Hoddesdon to shut as another waste-gasification plant fails

UK: Facility became operational last year, but EWB understands it was never able to process the volume or variety of feedstock expected

The EfW plant, image copyright BIG

Infrastructure investor Bioenergy Infrastructure Group (BIG) is to mothball its Hoddesdon-based energy-from-waste plant in another blow for the UK’s beleaguered waste-gasification sector. 

EWB understands that while the plant and another EfW facility owned by BIG, Energy Works (Hull), were declared operational last May, Hoddesdon underperformed on both the quantity and quality of waste it was able to process. 

When it was originally developed the plant was due to have a capacity of 10MWe and process up to 90,000 tonnes a year of refuse-derived fuel, however, EWB understands the “operational” plant did not get near to either of these. 

A spokesperson for BIG confirmed to EWB: “Hoddesdon Energy Limited (HEL) has reached agreement with its contractor bringing to an end both the engineering, procurement, and construction, and operation & maintenance contracts of the EfW plant at Hoddesdon.” 

The spokesperson confirmed HEL was also “evaluating several options” for the future of the facility, which will be “placed in preservation from March 2022”. 

A source with knowledge of the project, who asked to not be named, said staff were told the plant will close in the next few weeks and will not reopen. 

EWB further understands the cost of repairs and changes needed to get the facility up to full capacity were too great. 

BIG told EWB in the summer of 2020 that the facility was back on track, with builders France-based Bouygues Energy & Services at that point “tuning the plant and working through snags” with its gasification technology.

However, since then EWB understands that the problems have persisted with the equipment not working to the expected standard and the cost of correcting the issues considered too high given there was no guarantee the problems would be fixed. 

The plant started construction in 2015, with Bouygues Energies & Services winning the build contract, and was due to be operational in the first half of 2017. However, in the end it was quietly confirmed as operational four years later in 2021, when EWB checked on its progress.    

The facility was initially developed by developer AssetGen Partners, before being taken over by BIG. AssetGen Partners was dissolved last year. 

Back in 2015, investment fund Foresight and the then-called Green Investment Bank (GIB) backed half of the £60m (€82m) development in Hoddesdon, which was at that point set to be the UK’s first waste-gasification facility. 

While facilities such as Amey’s Milton Keynes-based 93,600t/yr plant and Viridor’s Glasgow-based gasification plant have become operational, many others have struggled to do so. 

Hoddesdon has sadly joined the increasing list of failures alongside Air Products, which failed to complete two waste-gasification projects in Billingham, to the north of Middlesbrough, in 2016.

And Resource Recovery Solutions (RRS), a joint venture between construction firm Interserve and waste business Renewi, has so far failed to commission a waste-gasification facility. However, plans to get the Derby EfW plant operational are continuing. 

Many other projects initially developed with the intention of using gasification technology have switched to traditional grate-based systems. 

One is the Northacre EfW plant, which is also part-owned by BIG. EWB first reported in March 2020 that it would not be developed with the gasification-technology it had been consented with. 

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