EWB Insight report: October 2021

This month: CCUS and BECCS take off in the UK, the world’s first project to convert a coal-fired plant to waste hangs in the balance, pellet production at WKE’s first facility slips into next year and a full facilities round-up

CCUS and BECCS handed a major boost in October 

A series of UK government and industry announcements in October have pushed forward the business case for carbon capture in the EfW and biomass-processing sectors in October. 

The government selected the two clusters it would take forward for further talks: the East Coast Cluster, which could allow for both carbon capture, utilisation and storage technology (CCUS) on EfW plants, and Drax’s own bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) technology.

Alongside Drax, EfW plant developers Suez and Redcar Holdings Limited are involved with the cluster, which is being taken forward for talks aimed at starting development in the “mid-2020s”.

Also getting in on the CCUS act was Viridor. Two announcements saw it sign a deal for carbon capture technology on five plants and back a report showing the costs of the equipment are lower than previously thought. 

First, Norway-based Aker Carbon Capture confirmed it would supply Viridor with “next-generation modular” CCUS. Viridor confirmed to EWB that the tech would be used on EfW facilities in Glasgow, Avonmouth, Ardley, Trident Park and Beddington.

The Viridor-backed report showed installing CCUS at EfW plants is “at least as cost-effective as other sectors”, according to its author consultancy Eunomia. Previous research has claimed that installing CCUS at EfW was “likely to be in the region” of £170 (€199.5) a tonne of CO2.  

However, the new report finds fitting EfW with CCUS comes in at £66-110/tCO2  (€77.4-129.1/tCO2), if it was done at facilities based at a series of cluster and port hubs in the UK. 

Policy update 

The Welsh government dealt another blow to a developer’s hopes to transform the coal-fired Uskmouth power station into an EfW plant by calling in its environmental permit application. The government has already called in the planning changes, which were due to be signed off by Newport City Council earlier this year.

Energy-from-waste technology should be included in the EU’s list of sustainable investments to help member states move away from landfilling, a group of waste sector associations said. Industry groups CEWEP, ESWET, FEAD and MWE criticised the technical screening criteria for investments so far proposed under the EU ‘green taxonomy’, published in August, for not including EfW.

Making EfW plant operators pay for their CO2 emissions would encourage waste prevention and recycling, while the plans of some to use carbon-capture technology are little more than an “expensive distraction”, campaigners argue on the basis of reports released this month. As part of planned reforms to the EU emissions trading system (ETS), tabled in the July climate policy package, the European Commission opted to continue the exemption for EfW plants, according to a report by consultancy CE Delft for NGO Zero Waste Europe.

Trade body the European Biogas Association (EBA) said more needs to be done to shift the continent’s dependence on imported fossil gas, which accounts for 90% of the region’s supply. While the EU is “fully immersed” in an energy transition, which includes phasing out coal and ageing nuclear plants, there is “no significant support to ensure fast deployment of renewable gases”. According to the EBA, “there isn’t” enough natural gas to support Europe’s post-pandemic recovery.

A report backed by biomass-fired power station Drax’s independent advisory board suggests UK financial support for renewables is creating an “uneven playing surface” in biomass supply chains. The report explores carbon accounting options for biomass and was written by the chair of consultancy Ecometrica, Richard Tipper. Overall, the report recommends building on existing “UN and IPCC” approved methods to “ensure bioenergy delivers carbon benefits, rather than reinvent differentiated accounting frameworks for forest biomass”.

The Swedish Tax Agency criticised the country’s introduction of a waste incineration tax, branding it “unjustifiable”. Its report concluded “the tax does not steer effectively towards the goals that justify the tax”. Sweden brought in the tax last year, initially set at SEK75 (€7.4) a tonne in April of 2020, but it is expected to increase to SEK175/t (€17.2) next year.

UK local authority Caerphilly County Borough Council launched a “formal” investigation over its handling of the planning process for a waste-derived fuel producing site. The authority explained it “understands the real concerns about the new waste recycling plant” development, which is now owned by London-based Hywel NMP. The site can produce a total of 100,000t/yr of RDF and SRF, but was approved without an environmental impact assessment (EIA). 

England’s Environment Agency (EA) confirmed in October that it would impose a pay deal on staff that has been rejected by three unions, with one saying “staff may now simply walk away”. In August, unions GMB, Unite, Unison and Prospect wrote to the government seeking an urgent meeting over what they described as a “miserly” pay offer to EA employees that amounted to a real-terms cut.

Almost a fifth of all waste generated in England is managed illegally, an EA survey has suggested, prompting the regulator to call for the “appropriate” funding to tackle the “endemic” problem.The misdescription of waste is perceived to be the most prevalent waste crime type, followed by the operation of illegal waste sites. 

Market update

Refuse-derived pellet maker Waste Knot Energy (WKE) says it has made “one or two” technical enhancement modifications to its Middleborough-based production facility that have pushed production back to the start of next year. WKE had been targeting starting production on one of the site’s three lines during last month and the other two in the first quarter of next year. The company was also granted an environmental permit.

The newest company to launch into the EfW construction sector says a deal with China National Electric Engineering Company (CNEEC) has “paved the way for multiple... plants in the UK and Europe”.  Denmark-based Scandinavian Energy Contractor (SEC) said it had struck a joint venture agreement, which will see the pair join forces to provide EPC services. SEC will also offer O&M deals for the EfW plants that the pair build together. 

Waste aggregator Andusia says it expects the sector to continue suffering from logistical issues for at least the next 12 months with companies needing to develop new ways of working to continue as it shifts to bulk vessels. The business also confirmed it was moving away from containers and now shipping waste in bulk.

Two companies have signed a cooperation agreement to develop and supply small-scale CCS on EfW facilities. Finnish EfW developer and supplier Woima Finland will work with Norway-based carbon capture technology firm CO2 Capsol, focusing on modular solutions that can be integrated with Woima’s own EfW plants, or with existing CO2-generating processes.

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has formally launched an investigation into Veolia’s takeover of Suez, both of which are headquartered in France. 

UK-based wood pellet and briquette producer BSW Timber was bought for an undisclosed fee by Austria-based Binderholz. BSW currently operates in Austria, Germany, Finland and the US and “has demonstrated a solid consistent growth”, according to a statement announcing the acquisition.

Investment fund Greencoat Capital unveiled plans to buy assets in the US and is targeting US$5bn of investment over the next five years. In the UK the fund is best known as the owner of the 39MWe Sleaford biomass-fired plant, which it bought in the summer of last year. As well as the Templeborough biomass-fired plant, which it bought in October of 2019. 

An onsite landfill leachate thermal treatment and separation process demonstrated a 48% reduction in operating costs and a 70% reduction in energy usage at Viridor’s Broadpath landfill site in Devon. The Low temperature Ambient pressure Technology (LAT) system makes use of waste heat as the key energy source to drive the process while returning up to 90% of water to be reused or recycled onsite. According to the technology’s supplier, LAT Water, the use of waste heat provides net carbon savings while delivering a significant return on investment through efficiency savings.

Levenseat has become the first Scottish waste company to secure ‘end-of-waste’ certification for its low carbon aggregates. The Lanarkshire-based company achieved the accreditation from industry regulator SEPA for its newly developed products, which provide a sustainable alternative to virgin aggregates used in construction projects. Developed by the company’s minerals division, three of the newly certified products are produced from incinerator bottom ash (IBA) while its recycled sand contains street sweepings and gully waste. 

Facilities update - EfW 

Low Carbon and Waste Energy Power Partners (WEPP) announced the sale of Doveryard Ltd to funds managed by Octopus Renewables, which will see the construction of an EfW facility in Ayrshire, Scotland. The planned facility, which has been in development for the past three years, is thought to be the first large-scale, subsidy-free EfW project in western Scotland. With a capacity of 185,600t/yr the plant will export 17MWe and will have the ability to provide heat and steam to nearby businesses. It will be sited on the Oldhall Industrial Estate in Irvine. STC Power Srl will fulfil the role of EPC contractor with Standardkessel Baumgarte providing the main ‘chute to stack’ technology solution.

Chester West and Chester Council is set to write to the UK government opposing plans by Lostock Sustainable Energy Plant (LSEP) to increase its feedstock-processing capacity to 728,000t/yr. The Northwich-based plant is currently under construction, but in January 2021 the partners behind LSEP – a joint venture between Denmark-based investor Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and waste company FCC Environment – said it was “looking to vary the existing planning”.

EfW plant developer Synpower is looking again at plans for a facility in Royton after confirming it would withdraw the current proposals. While the firm would not be drawn further, the plant will now be developed with a form of “low carbon technology”.

Eqtec secured a resolution from Flintshire County Council’s planning committee to grant planning consent for a £200m gasification plant at its Deeside RDF-gasification project with partner, Logik Developments, in Flintshire. The 9.9MWe, which would deploy Eqtec’s own technology, will combine a 182,000-tonne waste reception plant along with anaerobic digestion. It will generate 60,000-70,000MW of electricity each year from 60,000-70,000 tonnes of sorted RDF waste.

A council committee report has highlighted that the recycling performance of Allerton Waste Recovery Park (AWRP) near Knaresborough has “fallen short” since it has been in operation. AWRP, which has been up and running since 2018, consists of an EfW facility, a mechanical treatment plant and an anaerobic digester. AmeyCespa (Amey) operates the park through a PPP contract with North Yorkshire County Council. The site can process up to 320,000t/yr  year from North Yorkshire and York City councils.

The EA has had to reissue an environmental permit after not including an expectation that the facility should have the “potential” to provide heat to nearby offtakers. The mistake was revealed when the EA reissued the permit for a Doncaster-based facility, which is being developed by BH EnergyGap (Doncaster). The EA originally granted the developer a permit for the EfW plant last month, before reissuing the document again in October. 

Local authority Essex County Council is likely to decide the future of a 150,000t/yr plant in December. Essex-based Clearaway revealed plans in May last year, to invest up to £50m (€55.6m) in what would be its first EfW plant.

EfW plant developer and operator Enfinium lost an appeal to make the government redetermine its plans to develop a second facility in Kent. In February the government granted permission for Enfinium, then known as Wheelabrator, to expand its Wheelabrator Kemsley (K3) plant through a DCO, but turned down its 390,000t/yr Wheelabrator Kemsley North (WKN) facility. 

Facilities update - biomass 

Vale of Glamorgan Council confirmed investment fund Aviva had appealed against a ruling that its Barry-based biomass facility should be torn down. A spokesperson for the local authority confirmed to EWB that an appeal had been registered. 

In a related development, Aviva also launched a “voluntary retrospective environmental impact assessment” for the same plant which has been controversial due to the fact it gained planning consent without an environmental impact assessment.

Ireland-based Eqtec revealed plans to buy a proposed 5MWe and 8MWth biomass-processing plant in Drama, Greece. Eqtec’s joint venture Synergy Aegean, which includes Germany-based EwerGy and Greece-based Eco Hellas are in on the deal for the plant, which would process up to 35,000t/yr of locally sourced forestry waste. 

Denmark-based biomass plant builder Dall Energy revealed its latest facility opened in October. The plant owned by utility company Sorø Fjernvarme was inaugurated on 14 October. The plant uses gasification technology developed by Dall and has capacities of 12MWth and 1MWe. Dall has previously said the plant will supply about 1700 customers.

Facilities update - biogas 

Technology provider Pentair has joined forces with biogas operator Future Biogas to start building biogas upgrading plants across the UK while recovering and storing the CO2 generated from these facilities. The collaboration will see Pentair Water Process Technology subsidiary Haffmans use its biogas-upgrading and CO2-recovery technology to convert the biogas from Future Biogas’ anaerobic digestion plants into biomethane, in addition to recovering the CO2 generated. Future Biogas currently operates 10 AD plants in the UK. 

Canadian waste technology firm Anaergia has acquired two Danish subsidiaries to build, own and operate an anaerobic digestion facility in Denmark that will convert agricultural waste to renewable natural gas (RNG). Construction on the project, based in Tønder, is set to begin before the end of the calendar year and is due to be completed within two years. The project’s total cost is expected to exceed €69.55m (C$100m). RNG production is expected to begin before the end of next year.

Utility firm Gasum has delivered liquefied biogas (LBG) for the first time to an offshore supply vessel in Norway. The bunkering from truck to ship was performed to Lundin Energy’s platform supply vessel Island Crusader at Risavika harbour, near Stavanger. The vessel is a battery hybrid running on liquefied gas and using electricity, the latter for example in harbours.

Denmark-based Nature Energy revealed plans to develop the country’s first bioLNG production facility in partnership with utility company Makeen through a new joint venture called Nordic Liquefaction (NordLiq). The bioLBG plant, which will be built at the port of Frederikshavn, is due to be completed in the middle of 2023. 

The king of the Netherlands Willem-Alexander officially opened what will be his country’s first bioLNG production facility on 14 October. The bioLNG facility was built on Renewi's site in Amsterdam Westpoort. Alongside Renewi, the project has been developed by Nordsol and Shell. Back in 2019, Shell and Nordsol announced plans to develop bioLNG infrastructure, while Renewi confirmed construction of the facility had started last year. 

Dutch waste management firm Twence has reopened a biogas-producing plant that was destroyed by a fire in 2019. Twence confirmed the Enschede-based facility, which was originally opened in 1994, had been returned to operations after the fire two years ago. 

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