appearance, character and visual amenity of the surrounding area.The appeal followed East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s refusal last November to allow changes to the planning consent granted earlier in 2018. 

UK-based Lancashire County Council officers said councillors will need to visit the site of Veolia’s proposed £200m (€234m) EfW plant in Heysham before considering the application. The plant would process 300,000t/yr of mainly municipal residual waste and have a capacity of 34MWe. A heat off-take would allow for the export of surplus heat.

The Danish Gas Technology Centre (DGC) hailed its pilot project to develop a new type of wood gasification plant as a success. The DGC said in a statement issued this week that the "relatively small" plant ran at an efficiency "close to 100%". It involved processing wood pellets to produce syngas. The syngas is sent through a bioreactor, where microbes convert the gas to biogas so it can be upgraded to biomethane. In total the pilot project cost DKK21m (€2.8m). 

The biomass-fired Kymijärvi III facility in Finland is due to begin the steam-blowing process from 12-26 July. The work is part of the commissioning process and is used to remove blockages in the pipeline. The 190MWth plant is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2019 and will replace the Kymijärvi I coal plant with a facility using biomass from nearby forests.

Finnish bioenergy plant builder KPA Unicon revealed that it signed a deal with utility company Haapajärven Lämpö to deliver a 20MWth plant, which is planned to be handed over towards the end of 2020. The facility will process residues, mainly coniferous bark, from Hasa's  sawmill production and the produced heat will go to the local district heating network and sawmill drying kilns.

And finally... 

A ski slope on top of the Copenhagen-based Amager Bakke EfW plant will open to the public on 4 October it was confirmed in July. The opening was confirmed by the EfW plant’s owner Amager Resource Center.

The Amager Bakke facility is based on two Babcock & Wilcox Vølund DynaGrate furnaces. The site will also be home to an outdoor activity centre.The facility was officially handed over in February, but has been operating since 2017 and can process about 400,000 tonnes per year and has a capacity of 57MW.

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