EWB Insight report: November 2020

This month: The EU ETS should not be extended to EfW plants, BWSC shifts away from EfW and bioenergy plant builds, Suez and BP work on the UK’s first CCS project at an EfW plant, still no EIA for the Barry biomass plant and Nature Energy is building another large-scale facility

The month that EfW-to-heat took off 

Supplying heat from energy-from-waste plants in the UK has always been the goal for many facilities, but a number of factors have meant projects have only been pipe dreams. 

However, November might well be remembered as the moment that heat from energy recovery facilities in the UK became a reality. 

A number of UK-based businesses and local authorities advanced developments in the sector, with nearly all of them agreeing deals with Sweden-based utility company Vattenfall.

Vattenfall, which brings with it a wealth of experience of similar projects in its native Scandinavia, also adds credibility to the developments.

At the start of November Vattenfall and EfW giant Viridor confirmed a deal to roll out heat supply from the latter’s portfolio of facilities. 

Viridor has 11 EfW plants in operation, including its Avonmouth-based facility which is operational but in a “ramping phase”.

ENDS has previously reported that Viridor is also developing a new EfW plant in Ford, alongside Grundon Waste Management. The company has stated it is “exploring options” for two further, but unidentified, facilities.

The deal with Viridor added to another contract with south-east London-based Cory, which was confirmed in May this year.

Vattenfall is not only dealing with EfW plant operators, it is also signing deals directly with local authorities. Also in November, it launched a 50/50 joint venture with Midlothian Council to deliver heat from an EfW plant.

Midlothian Energy will initially source its heat from FCC Environment’s Millerhill EfW plant, which it operates for Edinburgh and Midlothian councils.

In the only deal not connected to Vattenfall in November, local authority Aberdeen City Council launched a tender for the construction of its planned waste-fired Torry Heat Network.

The council explained the “primary heat supply” for the new network will be the Ness EfW facility, which it is jointly developing with Aberdeenshire and Moray councils.

The Ness EfW plant, which is set to create 40 full-time jobs when it opens, is expected to be up and running by January 2022 and then fully operational by August of the same year.

Policy update 

European EfW plant operator trade body CEWEP said the “climate would not benefit” from extending the EU emissions trading system (ETS) to energy-recovery facilities. “Differently from other industries”, EfW plant operators do not have a choice over the characteristics or carbon footprint of the feedstocks of their plants, which is “waste that cannot be recycled”. The system would therefore not encourage any environmental benefit, as it would not force business to change in the same way as the UK’s landfill tax made the process of landfilling financially unviable and pushed investment towards EfW facilities. 

In a related development, the UK is due to launch its own version of the scheme, which in draft form does not extend to energy recovery. However, a judicial review of that decision is expected in court in early December. 

Community-owned initiative CR4C says it has asked the European Commission to investigate what it calls “illegal state aid” of £613m (€683m) between Gloucestershire County Council and Urbaser Balfour Beatty (UBB) to build the Javelin Park EfW plant. The NGO announced it asked the EC’s Competitions Directorate to refer the EfW contract to UK courts, after it was turned down for an appeal by a UK court over whether it was able to bid for the contract itself earlier in November. CR4C’s appeal had focused on whether it was in fact an economic operator and should have been allowed to tender for the deal to build a mechanical-biological treatment plant instead of the now operational Javelin Park EfW facility.

The Biofuture Platform issued an urgent call for governments to support the production of biofuels after the sector’s output dropped year-on-year. “Urgent action” is needed to support production as demand fell away due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The platform said biofuel production worldwide had dropped by almost 12% in 2020, reserving nearly two years of solid growth. 

A joint paper claiming to show the “concrete benefits” of using bio-liquified natural gas (BioLNG) to decarbonise difficult-to-abate transport sectors was released by trade bodies the European Biogas Association (EBA), Gas Infrastructure Europe (GIE), the Natural & bio Gas Vehicle Association (NGVA Europe) and SEA-LNG. Since BioLNG’s production process captures carbon, its value chain generates negative carbon emissions. As a result, running EU trucks on 100% BioLNG, actually removes CO2 emissions from the atmosphere, according to the paper.

A scheme allowing coal and natural gas-fired facilities up to a capacity of 60MWth to switch to biogas, biomass or geothermal heat production has been cleared under EU state aid rules. The RON750m (€150m) Romanian Renewable Energy Sources (RES) scheme aims to support investments in district heating systems based on renewable energy sources. Existing district heating systems in the country generate heat predominantly from gas or coal-fired boilers. 

UK waste sector trade body the United Resource Operators Consortium (UROC) warned that proposed guidance on non-hazardous waste exceeds the Environment Agency’s powers and opens up the regulator to the risk of judicial review. In a damning consultation response, UROC said the guidance, which was out for consultation until this month, was “fundamentally flawed”.

An independent report commissioned by majority biomass-fired power plant Drax found investment in CCS technology alone could create “thousands of jobs from as early as 2024”. Written by consultancy Vivid Economics, the report found investment in CCS and hydrogen technologies in the Humber could “regenerate the UK’s most carbon-intensive region”.

Europe marked its fourth “Bioenergy Day” on 13 November as part of a campaign by trade body Bioenergy Europe to highlight progress in the sector. The day marked the point where Europe could power itself solely from bioenergy and was passed three days earlier in 2020 than last year when Bioenergy Day fell on 17 November. 

UK government department DEFRA announced the 2021/22 packaging waste targets, which for the first time do not include an overall energy-recovery target. This means EfW facilities cannot be accredited and will not be able to issue packaging recovery notes (PRNs) after this compliance year.

The bioenergy sector has welcomed the UK government’s move to extend funding for projects under its non-domestic renewable heat incentive (RHI) scheme for an extra 12 months. As a result, projects have an additional 12 months after the scheme’s closure on 31 March 2022 to commission and submit a full application for accreditation. Reacting to the news, biomass-backing trade bodies the UK Pellet Council (UKPC) and Biomass Heat Works said they were “fully supportive of the move”.

Market update 

Denmark-based power plant provider and operator Burmeister & Wain Scandinavian Contractor (BWSC) announced it will shift its focus to maintaining existing facilities rather than building new ones. However, the company confirmed it would “complete and deliver” on all of its ongoing construction projects. The Covid-19 pandemic has had a “significant impact” on projects currently being developed by the company, which focuses on biomass-fired and more recently EfW plant builds.

Waste aggregator Geminor revealed taking a first shipment of Polish wrapped and baled RDF to Sweden. The new stream “constitutes a milestone” for Geminor in Sweden and could “soon reach several hundred thousand tonnes annually”. Geminor also said a Swedish national tax on energy recovery and low electricity prices have put waste-fired district heating plants “under severe economic pressure” in Sweden.

France-based Veolia and Germany-based Lausitz Energie Bergbau AG, which is better known as LEAG, confirmed plans to create a 50/50 joint venture called EVA Jänschwalde to operate an EfW plant. The facility is being developed at the site of the 3,000MWe lignite-fired Jänschwalde Power Station in eastern Germany, close to the Polish border. The facility is the third largest such plant in the country. The new company will employ about 50 people when the facility opens in 2024. 

UK-based Hive Energy revealed plans to invest in overhauling a wood pellet supply facility diversifying from its traditional solar-power base. Hive is partnering with South Africa-based iLive Sustainable Development and Netherlands-based Partners for Innovation on the project.The facility will process up to 160,000t/yr biomass residues, non-indigenous forest and destructive invasive vegetation to produce about 120,000t/yr of pellets. 

Investor Chiltern Capital confirmed it has completed a buyout of EfW technology company Inciner8. Chiltern has taken a “majority stake” in Inciner8, which it intends to continue growing as well as developing “additional revenue streams”. Southport-based Inciner8 was founded in 2003.

The amount of waste accepted at household waste recycling centres (HWRCs) fell by 50% between April and June this year due to the impact of Covid-19, a report from consultancy Tolvik found. In its latest autumn briefing Tolvik estimated that during this period (Q2 2020) a 10.3% increase in kerbside collected household waste was offset by the significant reduction in HWRC tonnages. Overall, this resulted in a “modest fall” in household waste arisings, the report stated.

Local authority-owned North West Region Waste Management Group issued a tender worth up to £67m (€75.5m) involving the production of RDF and biogas. The contract will deal with waste from recycling centres, kerbside-collected black bins waste, bulky waste, street cleaning and commercial refuse. The group manages refuse for the local authorities of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council and Derry City and Strabane District Council. Under the contract about 75,000t/yr will need to be processed, with a “minimum” of 15% recycled and 70% diverted from landfill by weight. However, “no tonnage is guaranteed”.

France-based Air Liquide confirmed plans to build what would be its first two biomethane-producing plants with Italy-based Dentro il Sole (DIS). The two facilities will be built in Truccazzano and Fontanella and will process waste from “agricultural and livestock” activities. Both facilities are scheduled to go into operation in the second quarter of 2021 and will be able to produce up to 3,200t/yr of liquefied biomethane the equivalent of about 50GWh of electricity.

Facilities update: EfW 

Waste management firm Suez and oil giant BP signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for a project looking at the feasibility of developing the UK’s first carbon capture and storage (CCS) project at an EfW facility. The agreement “paves the way” for Suez to develop a CCS solution on two lines at the Suez Tees Valley (STV) facility in Haverton Hill on Teesside, using a solvent-based modular system that will capture CO2 from EfW plant flue gas emissions. The statement explains Suez and BP plan to capture up to 10Mt/yr of CO2 emissions through the project.

Suez also said in November, there was “potential for dispute” as it continues to investigate why parts of the roof of its Cornwall-based EfW plant have been damaged on three seperate occasions. The problems with the roof of the facility, officially known as the Cornwall Energy Recovery Centre (CERC), were laid out in a report for Cornwall Council. According to the new documents: “Given the complex contractual situation with the EPC contractor and its supply chain, as well as the complex nature of the issues involved, identifying the root cause of this most recent roof damage has been a long, complicated process and is still not fully complete with investigations ongoing.” 

PD Ports has announced plans for two EfW plants at its Teesport Commerce Park. PD said one facility would be able to process up to 250,000t/yr and be able to export up to 18MWe, while it also plans a slightly larger EfW facility with a 30MWe capacity and the ability to process up to 300,000t/yr. Together the plants are “likely to be considered” a nationally significant infrastructure project, meaning planning permission would be decided by the government rather than a local authority, according to PD.

A consultation was started into an environmental permit for Northacre Renewable Energy Limited (NREL) Westbury-based EfW plant. Achange of technology from gasification to grate-based will see the facility’s waste processing capacity rise from 160,000t/yr to 243,000t/yr. NREL has previously said the plant will “maintain the same footprint and building volume”, and its capacity of 25.6MWe also appears to be unchanged. NREL also needs to gain oplanning consent. 

EfW plant developer NPL Group secured planning consent to develop a 7.4MWe facility from local authority Falkirk Council. Officially known as the Avondale Energy from Waste Facility, the plant was approved by delegated powers without going to a council meeting. The council set 11 conditions on the consent relating to external lighting, noise and any “unexpected” contamination found at the site. It will process up to 150,000t/yr of non-recyclable waste, which would be diverted from the landfill. 

A consultation was opened into plans by EfW plant developer Synpower to build a facility in Oldham. The consultation runs until 2 December. The facility will be able to process up to 250,000t/yr and would be able to generate “enough energy to power around 50,000 homes”. Should it gain consent the plant would start construction in 2021 and bring the facility into full operation in 2024.

Poland-based Miejskie Przedsiebiorstwo Oczyszczania (MPO) confirmed it is in the process of signing a deal to develop its Warsaw-based EfW plant with POSCO Engineering & Construction. MPO explained it is due to sign a contract with the POSCO “in the coming weeks”. The 300,000t/yr would have a capacity of 30MWe. Work is expected to start this year and will last for 36 months, with the aim for the facility to be operational by the end of 2023.

The under-construction Bridgwater EfW plant has applied for an environmental permit for the otherwise ready-to-go facility that is due to open next year. The plant, which is currently being developed by investment funds Equitix and Iona Capital, secured planning consent in 2016 to treat up to 130,000t/yr through gasification.  In 2018, the plans were overhauled to drop the gasification technology, which was replaced with a grate-based system. It was also confirmed that the plant would process RDF.

Engineering firm Standardkessel Baumgarte revealed it had secured a deal from Germany-based EEW Energy from Waste to build a replacement system for the existing Stapelfeld EfW plant located to the north east of Hamburg. Depending on the calorific value, up to 317,500t/yr of waste would be processed at the site. The facility will also have a capacity of 120MWth.

Waste management firm Biffa said the timetables for both its under-development Newhurst and under-construction Protos EfW plants should remain “unaffected” by the second England-wide lockdown. The Protos EfW project, in which Biffa has a 25% equity stake, is still “approaching financial close”, according to the financial update. In June, Biffa had said it was at an “advanced stage” of the process. Both EfW projects are being developed in a partnership between Biffa, Covanta and Macquarie's Green Investment Group (GIG)

Norwegian firm Wastefront secured a decade-long offtake deal for the production of liquid hydrocarbons at its first waste-tyre recycling plant in Sunderland. The facility is due to start construction next year with expected completion in 2023. It will have an annual processing capacity of 60,000t/yr of waste tyres. It is anticipated that Vitol will buy a volume of up to 30,000t/yr of products each year.

Facilities update: Biomass 

The process of securing an environmental impact assessment (EIA) for a Barry-based biomass-gasification plant that was controversially consented without one has been delayed further due to the Covid-19 pandemic. A spokesperson for the Welsh government told ENDS: “Unfortunately, preparation of an environmental statement has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.” Currently, it appears no end date has been set for the process. Biomass UK No.2 – the official name of the 10MWe, 86,400-tonne-per-year waste wood-processing facility in Barry, Wales – gained planning consent in 2015. The facility was due to be operational last December, but has not published an update on its progress since March this year, when it said it was still in the commissioning process. 

The world’s largest purpose-built biomass-fired power plant MGT Teesside appears to have slipped further behind schedule after it was revealed the plant is now due to start generating power in February. The facility’s entry on the UK government-owned Low Carbon Contracts Company (LCCC) database confirms the delay, which extends on MGT’s previous plan to be operational in the “second half” of this year. The plant, which can process up to 2.4 million tonnes a year of biomass, was one of eight projects backed by the UK’s government’s contract for difference (CfD) subsidy scheme back in 2014. It also successfully cleared an EU state aid probe a year later.

Engineering firm Standardkessel Baumgarte said it had received notice to move ahead with the E Wood biomass-fired plant in the port of Antwerp. In September last year, it secured the contract for the build after developers Indaver and Suez confirmed in April 2018 that they would jointly invest €100m in the development. The plant is now due to open in October 2022 and will process about 136,000t/yr of wood waste. Overall, the facility will have capacity of 20MWe and 71MWth.

Multifuel-fired power plant Maabjerg Energy Center (MEC) could be ordered to process potentially Covid-19-infected minks after a mass cull was started in Denmark. Holstebro-based MEC told ENDS it had refused to process some of the dead minks after a request from the government, but that it faced the prospect of being ordered to process the carcasses anyway.

A consultation has been launched into plans by waste management firm Crapper and Sons Landfill to process more RDF for recovery, replace a biomass-gasification plant and overhaul a materials recovery facility.  The site at Park Grounds Farm on Brinkworth Road has a permit to process up to 45,000t/yr of RDF a year, but Crapper and Sons want to expand this to 76,000t/yr. The site also features a 6MWe gasification plant built by Regas in 2017.

Facilities update: Biogas 

Utility company Nature Energy confirmed construction work is now under way on its 800,000t/yr biogas plant based in Kværs. It is expected to be operational by April 2022. The facility is the second large-scale biogas plant to be developed by Nature Energy in Sønderborg Municipality, after a 600,000t/yr facility moved to construction in March last year.

Weltec Biopower has put into operation an €11m biomethane-producing plant in Papillonnière in Normandy, France. Operated by Agripower France, the facility will turn 70,000t/yr of agricultural substrates to biogas, which is then processed to biomethane.

Biogas plant operator Andigestion’s Bishop’s Cleeve biomethane-producing site has become the first such facility to be certified under the Anaerobic Digestion Certification Scheme (ADCS). The scheme was launched by trade body the Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA) in December 2017 and accredited its first biogas-producing facility a month later.

Waste management firm Twence launched a tendering process for the supply of biogas-liquefaction equipment. Twence expects a full tender to be published on 1 February next year. When the full tender is issued, Twence said it will start looking for a “suitable supplier and development partner” with which it hopes to strike a deal for equipment for producing liquefied biogas from biogas.

Germany-based anaerobic digestion plant developer EnviTec Biogas confirmed it has signed a deal to build a third facility in Estonia. EnviTec said Estonian-based infrastructure developer AS EG Ehitus ordered the plant.

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