EWB Insight report: June 2021

This month: UK planning systems adds 1Mt/yr of new capacity, a judicial review against the UK government’s decision to exclude EfW from its ETS was dismissed, CNIM struck no EPC deals in the first three months of this year and a full facilities round up

The EMERGE EfW plant

UK EfW pipeline gets 1Mt consented capacity boost 

Three major energy-from-waste projects moved through the planning system to gain consent in June. 

The projects by Northacre Renewable Energy Limited (NREL), Uniper and Agile Energy added a total of 1,007,550 tonnes of consented capacity to the UK’s EfW portfolio. 

NREL’s 243,000t/yr EfW plant was signed off by local authority Wiltshire Council. Technically the new consent was for a change of technology from gasification to a grate-based system, but NREL also expanded the processing capacity 160,000t/yr.  

However, a local MP has asked the government to “call in” the application, so the consent still has a final hurdle to pass. 

The second project was Uniper’s 524,550t/yr East Midlands Energy Re-Generation (EMERGE) Centre, which was signed off by Nottinghamshire County Council. This project must also wait as it is subject to review by the National Planning Casework Unit (NPCU). Uniper has also said it was only likely to process up to 500,000t/yr. 

The third and final project to be signed off was the 240,000t/yr Aberdeen-based EfW plant being developed by Agile Energy. Local authority Aberdeenshire Council gave planning consent to the 35MWe EfW facility on the site of a redundant paper mill in Inverurie, Aberdeen. 

Policy update  

A judicial review against the UK government’s decision to mirror the European Union and exclude EfW from its emissions trading system (ETS) was dismissed this month. The result of the challenge, brought by environmental professional Georgia Elliott-Smith, was dismissed by Justice Ian Dove following a High Court hearing in April. ENDS contacted Elliott-Smith’s legal team at solicitors Leigh Day for a comment on the decision, but they were not able to respond at this stage. Although an appeal is still being considered, Leigh Day confirmed. 

Scotland’s new national planning framework could block further EfW developments, the Scottish Greens claimed. Scotland’s net zero secretary Michael Matheson “confirmed” that the role of EfW plants would be “reviewed by September”. Scotland has seen large-scale investment in its EfW sector in recent years, driven by the country’s plan to ban landfilling. The ban was originally due to come in this year but has been pushed back to 2025.

Talks between the waste industry and the Netherlands’ government over the country’s controversial waste import tax appear to have broken down after the two sides failed to agree on how to move forward. This follows a tumultuous few weeks with EfW plants being blocked by workers’ strikes and the tax again being debated in the Dutch parliament. 

Campaigners voiced outrage when a leaked draft of renewable energy policy reforms suggested the European Commission was contemplating only limited changes to bioenergy rules. However, the bioenergy sector itself said sustainability criteria to qualify as ‘renewable’ being lowered from 20MWe to 5MWe would create “excessive red tape”.

The Commission also plans to introduce minimum blending levels for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in its ReFuelEU initiative using ‘advanced’ feedstocks as defined in the recast Renewable Energy Directive (RED II). The directive itself is in line for a second review that will form part of the ‘fit for 55’ package in July. The commission recently suggested that reaching a goal of 63% SAF penetration in Europe by 2050 would require 2% of aviation fuel to come from sustainable sources by 2030, 5% by 2030 and 20% by 2035.

England’s Environment Agency (EA) launched a programme to improve its permitting regime after a waste industry source reported that further delays in the system were constraining crucial investment. The source said the EA’s response to temporary pressures in its service was due to lockdowns: “We slowed our initial logging process, which impacted the rate at which deployment applications were allocated for a short time.” 

Just less than one in five organisations (18%) in the refuse industry commit some form of waste crime, a survey by the EA suggests. The regulator launched its national waste crime survey in March to try to assess how the waste industry, land owners, farmers and associated sectors are impacted by waste crime and how regulation can be used more effectively to combat it. 

UK local authority Hertfordshire County Council blamed a lack of availability at EfW plants as it revealed it was sending more waste to landfill. The increase in landfilling was highlighted in documents prepared for the council’s Resources and Performance Cabinet Panel. Precise tonnages are not given in the report, but it does list a rise in 2019/20 to 15.7% of its waste sent to landfill, up from 14.6% in 2018/19.

Market update 

France-based Constructions industrielles de la Méditerranée (CNIM) revealed it had struck no EPC deals in the first three months of this year. The lack of new business in CNIM’s EfW construction arm was revealed in a quarterly update issued by the company this month. Overall, its order intake dropped by 77% from €183.7m for the start of 2020 to just €42.2m during the same period this year. Covid was blamed in the report, but CNIM has signalled a potential move away from building EfW plants.

Waste management firm Veolia says it “rapidly adapted” to the Covid-19 pandemic by usings its portfolio of EfW plants to dispose of contaminated waste in the UK. It is treating more than 61,000t of orange-bagged clinical and infectious waste annually, but it had “already efficiently adapted” to treat a 15% increase in waste arisings from local areas during the pandemic. 

SAF producer Velocys revealed its woody biomass residue-based product has powered a commercial flight for the first time. The SAF, which is derived from gasified woodchips, had been used in a commercial flight by Japan Airlines from Tokyo to Sapporo on 17 June. The SAF was blended with conventional jet fuel at a rate of 25% to 75%.

Finland-based Neste revealed its waste and biomass-based aviation fuel is to be made available to aircraft in the UK for the first time. It was working with Vitol Aviation, a fuel supplier at Heathrow, to make its MY sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) available ahead of the G7 Summit to be held during June in Cornwall.

Also in Finland, food business Valio revealed plans to form a joint venture with utility company St1 to supply biomethane produced from its dairy herds. Valio said the JV was targeting up to 1,000GWh of biogas production by 2030. However, this will be “assuming there is enough growth in the demand for biogas in transportation”.

Norfolk-based straw-to-energy supplier AF Biomass entered the insolvency process after struggling with changing legislation and customers who were buying directly from growers. In an email sent to members of AF and seen by ENDS, the agricultural group which was formerly known as Anglia Farmers, states it is “insolvent and cannot continue to trade”.

Municipality-owned EfW plant operator Intergemeentelijke Vereniging voor Afvalbeheer in Gent en Omstreken (IVAGO) is looking for a private business partner to help it overhaul its Ghent-based 100,000t/yr facility. Currently, IVAGO is working with a Suez-Indaver joint venture ECOV on a deal which is set to end in 2024. 

Construction started at Lafarge Cement’s Cauldon plant in Staffordshire on a £13m (€15m) project to reduce its carbon footprint. The work involves building a new pre-processing plant for the storage, handling and feeding of solid alternative fuels, that would otherwise end up as landfill. This facility can provide 100,000t/yr to the main plant.

Waste aggregator Andusia said UK waste volumes are stabilising and, while they remain below 2019 record levels, do not appear to be dropping. The coronavirus pandemic had “drastically reduced” waste generated in commercial and industrial workplaces and was another blow to UK exports of RDF, which fell by 37% in 2020 compared with the previous year. Meanwhile, data reported by both Veolia and Suez UK showed the amount of waste generated in C&I workplaces had dropped by 50% last year. In contrast, with families at home, municipal waste increased by 20%, according to Andusia. 

Carbon capture specialist OCO Technology reported reprocessing its half-millionth tonne of air pollution control residue (APCr) from EfW plants. The company said while it had taken a decade to reach the mark, it expected to take just a further five years “to break through” the 1Mt mark. OCO, which is part owned by Grundon Waste Management, processes APCr at three UK-based facilities in Leeds, Avonmouth and Suffolk.

Barr Environmental scooped a local authority waste deal after beating competition from rival waste firm Enva. Argyll and Bute Council heard that Barr’s proposed tender involved a “conventional mechanical treatment and landfill system” Enva’s proposal involved processing waste into RDF for EfW plants in “the UK and Europe”. Barr’s contract will run from June 2021 to December 2025, providing a service until Scotland's landfill ban is implemented.

Further evidence was added to a growing list highlighting how Northern Ireland will fail to meet its waste management strategy and circular economy target without a new EfW plant. In an independent report, leading waste and bioenergy consultancy Tolvik Consulting “categorically concluded” that even with the planned 300,000t/yr Arc21 facility, the region would still face a residual waste treatment capacity gap of 124,000t in 2035. 

Norway-based waste company Geminor put a new SRF-production line into operation. The line has been opened at Geminor’s HUB in Aalborg, Denmark, which has a production capacity of more than 40,000t/yr of SRF. 

Facilities update: EfW  

EfW and biomass plant developer Solar 21 is running a public consultation on plans for its North Lincolnshire Green Energy Park before applying to the government for planning consent. The developer is trying to gain a development consent order (DCO) for the facility, which will have a generating capacity of “up to” 100MWe and a processing capacity of 760,000t/yr. 

Biological solutions business Novozymes is working on a feasibility study into using enzymatic carbon capture technology at the Amager Bakke EfW plant in Copenhagen. Novozymes said that currently the majority of solutions for carbon capture are amine-based systems, which “require significant amounts of chemicals to be effective, or are high-temperature carbonate processes”. Its “enzymatic solution”, which uses non-toxic and non-corrosive solvents at a lower stripping temperature. The lower temperature allows the use of low value heat and hot water instead of hot steam, which saves energy costs, it said. 

The partners behind a Rotterdam-based waste-to-jet-fuel plant have decided to drop the production of chemicals for the development and pivot to focus entirely on producing aviation fuel SAF. Enerkem and Shell confirmed the move, saying the plant was “fundamental to reducing the aviation industry’s life-cycle carbon emissions by up to 80% compared to conventional fuel”. When the project was revealed in 2016 it was referred to only as a waste-to-chemical facility. 

Netherlands-based developer Amsterdam Waste Environmental Consultancy and Technology (AWECT) has led a consortium that secured a deal to build Palestine’s first EfW facility. The company, which is a spin out from Amsterdam-based AEB, said it would develop the 40MWe EfW plant in Jenin, on the West Bank in Palestine. ENDS estimates it will process more than 400,000t/yr depending on whether it is operational year round. 

EfW plant developer Project Genesis is ramping up its public engagement as it looks to gain planning consent for its Hownsgill Energy Centre development later this year. In June, the company distributed leaflets in the area around the Hownsgill Industrial Estate Consett in Durham where it plans to build the 60,000 tonne a year facility. Local authority Durham County Council is due to decide on the development at a planning meeting in September, according to a spokesperson for the development. A specific date for the meeting has yet to be confirmed.

The EA has begun a consultation into an environmental permit for Dorset-based EfW developer Powerfuel Portland. The facility is planned for Portland Port on the Isle of Portland and will process RDF produced from both municipal and C&I sources. The facility will be a single-stream design able to treat up to 202,000 tonnes a year of feedstock, however, it will have a nominal capacity of 183,000t/yr. It will have a total capacity of 18.1MWe.

The Bridgwater EfW plant being developed by investment funds Equitix and Iona Capital’s took another step towards opening today after being granted a draft environmental permit. Last year the developers told ENDS that despite some “slippage” caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the plant was on track to open next year. The plant will process 130,000t/yr. 

EfW plant developer MVV said its latest facility has moved “one step closer” to being fully commissioned. It explained it continues to “attain major construction milestones within the civil, mechanical and electrical works components” of its Dundee-based build. When operational, the plant is expected to process up to 110,000t/yr and have a capacity of 39.9MWth. MVV’s main contractor on the build is Germany-based Standardkessel Baumgarte.

MVV also kicked off a statutory consultation on its Medworth-based facility that will run until 13 August. With a capacity of more than 50MWe, it is considered a nationally important infrastructure project. The EfW plant could process up to 625,600t/yr. 

Poland’s national fund for environmental protection and water management (NFOSIGW) revealed it put almost PLN112m (€24.6m) into a new EfW plant development. NFOSIGW said it was backing the Krosno-based development, which is due to open in 2024. In total the plant is costing more than PLN140.6m (€31m) and will process up to 20,000 tonnes a year of ‘pre-RDF’.

Bologna-based Hera issued a €33m tender for work towards a new line at its Padua-based EfW facility. It wants to knock down the facility’s first two lines and build what would be a fourth line to complement its current third line.

The operator of Denmark’s largest EfW facility, Vestforbrænding, revealed two peregrine falcon chicks have hatched in its chimney. The birds then began nesting in the autumn with an area specially built for them by the waste company and NGO BirdLife. Located in Glostrup just outside Copenhagen, the plant processes 620,000t/yr and has a capacity of 37MWe. 

US-based Babcock & Wilcox (B&W) revealed a deal to build an EfW plant, but it has not specified further than saying it will be located in Europe. It received notice to begin work on the engineering portion of US$24m (€20m) for the EfW build “in Europe”. 

Financial close on a EfW plant planned for Dubai was achieved earlier this month, Belgium-based Besix said. It will work with Switzerland-based Hitachi Zosen Inova (HZI) on the deal from UAE-based Dubai Waste Management Company (DWMC) worth up to €764m worth of “long-term financing agreements” for its EfW project. The facility will process 1.9Mt/yr of waste and have a capacity of 200MWe. It is currently expected to be fully operational in 2024.

Waste gasification technology developer PowerHouse Energy revealed plans to build a second UK facility based on its technology. PowerHouse says Peel NRE, which is part of landowner Peel L&P, will develop the facility at Rothesay Dock on the north bank of the river Clyde in West Dunbartonshire. It will be able to process up to 13,500t/yr of plastic waste using PowerHouse’s distributed modular gasification (DMG) technology. 

Facilities update: Biomass  

The 2.4Mt/yr biomass-fired MGT Teesside plant was due to be operational this month – almost three years behind its original schedule – but there was no comment as the 26 June target came and went. The 299MWe facility has missed a number of start dates, the most recent of which was 14 March this year. A month after the March deadline passed, the LCCC said the facility would be ready this month. The main construction firms behind the build are now Spain-based Técnicas Reunidas and South Korea-based Samsung. Finland-based Fortum is on board to run the facility.

Investment fund John Laing Environmental Assets Group (JLEN) has further broadened its portfolio with the acquisition of a fully operational biomass-fired plant. It bought a 100% equity stake in Cramlington Renewable Energy Developments (CRED), which owns a biomass-fired cogeneration plant with capacities of 28MWe and 8MWth. No financial terms were disclosed for the takeover deal, however, a development value of £138m (€154m) had previously been given for the facility based in Cramlington, Northumberland. The plant has planning permission to process up to 244,000t/yr of local virgin woody biomass and has been operational for about three years. 

Danish utility company Ørsted revealed plans for a CCS project at its Copenhagen-based Avedøre Power Station. The combination of using straw as fuel and utilising the surplus heat from both the carbon capture process and the e-methanol and e-kerosene production would also produce up to 260MWth for district heating, according to the statement. 

Facilities update: Biogas  

Anaerobic digestion plant operator Future Biogas revealed plans to become one of the UK’s “largest biogas producers” and said it will float on the London Stock Exchange’s Alternative Investment Market (AIM) in July. It has plans to build 25 new biogas plants by 2028, which would build on the 10 facilities it currently operates for owners such as investment fund JLEN and Aviva. The new plants would also be developed with bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), while it also plans to build a further “20 bolt-on” carbon capture and storage (CSS), half of which would be installed at the ten plants it operates for others. 

Anaerobic digestion plant builder Host signed a deal to build a UK-based facility with Stanton Energy. Netherlands-based Host said the facility will treat up to 40,000t/yr of “mainly green waste and liquid food waste”. The statement said the plant was ready for construction with work due to start in October with biomethane expected to be sent to the grid next January. 

Investment fund Privilege Finance revealed the ancient market town of Attleborough will be “supplied mainly with green gas” from its under-construction biomethane-producing plant. Attleborough, which features in the Domesday survey launched in 1085, will soon be home to a 100,000t/yr biogas plant able to produce biomethane through a £17m (€19.8m) overhaul. 

Municipality-owned Amiu Genova opened what it states is Italy’s first and only commercial-scale landfill gas production facility. The plant was officially opened in June but has been operational since the end of last year, according to the municipality. The facility was built within the Monte Scarpino landfill in Genoa and involved overhauling the former electricity-producing facility to add biomethane production and has already injected more than 2,000,000m3 of biomethane into the Snam network. When up to full capacity it will produce 5.5 million m3 a year. 

Waste management firm Biffa revealed its finances were heavily impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and the related lockdown measures. In particular, the results showed a one-time impairment cost of £8.2m (€9.4m) relating to Biffa’s Poplars biogas-producing plant. The costs come from falling food waste volumes and associated gate fees after restaurants, pubs and hotels were ordered to close down. In 2014, the Scotland-based plant began supplying power to supermarket Sainsbury’s, from which it also takes waste. 

Germany-based EnviTec Biogas confirmed it has finished commissioning a third plant in Estonia. The Oisu-based facility was its third after completing projects in Tartu and Vinni.The 427m3 capacity gas-processing plant can produce biomethane from liquid manure and leftover animal feed, which will be used in transport rather than exported to the grid. 

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