EWB Insight report: August 2019

This month: Three major new EfW plants progress, waste exports from England drop, UK waste wood market to import feedstock and a full facilities update

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Waste wood pressure could hit dropping RDF exports 

UK-based biomass will start trial import of biomass "in the next few months", trade body the Wood Recyclers’ Association (WRA) told ENDS this month.

The move would be a turn around for the sector initially devised to process waste wood from the UK. It would mean the majority of exports would be starting once the UK has left the EU, should Brexit take place as currently planned in October. 

Last year, biomass plants took about 50% of the available waste wood on the market, which the WRA estimated totalled about 4.5 million tonnes. However, large-scale plants such as Margam in Wales, which opened in June, and the Templeborough plant in Yorkshire, which opened in March, will add another 620,000t/yr of capacity on their own. 

Interestingly, the WRA says this could see some pipeline biomass capacity looking to switch to processing MSW-derived waste rather than biomass. This could in turn have an impact on the export of RDF, which is already likely to experience some short-term issues due to Brexit. Figures for the first half of this year have shown a drop in RDF exports, with waste firm Andusia identifying Brexit uncertainty as part of the problem. 

If a number of current biomass-firing plants were to start switching to waste, there could be further pressure on the circa 3Mt currently exported from England, should the UK’s terms of leaving of the EU make shipping problematic. 

The difficult situation is further exacerbated for the waste sector due to the Netherlands banning the import of waste, also this month, following issues with facilities owned by Amsterdam-based AEB. The EfW business can process up to 1.4Mt/yr and taken a large percentage of the more than 600,000t shipped from the UK to the country, before "safety issues" were revealed leading to four lines closures at its plants in July.  

Policy update  

The amount of English waste exported for energy recovery fell in the first six months of this year. During the period, 1.2Mts of RDF was exported, which was a 10.1% drop on the 1.4Mt in the first half of 2018. The SRF market also shrank, but by just 2.7% as 201,226t was exported in the first half of 2019, compared with 206,845 a year earlier. Brexit was seen as a main issue, but the sector expects a stable 3Mt/yr from 2020.

A joint report by Bioenergy Europe and the European Biogas Association highlighted progress by biomethane-producing plants, which have "nearly tripled" from 2011 to 2017, rising from 187 to 540. The report also found Belgium, Estonia and Ireland all put their first biomethane production plants into operation last year. Meanwhile, "favourable policy conditions" in France saw it add 23 new plants last year 

Nordic countries are not on-track to meet revised EU recycling targets because of their overreliance on EfW, a study by waste consultancy Eunomia, commissioned by the Nordic Council of Ministers, found. The study said there was a "mismatch between the current waste infrastructure and the infrastructure required to meet the recycling aspirations outlined in national waste strategies (and EU waste targets)".

New figures have shown the amount of waste processed by energy recovery in Sweden dropped by 2% last year. Data compiled by Waste Sweden showed the country sent 2.4Mt, or about 231kg per person, to energy recovery in 2018. The country’s overall percentage of waste sent to EfW plants fell to less than half at 49.5% of all household waste.

Refusal of permission for the West Offaly peat-fired power station to be converted to process biomass sparked a political backlash in Ireland. The move disappointed taoiseach (president) Leo Varadkar, who said the move "jeopardised" government policy promoting biomass power.

The Irish Bioenergy Association (IrBEA) and the Composting and Anaerobic Digestion Association (Cré) laid out a roadmap for Ireland to produce up to 1.6TWh of biomethane by 2030. Biogas capacity could be developed on a "phased basis" to achieve the government’s climate action plan target of 1.6TWh (200MW) of biomethane injection "by 2030 or before". 

The Rivers Trust urged the UK government to end financial support for maize-to-energy cultivation after the Environment Agency confirmed thousands of fish died after anaerobic digestate leaked into the river Mole in north Devon. Maize is a "very problematic crop", according to the trust, because it causes run-off that can lead to flooding, and it makes soil susceptible to erosion, which can pollute rivers and lead to more fish kills.  

Portugal’s finalised urban waste plan has removed proposals for a major expansion of EfW capacity and instead focused on the separate collection of packaging and bio-waste. The €600m PERSU 2020+ plan, published last week, more than doubles projected investment in selective waste collection to nearly €500m. However, the government appears to have bowed to NGO pressure with €200m originally earmarked in the draft plan for boosting capacity at EfW facilities, and in particular an energy-recovery plant in Oporto, being reduced to €8-12m for biogas projects.

The Bavarian energy ministry confirmed that up to 26 biomass-fired heating plants could move to construction in the south German state this year. In the first half of this year it supported the development of ten small-scale biomass-fired heating plants, with more than €0.5m under its BioKlima funding system, while another 16 facilities are in the pipeline. 

Tariffs of up to 18% are expected to be levied on EU imports of Indonesian biodiesel after the European Commission decided they were being unfairly subsidised. The commission concluded that three palm oil producers were being helped through tax breaks, export finance and access to artificially cheap palm oil feedstock. The provisional measure is expected to enter force by 6 September. Permanent duties, which normally last five years, could follow in January.

Market update

Hertfordshire County Council and Veolia have scrapped their £1.1bn (€1.2bn) waste deal after the government refused permission for the latter’s Hoddesdon-based EfW plant last month. The government’s decision leaves the council with a "substantial problem" as it "urgently needs more waste treatment capacity", it said in a statement.  

Coal-to-waste plant developer Simec Atlantis Energy revealed plans to raise up to £7m (€7.6m) through issuing a five-year investment bond. It will use peer-to-peer investment platform Abundance Investment. The company is converting the Uskmouth power plant in Wales in what is claimed to be 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.

Four local authorities from the West of England region have jointly struck deals with EfW firms to deal with their waste and produce energy. Viridor and Suez will dispose of 120,000 and 50,000 tonnes of residual waste each year respectively. Viridor is due to open a 320,000t/yr EfW facility in Avonmouth next year. Suez opened its SERC EfW in the area in 2017, which can take up to 400,000t/yr.

Northern Ireland’s Department of Finance issued a tender for the supply and delivery of wood fuel pellets and the processing of waste ash. The Belfast-based department wants to source an unspecified amount of pellets for five years starting on 2 October. 

Devon County Council signed a deal with anaerobic digestion business Willand Biogas to deal with its food waste following a tender. The lowest offer was for £800,000 (€875,500) and the highest bid was for £1m (€1m), but the tender deal did not confirm which deal was agreed. While the notice says the deal was tendered by the county council, the notice explains the waste will be sourced the North Devon and Torridge District Council areas.

Netherlands-based consultancy Navigant Netherlands won a €459,750 (£426,632) contract to work on the sustainability criteria for biomass under the European Commission’s RED II project. Navigant  will work on the "swift, consistent and cost-effective implementation" of the commission’s second Renewable Energy Directive, known as RED II.

The UK’s Catholic Church signed one of the country’s "largest renewable energy deals" with British Gas, converting it from fossil fuels to biogas through green certificates. More than 2,800 churches from 20 of the 22 Catholic dioceses in England and Wales, including landmarks such as Westminster, Nottingham and Plymouth Cathedrals, are included in the deal.

Utility company Vattenfall said excess heat from a biogas plant will be supplied to an army barracks as its phases out coal and oil use. The German Federal Armed Forces overhauled its Franz-Josef-Strauß barracks in Altenstadt, Bavaria, to use biogas-derived heat. Vattenfall did not specifically identify the plant, but states it is a farm-based biogas facility near the plant. However, the 2.5MWe Altenstadt C4 Energie-owned facility is near the barracks.

The University of York and Yorkshire Water opened a new research facility aimed at ramping up biogas production in anaerobic digestion plants. The work focuses on a facility known as System-60, which is a set of 60 five-litre automatically fed, temperature-controlled anaerobic digesters based at the university's biology department. 

A group of companies announced plans for ten new EfW facilities, which would be built across the UK in addition to one already in progress. Technology developer PowerHouse Energy, facility operator Peel Environmental and consultancy Waste2Tricity are progressing the portfolio of plants.

Aggregates processor Carbon8 rebranded to become OCO Technology in a move designed to "better reflect how the business works". The new name is derived from the chemical symbols for carbon and oxygen, which make up carbon dioxide (CO2), which looks like O=C=O in structure, the firm said. 

A Cambridgeshire biogas firm has been ordered to pay a total of £45,000 (€49,500) in fines, costs and compensation after it polluted two fenland watercourses. Pretoria Energy Company (Arable) pleaded guilty to causing the pollution incidents in Emneth Hungate, Norfolk, and at Aldreth in Cambridgeshire, at Cambridge Magistrates' Court in August.

German energy wood and pellet association DEPV issued new figures showing the country’s annual growth in wood pellet production continues. In the first six months of this year total production hit 1.3 million tonnes, an increase of 150,000t on the same period in 2018, which is just under a 13% rise. "Further momentum" is expected to boost production levels for the foreseeable future, with a total of 2.5 million tonnes of German pellets likely to be produced this year.

Mannheim-based biofuel firm CropEnergies told investors it is expecting a bumper year after raising its profit forecast. The operating result was likely to "increase significantly", now forecast to be between €50m to €75m for the entire financial year 2019/20, revised upwards from between €30m and €70m. The increase is due to increased revenues from bioethanol sales.  CropEnergies produces bioethanol in Germany, Belgium, the UK and France, which is used to replace traditional fossil fuel in vehicles. 

The only remaining person on the board of troubled Dutch EfW plant operator AEB has resigned. AEB said Erika Marseille stepped down over a "difference of opinion" on the company’s future. As a result, three other board members who had already quit will leave "gradually" to ensure continuity for the business. 

Facilities update

Suez got the greenlight for a new EfW plant in Lancashire from Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council. The Darwen-based EfW plant can process upt 500,000t/yr, but its electrical capacity is not clear.

Plans for a facility to make jet fuel from up to 600,000t/yr of waste were submitted to North East Lincolnshire Council. The plans are being developed by a consortium called Altalto Immingham, which is made up of waste-to-fuel specialist Velocys, British Airways (BA) and Shell. Velocys has previously said it hopes to have the project operational by 2021, but has told ENDS it still needs to secure further funding on top of investments from BA and Shell. 

Wales-based EfW plant developer Mor Hafren Bio Power unveiled plans for a 200,000t/yr facility close to Cardiff. Germany-based plant builder Standardkessel Baumgarte is on board to deliver the facility, which needs planning consent from the Welsh government. 

ENDS understands the 299MWe Tees Renewable Energy Plant (Tees REP) will still be operational next year despite a series of layoffs at the build. A source close to the project said there had been a number of subcontractors leaving the site recently as it moved to the final stages of construction. The biomass-fired plant is being developed by MGT Power subsidiary MGT Teesside. The main construction firms behind the build are Spain-based Técnicas Reunidas and South Korea-based Samsung.

Planning chiefs at East Northamptonshire Council issued a strong objection to proposals by EfW plant developer Corby Limited. The developer has planning consent for a smaller facility but wants to increase its capacity. However, the council’s concerns relate to the potential for increased acid deposition load on the nearby Weldon Park, which is currently in an "unfavourable" but "recovering" condition, according to wildlife regulator Natural England. 

A planning inspector has ruled a "flawed odour assessment" was part of the reason for turning down a 90,000 tonne per year anaerobic digestion facility in North Yorkshire. Planning inspector Ian Jenkins backed the decision of North Yorkshire County Council to refuse planning consent to biogas plant developer Galtres Energy. Backing the council’s decision, Jenkins ruled the development was "uncommonly large", would be an "incongruous feature" on the rural landscape and would cause "significant harm to the character" of the area.  

Denmark-based utility company Ørsted pushed back the opening date for its innovative biogas-producing Renescience plant by another six months. When the facility was announced in 2015, it was due to be commissioned in May 2017, but this was then pushed back until "mid-2019".  However, in its latest financial report Ørsted said: "We now expect final commissioning at the end of the year." 

Ørsted and US-based NewEnergyBlue also struck a deal to use the former’s Inbicon bio-conversion technology throughout the Americas. NewEnergyBlue confirmed it would use the technology to develop a series of facilities converting feedstock such as North Dakota-sourced wheat straw to biofuel. The deal is worth more than €179.4m ($200m) and means ground-breaking on the first of these biorefinery-style plants in Spiritwood, North Dakota, is due to happen next year.

Waste management business MPO restarted the tendering process for a new PLN 955.7m (€220.2m) EfW plant to serve Warsaw. In October 2018, MPO announced that China-based Shanghai Electric Power Construction (SEPC) had secured a deal, but in May it "annulled the proceedings" owing to the lack of offers not subject to exclusion. Bidders for the new deal have until 21 October to register their interest.

Germany-based ZAS published an update of its ongoing sale process relating to Pirmasens EfW plant. It intends to sell the 76,000-square-metre plot of land, which includes the EfW plant owned by EEW Energy from Waste. The plant, which opened in 1999, has a leasehold tuntil the end of 2023. It can process up to 180,000t/yr of waste and has a capacity of 16MWe.

Pyrolysis plant developer REWS applied for an altered environmental permit following on from consulting on its plans earlier this year. The new plans involve dropping one of two proposed syngas combustion engines. Previously, it has been announced the plant would be able to process up to 180,000 tonnes a year of refuse-derived fuel and waste wood. It would also produce a form of torrefied feedstock through treating the RDF and biomass via pyrolysis. 

Glasgow City Council and Viridor officially opened the city’s waste-gasification plant. Officially known as the Glasgow Recycling and Renewable Energy Centre (GRREC), it can process up to 200,000t/yr and has a capacity of 15MWe. The project had a troubled start before opening this year – it had originally been due to open in 2016 when construction started in 2013. Energos, a subcontractor for its main builder Interserve, which was working on the facility’s gasification technology, went into administration in 2016. Eventually, this led to Interserve itself being removed from the project and replaced with Doosan Babcock. 

Viridor revealed it cut out 160,000 road miles by moving incinerator bottom ash (IBA) from its Trident Park EfW plant in Wales to Bristol by water. IBA collected from the plant near Cardiff, leaves the city’s docks and goes on to Day Group’s facility in Avonmouth near Bristol, for further processing and metal recovery before being used in aggregate industries. 

Finland-based Pori Energia signed a new contract with compatriot Eupart related to its under-construction 90MWth Aittaluoto multifuel plant. The work covers Insulation/covering of pipes and pipe parts and is worth €422,705. 

NGO Westbury Gasification Action Group said it will now focus on challenging an environmental permit for Hills Group subsidiary Northacre Renewable Energy’s EfW plant after it cleared the planning process. The plant, which also secured contract for difference funding in 2017, will process 160,000t/yr of SRF and of mixed commercial and industrial waste when built. It will also have a planned capacity of 25.5MWe. 

A consultation is open into BioConstruct New Energy’s plans to build a  £17m (€19.4m) biomethane-producing facility in West Boldon. The plant is called the Wardley Biogas AD Facility and it appears to be the same project that South Tyneside Council granted planning consent for in 2014. The facility was being taken forward by Tamar Energy, but is now under the Biogen brand after investment fund Ancala Partners bought the business last year. 

UK-based Biofuelwatch, US-based Dogwood Alliance and Friends of the Irish Environment submitted objections to the conversion of the Electricity Supply Board (ESB’s) Lough Ree power station in Ireland from peat to biomass.  The NGOs appear to feel they have momentum behind them as last month ESB’s plans for a gradual conversion of its 153MWe West Offaly power station to biomass was turned down by Planning body An Bord Pleanála.

Denmark-based Linka confirmed it won a contract to build a small-scale biomass-fired heating plant in Gelsted from utility company Gelsted Fjernvarme. No financial terms were revealed. The 2.4MWth plant will process wood chips, some of which will be sourced from the forestry sector and from a neighbouring furniture factory. 

Finland-based TSE confirmed it will close a coal-fired unit at its Naantal-based power plant in July next year. The plant’s oldest unit is a 115MWe coal-fired boiler, which has been in operation for the past 60 years, but TSE has developed a multifuel-fired unit at the site, which became operational at the end of 2017. The vast €240m facility can process up to 1.2 million cubic metres of wood per year, and has capacities of 146MWe and 250MWth.

A UK planning inspector dismissed an appeal against the refusal of a 2.97MWe biomass-fired cogeneration and wood-pellet production plant at a potato farm. Inspector Frances Mahoney ruled against developer Keil Green Energy, finding that wood-pellet manufacturing and biomass burning for energy generation were "industrial" and therefore not "small scale". Aberdeenshire Council had earlier this year rejected the application, which included three agricultural buildings and a combined heat and power facility with three 29-metre chimneys.  

Stockholm Exergi began overhauling its aging waste-fired grate boiler system at the Högdalen-based EfW plant. The 40MWth "Boiler P3" unit needs replacing at the five boiler Högdalen facility, which has an overall capacity of 270MWth. The municipal solid waste-fired unit was put into operation in 1986. 

Senerval’s €521.4m contract with Eurométropole de Strasbourg to operate the Strasbourg EfW plant will now last for 240 months. The deal started in 2009, but has now been extended. The 22MWe facility, which opened in 1974, can process up to 130,000t/yr of waste. 

Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, opened a £6m (€6.4m) district heating system powered by tapping into unused biogas. In what it believed to be a world first, a combined heat and power unit is connected to a wastewater and heat pump system to deliver heat for a district heat network.

Germany-based Stadtwerke Springe started a tender process to almost double the electrical output of its biogas plant from 0.5MWe to 0.9MWe.There are no details on the value of a potential deal, but the tender calls for the construction of heat storage facilities, gas and heat pipes and the connection to existing facilities.  

Poland-based utility company Tauron Polska Energia announced plans to build an EfW plant fired on locally produced RDF to serve the south-eastern city of Stalowa Wola. The company did not give further details of the plant, but suggested it could be a cogeneration facility. 

Scottish Water began a £1m (€1.08m) tender process for potential contractors to help it "maximise value" from bio-resources. It said about 14,000t/yr of dry bioresource as a by-product of municipal wastewater activities. The material is a dewatered cake that varies in dried solids from around 20-25%, which could be used for energy recovery.  

UK-based Doosan Babcock said it reached the "important safety milestone" of ten years without a lost-time accident during its work at the majority biomass-fired Drax power station. 

UK-based Tradebe revealed it has completed work to boost the capacity at its Rochester-based clinical waste alternative treatment facility by 50%. The company said the plant could now take up to 17,500t/yr and would help support the increasing need for clinical waste disposal 

Czech Republic-based Biomass Energy awarded a CZK 25.9m (€1m) deal for the reconstruction and modernisation of a straw-burning boiler in an already operational heating plant. The deal was won by Prumyslová-based TTS eko

Finland-based Lahti Energia confirmed its €180m Kymijärvi III biomass-fired heating plant had begun supplying heat. The facility, which has a capacity of 190MWth, will continue commissioning and is due to open by the end of the year "if all goes well", according to the company. 

And finally…

Waste management firm Renewi began cleaning up the site of its Derby-based waste gasification plant ahead of another contractor potentially coming in to complete the build. 

Renewi partnered with construction firm Interserve to form Resource Recovery Solutions (RRS) to build the facility. However, it was revealed in May that Interserve had failed to commission the facility, and Renewi was looking at the "complete termination" of the contract. The deal is currently in the process of being re-tendered. 

But in the meantime, according to an update released by Renewi’s community liaison group, about 3,500 tonnes of rotting waste is estimated to be at the site. Due to its age, most of this waste will have to be landfilled. 

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