EWB Insight report: May 2021

This month: Forged pellets certificate circulated by WKE, bioenergy sector faces stricter rules, waste wood and EfW market evolves and a full facilities round up

ENDS revealed this month that waste-to-pellet business Waste Knot Energy (WKE) had admitted supplying a forged certificate about the quality of its feedstock claiming the paperwork was sent out to a potential offer owing to an “administrative error”.

ENDS can reveal an entirely faked report claiming to have been prepared by consultancy DETS showing the attributes of WKE’s pellets, which it is marketing as solid improved recovered fuel, was passed by email from WKE to a senior figure in the waste sector. 

The email and attached report were then passed on to ENDS by the recipient who asked not to be named. The source told ENDS: “I can categorically state that WKE did not send this analysis out as part of an administrative error, but to ‘prove’ their marketing material.”

A spokesperson for WKE said: “The company is completely transparent about the analysis of our pellets and the details are available on our website. This certificate is a mock-up intended for use in an internal presentation. 

“The document should not have been communicated externally; this was an administrative error. Our sole focus is to solve a problem for high-energy use industries by supplying a cheaper and greener alternative to fossil fuels.”

WKE made headlines in August 2020 when it announced plans for a pellet-producing plant, which will be able to turn out more than 240,000 tonnes a year, in Teesside. The company plans eight such pellet-producing facilities in total, which would have an overall production capacity of about 2Mt/yr.

Policy update 

The European Commission is considering a “targeted strengthening” of rules on biofuels, including stricter limits on the use of wood for energy production, according to leaked papers related to the forthcoming revision of the Renewable Energy Directive. It set out possible elements of the legislative proposal, expected in July as part of a raft of climate and energy legislation, suggests extending current bioenergy sustainability criteria “by applying the existing agricultural biomass no-go areas also to forest biomass (eg primary forests, including old grown forests)”. The idea of “possible national caps on the use of stem wood above a certain size for energy” is also floated.

In an effort to lead airlines out of the conundrum of growing emissions, the European Commission sees creating incentives for sustainable aviation fuels, produced from biomass and waste, as one of the most important strategies to decarbonise aviation and wants to see nearly two-thirds of aviation fuel come from sustainable sources by 2050, an online event has heard.

Trade body the European Biogas Association welcomed a cross-party move by MEPs calling on the European Commision to boost alternative fuels in transport. Current CO2 emission standards, used by the Commision, promote the development of electric vehicles, but “hinder” that of vehicles equipped with technology such as biomethane, according to the MEPs. 

The International Energy Agency (IEA) warned governments their actions fall well short of their pledges to tackle climate change, but nature campaigners are alarmed by a substantial expansion of biofuel production in the IEA’s recommended route to net zero. More than 120 countries, the EU and the US included, have committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. “But at the IEA, we believe in numbers,” executive director Fatih Birol told reporters as the agency published its roadmap for the global energy sector.

The Turkish government announced further restrictions on plastic waste imports owing to concerns it is being exported to Turkey and then illegally dumped and burned. From 2 July, the country will no longer be receiving imports of polyethylene waste. In January, 18,268 tonnes of plastic went to Turkey from the UK compared with 14,335t in January 2020 as other markets bought in restrictions.

A policy paper on the supply chains for delivering carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) says the sector could deliver a huge economic and export boon for the UK. The ‘roadmap’ set out by the UK government says that work on mapping the skills, opportunities and gaps in the UK supply chain will continue over this year, identifying where UK businesses can have an enduring competitive advantage. It is also working on a ‘Fit for CCUS’ programme with business, further information on which will be made available by the end of the year.

Ireland-based bioenergy trade body IrBEA gave its full backing to a report calling for Ireland to boost its use of renewable heat. Fellow trade body Renewable Energy Ireland issued the report which it said was the country’s first renewable heat plan.

The operator of a Staffordshire landfill site which has made national headlines over recent months for the distress it is causing residents, has rejected six separate waste loads in two weeks through May, after agreeing with the Environment Agency (EA) to check it was accepting permitted waste only. The EA said it had made it clear to Walleys Quarry Ltd – formerly known as Red Industries –  that it “expects them to review the processes they use to check the waste coming onto site… to ensure the company is not accepting materials such as gypsum”.

Market update

The UK’s waste wood market has “evolved” with exports falling and imports booming, according to the latest figures released by trade body the Wood Recyclers’ Association. UK waste wood exports collapsed by more than half from 190,000t in 2019 to just 92,000 in 2020. However, imports more than quadrupled from just 20,000t in 2019 to 82,000t last year. 

Consultancy Tolvik issued the latest update of its annual statistical report covering the UK’s EfW sector, revealing the sector made a leap forward last year. The seventh annual UK Energy from Waste Statistics reports a number of new investors entered the sector during 2020, which “was arguably the busiest year” in terms of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity. The report also finds the increase in M&A activity has brought “increased leveraged finance at both corporate and asset level”.

The proposed merger between waste companies Veolia and Suez took a step forward when the pair signed a “combination agreement”. Veolia’s latest offer would be recommended by the board of Suez before 29 June, opening the door to concluding the deal. 

EfW firm Viridor revealed plans to reach net zero emissions by 2045 with CCUS playing a key role. The target would see it remove at least 1.6Mt/yr of CO2 by 2040, which was the equivalent of taking 783,846 cars off the country’s roads. Viridor said a main part of its drive would be the CCUS technology and for the first time announced a timescale of having the equipment operational at its Runcorn EfW plant by 2026 in what it said was a “first project of its kind in the UK”.

Netherlands-based N+P has confirmed its 250,000t/yr waste to pellet facility in Teesside is up and running and should reach full production later in May. According to N+P’s statement, it has bought the freehold of the facility, which is located in Huntsmans Drive, Teesside. The company also added that the negotiations to buy the freehold had taken “more than 12 months”.

Anaerobic digestion plant business EnviTec Biogas said its total output increased but revenues fell overall in financial results it described as “extremely successful” for last year. The Germany-based company said its total output was up 12.1% to €227m last year compared with those reported in 2019. EBITDA also crept up to €32.1m from €30.2m in 2019. However, revenues dropped 10% over the same period to €192.3m. This was owing to a lower number of finally invoiced projects, according to the results. 

Waste aggregator Andusia revealed it has signed a deal that will see 22,500t of waste sent for recovery annually for two years. Andusia said it would be working with Guildford based Chambers Waste Management.

Investment fund John Laing Environmental Assets Group (JLEN) raised £56.9m (€66.1m) through a share issue. JLEN said the drive was “oversubscribed” and will use the new funds to invest in bioenergy and battery storage projects. 

JLEN also bought into an Italy-based EfW plant for €26.75m marking its first move into the southern European country. The UK-based fund confirmed it had taken a 45% stake in Energie Tecnologie Ambiente’s 16.8MW EfW. Fellow investment fund Foresight Energy Infrastructure Partners took on the another 45% stake, while Italy-based fund Marcegaglia Investments retained a 10% stake in the company. 

Germany’s bioenergy sector has again criticised the country’s subsidy regime after its latest financial support auction fell well short of expectations, according to a coalition of trade associations. Only 60 mainly biogas-producing plants submitted bids with a total capacity of 44MWe, but this was well short of the potential total of 168MWe that was available in the auction run by Germany’s federal network agency. The same German trade bodies, including the German biogas association and federal bioenergy association, in March warned the latest round of Germany’s renewable energy act EEG 2021 would hit the market. 

UK postal service Royal Mail revealed it has added 29 biogas-powered trucks to its parcel and letters delivering fleet. The 40-tonne HGVs are similar in size and look like a conventional Royal Mail truck but are “significantly quieter” and emit roughly 84% less CO2e than a typical diesel-fuelled vehicle of this size.

Facilities round up: EfW 

Local authority Isle of Wight Council says its troubled EfW plant will be fully operational in June after a series of delays to the project. The EfW plant is being developed by waste management firm Amey for the council and is expected to process about 40,000t/yr. Last summer, ENDS revealed the plant had slipped further behind schedule having missed a deadline for being operational by last summer. It was originally due to be operational in the summer of 2019.

SSE confirmed in May it had moved to construction on its 480,000t/yr EfW plant in Slough, which it is developing with Denmark-based Copenhagen Infrastructure Company. Switzerland-based engineering firm Hitachi Zosen Inova came onboard last year to build the facility. The plant is due to be operational around October 2024. 

A project to create what would be the world’s first conversion of a coal-fired plant to process waste at the Uskmouth power station in Wales has run into difficulties. Firstly, ENDS can reveal the Welsh government has confirmed that its newly introduced moratorium on new EfW applies to the project. Secondly, developer Simec Atlantis Energy’s major shareholder SIMEC UK Energy Holdings Limited has appointed receivers, although it is challenging the move. 

In a connected but separate move, Simec Atlantis Energy also submitted a statement of case to the Planning Inspectorate on 21 May, stating the facility was an “existing” power plant and therefore allowed under Wales’ moratorium on new capacity of more than 10MWe. 

The only two EfW facilities to be backed in 2019’s contracts for difference (CfD) round have quit the process after failing to make project markers. The government-owned Low Carbon Contract Company confirmed that both Bulwell Energy and Small Heath Bio Power had left the process after their CfD were “terminated”.

Ireland’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved plans for a cement factory in Limerick to start processing alternative fuels. The EPA signed off the move for Irish Cement’s site. Back in 2016, the company told ENDS it was downgrading its original plan to process 180,000t/yr of waste, including tyres, by 50% to 90,000t/yr. The company had originally secured planning permission for 80,000t/yr in 2009, but pulled back from the investment because of the recession. The consent then expired in 2014.

Local authority Wiltshire Council says it expects to deal with a controversial application for an EfW plant now that elections in the area have been wrapped up. Developer Northacre Renewable Energy Limited, which is owned by infrastructure investor Bioenergy Infrastructure Group and waste management firm Hills Group, is developing the facility that has planning consent as a gasification-equipped plant, but wants to switch to a grate-based system.

EfW plant developer Barr Environmental told ENDS it will soon apply for new planning consent for its Killoch Colliery-based facility. The company developed the site as a gasification plant, but now also wants to switch to a grate-based system.

Waste management firm Britaniacrest Recycling is looking to secure the final documentation needed to operate its otherwise fully consented Horsham-based EfW plant. A consultation, which runs until 24 June, was launched in an environmental permit for the firm’s 3Rs Facility in May. Technically, the permit is a variation of one already secured for the site and Britaniacrest hopes to add mechanical sorting of waste and the EfW facility to Britaniacrest Recycling’s site off Langhurstwood Road in West Sussex.

A consultation was also launched into an environmental permit for the latest EfW plant to be developed by Veolia. Again technically the consultation, which runs until 24 June, is a variation of the site’s current permit for the operational Alton materials recovery facility. 

In a busy month for permits, EfW plant developer Waste Energy Power Partners applied for an environmental permit for its Stoke-based facility. A consultation into the process runs until 4 June. Known as the Energy Recovery Plant, the plant is located on Scotia Road.

Another consultation into an environmental permit was also launched for an EfW under-development in Ford. The consultation for the facility in Arundel, West Sussex, runs until 23 June. The Ford EfW is a joint venture between Grundon and Viridor. Again the facility is consented on a gasification basis, but the developers want to swap this for a grate-based system. 

Briggs & Forrester Engineering Services revealed it has been awarded the mechanical and electrical works on the Newhurst EfW plant in Leicestershire. The contract covers the design, supply, installation and commissioning of the small power, lighting and distribution services to the 500,000m³ facility. 

Switzerland-based Alpiq confirmed it has extended its partnership with three “major” EfW plants, which are KEZO in Hinwil, GEVAG in Trimmis and Limeco in Dietikon. Alpiq has “extended its contracts for the marketing of power production” from the EfW plants. 

Germany-based Doosan Lentjes revealed it has secured a deal to work on the build of an EfW plant in Warsaw. No financial terms were disclosed, but it will work with South Korea-based POSCO Engineering & Construction, which secured the deal to build the facility at the end of last year, valued at PLN1.6bn (€366.1m), from Miejskie Przedsiębiorstwo Oczyszczania (MPO)

Multifuel plant operator AffaldVarme Aarhus said it will start processing potentially Covid-infected mink bodies during May. Some 17 million of the animals, which are bred for fur, were killed and buried over covid concerns last year. However, they are being dug up and burnt to prevent further contamination.  

Infrastructure investor Bioenergy Infrastructure Group confirmed that its delayed Hull and Hoddesdon-based EfW plants, both of which are equipped with gasification technology, were now “operational” even though both still require some work to be completed. 

A Welsh council called for patience amid claims from a number of groups that the planning permission for a new waste plant was “unlawful”. Caerphilly County Borough Council granted waste management firm Hazrem Environmental planning consent for a fuel production and recycling plant in Cwmfelinfach in December 2015. The site has planning consent to develop a facility that can produce up to 100,000t/yr of SRF and/or RDF.

EfW plant developers Advanced Biofuel Solutions Ltd issued a new update about their facility as they close in on being operational. ABSL loaded nickel, iron and ruthenium catalysts in the Swindon plant into the reactors. The company said last year the facility will process about 8,000t/yr of "household waste" to produce the plant’s 2.2 million m³ of BioSNG per year.

Facilities round up: Biomass 

Biomass gasification plant developer Biomass UK No.2 said the Welsh government is set to launch a consultation after it confirmed submitting an environmental statement it has prepared for its apparently fully constructed Barry-based facility. The developer confirmed it has completed the environmental statement, which was needed as part of an environmental impact assessment, after planning consent for the facility went ahead without it in 2015.

The UK’s largest waste wood gasification project was selected among several projects to develop what its owners are calling the Ince Bioenergy Carbon Capture and Storage project. The UK government said it was releasing £166.5m (€191.5m) as part of a “major cash injection for green technology and development”. Among the projects was the Ince plant, which will get £250,000 (€289,200) for a phase one demonstration system. The facility “could be ready” at full scale as early as 2025. 

Ireland-based Eqtec revealed plans to buy and recommission a 1MWe straw and woodchip-fired facility in Italy. The plant was put into operation in 2015. Eqtec said its target was to “repower” the facility. 

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg questioned the environmental credentials of a Swedish utility company’s plans to build a 120MWth biomass-fired plant in the Netherlands. Thunberg tweeted that Vattenfall’s plans to build the facility which would burn more than 200,000t/yr of wood pellets “risks leading to increased carbon dioxide emissions". In November 2019, Vattenfall started developing the biomass-fired heat-only plant through its Netherlands-based subsidiary Nuon Energy

Denmark-based Justsen Energiteknik confirmed plans to build a biomass-fired plant in Lithuania. The 3.5MWth plant would be used by a furniture manufacturer, but precise tonnages of feedstock were not disclosed. It is due to be operational by autumn.

Facilities round up: Biogas

Local authority Essex County Council signed a deal worth £80m (€93m) that will turn landfill gas from the Bellhouse Closed Landfill Site into energy with Bedford-based Renewable Power Systems. In 1999 the county council signed a deal with former operator Combined Landfill Projects to use the landfill gas generated at Bellhouse by burning it in landfill gas engines to produce electricity. 

Investment fund Macquarie Capital Principal Finance says its UK-based anaerobic digestion company Adapt Biogas has expanded with the acquisition of a 95,000t/yr facility. Macquarie said it had completed a “majority acquisition” of Evercreech Renewable Energy, which owns the biogas-producing plant in Somerset. Back in 2019, ENDS reported the under-development facility had gained planning consent to expand its processing capacity from 55,000t/yr to 95,000t/yr and at that point it also added biomethane production. According to the latest statement the plant will be operational by early 2022. 

Utility company Yorkshire Water’s plans to produce biogas at its Blackburn Meadow site were revealed after a consultation was opened into altering the site’s environmental permit. The consultation into the “substantial variation” runs until 15 June. The purpose of the variation is down to Yorkshire Water wanting to replace its current treatment system with an anaerobic digestion process capable of processing up to 100 tonnes a day of sludge, which will also be “blended with green waste”, according to the documents.

Germany-based Weltec Biopower is returning to a biogas-producing plant it built 10 years ago to add biomethane production. Weltec said it would build the facility for Spanish dairy cattle business Torre Santamaría in a deal worth €4m, with a “quarter of this” spent on modernising the existing infrastructure.


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