How to fill the EfW-building gap left by CNIM?
France-based construction giant CNIM confirmed in January that its precarious financial position had become too much and it was entering the French administration process known as ‘procédure de sauvegarde'.
A decade ago CNIM was the one-stop shop for building energy-from-waste plants, particularly in the UK where its partnership with Germany-based grate-supplier Martin won deals with Viridor, Suez, Enfinium and most recently Brockwell Energy.
However, CNIM took a financial hit when its construction partners Lagan and Clugston went into administration in 2018 and 2019 respectively, leading it to stop looking for new EfW build projects in 2020.
That has left a space in the construction sector in the UK in particular, which so far has been filled by Switzerland-based Hitachi Zosen Inova (HZI) and more recently by Spain-based Acciona.
The pair have even agreed to work together on the vast Edmonton 700,000t/yr EfW build with Acciona leading on a deal that CNIM was nominally in the running for.
Only one other business capable of delivering large-scale EfW plant has emerged to rival Acciona and HZI – Denmark-based Scandinavian Energy Contractor (SEC).
SEC was launched last April from the remnants of another Danish company’s business in the sector and is headed by the boss of EfW plant developer CoGen Ian Brooking.
Cogen and SEC are working on what is billed as the UK’s “first non-subsidised merchant gasification facility”. However, when the 240,000 tonne a year facility entered construction in 2018 it was due to be operational before the end of last year.
CoGen has not yet replied to EWB’s request for confirmation of the facility’s status and its website still lists the plant as “currently in construction”. Once that is completed, SEC could potentially bid for new deals.
The immediate fall out from CNIM financial problems impact directly on two EfW plant developments: the Earls Gate facility which is being developed by Brockwell Energy; and the Lostock Sustainable Energy Plant, owned by Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP) and FCC Environment.
The two sites were to be built by CNIM. It was already working on Earls Gate, and staff were reported to have been locked out of the build after the Christmas break.
The only other major player in the UK’s EfW market is Germany-based Standardkessel Baumgarte, which this month handed over MVV’s Dundee-based EfW plant, although it was more than a year late.
Adding EU-based EfW plants to the European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) could lead to more landfilling, according to trade body CEWEP. The EU ETS will include energy recovery from 2028, but moving just waste incineration into the scheme would steer residual waste to cheaper treatment down the waste hierarchy, it said. This means more waste could end up being disposed of via landfilling, on which many EU member states still rely, or exported to countries with lower environmental and social standards, leading to ‘waste leakage’, CEWEP said.
The Scottish government launched a public consultation as part of a review of the country’s EfW capacity. Colin Church, chief executive of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, is leading the process, which is expected to report back to Scottish ministers by Easter.
In a related move, in England the all-party parliamentary group on air pollution suggested in a report that the country “should” adopt Wales’s controversial moratorium on new EfW plants. Pro-EfW trade body the Environmental Services Association (ESA) attacked the report. Its executive director Jacob Hayler, branded it “very disappointing… unnecessary and misleading”.
The Netherlands’ government has asked the European Commision to consider allowing member states to pay compensation to EfW plant owners for closing plants. The view was expressed in its response to an overhaul of the General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER), which was submitted last year.
NGO United Kingdom Without Incineration Network (UKWIN) shared data with EWB showing that England’s Environment Agency (EA) appears to lack the information for determining permits for EfW plants. It had no data from relevant agencies and also lacked information on health-based concerns including dioxin levels. The EA did not comment.
The waste industry has disputed UK government department DEFRA’s claim that the pandemic was to blame for England’s failure to meet a target to recycle 50% of waste by 2020. England’s recycling rate fell from 45.5% in 2019 to 44% in 2020. The decrease “reflects the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic”, according to a progress report. However, John Coates, interim chief executive officer at the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC) acknowledged that the pandemic had had an impact on the lack of improvement in the recycling rates, but added: “It cannot be ignored that England’s recycling rate has been stuck at 44%-45% for eight years now.”
The UK government launched a £5m (€5.9m) funding round for projects to produce hydrogen from “biomass and waste”. Projects would also be “paired” with bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and will also help “generate green jobs and attract private investment”. The scheme will be known as the Hydrogen BECCS Innovation Programme and will focus support on three areas: feedstock pre-processing, gasification technologies and “novel” biohydrogen technologies that should be equipped with carbon capture.
Energy regulator Ofgem is expected to be handed an additional role as economic regulator for CO2 transport and geological storage, according to plans confirmed by the government. The government held a consultation on expanding the regulator’s duties over August and September last year, building on another concerning the business models for CCS.
Local authority Plymouth City Council’s decision to increase wages for its HGV is being hailed as a “wake-up call” for other UK-based councils. Trade union Unite said it had negotiated a job reclassification for the 46 drivers from ‘unskilled’ to ‘semi-skilled’ which means a 12.5% pay rise, worth about £3,000 a year. Since last year a combination of Covid and Brexit have led to logistic issues centred on a shortage of qualified HGV drivers in the UK. Waste firms Veolia, Suez and Geminor have all reported problems finding HGV drivers.
Viridor has called on the UK to ban all plastic waste exports and to domestically stop the use of hard-to-recycle plastics such as expanded polystyrene, PVC yoghurt pots and degradable plastic bags. According to the company, waste recycling has a “vital role” in delivering net zero, with about 1.3 million tonnes of CO2 emissions a year, which could be saved by increasing plastic recycling rates to 70%, up from 51% today.
The National Federation of Demolition Contractors (NFDC) reissued advice on testing waste wood from demolition projects to avoid misclassification of the waste. Two RPSs came into force last August allowing for mixed loads of waste wood in England to be processed by operators for use in panel board manufacturing and Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) Chapter IV compliant biomass boilers.
UK-based investment fund Equitix took a 20% stake in EfW plant developer and operator Viridor in December. Last summer, Viridor’s former owner Pennon Group completed a sale of the company to “funds advised by” US-based Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) for £4.2bn (€4.4bn). Equitix’s statement said the deal represented “another key milestone in the relationship” with KKR, following cooperation on the acquisition of John Laing in May this year.
EfW plant operator Cory struck a deal to buy fellow London-based waste management firm McGrath Group. McGrath’s facilities include a WTS that currently processes more than 300,000t/yr of waste and MRF with wharf access onto the river Thames. The access to the river fits in with Cory’s method of delivering waste to its EfW plant only a few miles south and across the Thames from McGrath’s location in Barking.
Germany-based Martin completed a full takeover of France-based flue gas system supplier Lab. Lab confirmed the move on the same day that Lab’s former owner CNIM went into administration. Together Lab and Martin offer “substantial opportunities to further enhance cooperation” across the full portfolio of EfW builds.
Waste management business N+P Group bought what it says is one of the UK’s largest material recycling facilities (MRF) from Viridor. The facility processes 330,000t/yr and employs 260 people. However, N+P says it plans to increase the site’s waste-processing capacity to more than 500,000t/yr with employee numbers likely to rise to more than 300. These increases will also see the site produce enough of N+P’s patented waste-derived fuel Subcoal to “replace 136,000 tonnes of coal in UK industry”, according to the statement.
Landowner Peel is developing a specially produced waste fuel at its Protos site for the troubled conversion of the coal-fired Uskmouth power station. The move was revealed in a consultation launched in December by the Environment Agency into altering a permit for Plot 5 at Peel’s Protos Resource Recovery Park in Cheshire. However, some of the consultation documents are dated March this year, which would mean they were developed before the Uskmouth conversion ran into a political storm caused by the Welsh government announcing a moratorium on energy recovery in the same month.
Japan-based Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is considering using technology developed by UK PowerHouse Energy in its home market. PowerHouse says its “development partner” Hydrogen Utopia International (HUI) has signed a letter of intent, under which, Mitsubishi will have one year to review the technology, but could extend the process by “mutual consent”.
EfW and biomass-fire plant operator AVR formally asked the Netherlands’ Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) for permission to takeover rival business AEB Amsterdam at the end of last year. AEB is the Netherlands’ largest EfW plant operator and processes about 1.4 million tonnes at two sites. AVR operates two EfW plants in Duiven and Rozenburg, which can process about 1.7Mt/yr. As a result, the combined business would process 3.4Mt/yr. To put that in perspective, the potential merger of Veolia and Suez in the UK would create a business able to process 4.3Mt/yr, although the UK’s regulator has questioned the deal.
EfW plant operator Enfinium appointed Phil Piddington as a non-executive director. The former boss of rival EfW business Viridor had taken up the role in January. Enfinium itself is also undergoing a change of chief executive with Julia Watsford due to leave at the end of January to “pursue other opportunities”. She will be replaced by Mike Maudsley, who officially joined the firm earlier this month to work alongside Watsford on a handover before taking on the role at the end of January.
Enfinium also revealed a £1.9bn (€2.2bn) refinancing of its operational portfolio of EfW facilities. The refinancing covered Enfinium’s two Ferrybridge Multifuel plants along with Kemsely in Kent and Parc Adfer in Wales. Enfinium further said its two under-construction projects, Skelton Grange in Yorkshire and Kelvin in the West Midlands, would join the new funding system once they were operational in 2025.
Engineering and construction firm Doosan Lentjes promoted Dirk Stokvis to chief executive. The company said Stokvis had been promoted from his role in charge of finance and operations to the top job, succeeding Thomas Stetter, who is leaving the company after six years on the management board.
The takeover of US-based EfW plant operator and developer Covanta by Sweden-based investment fund EQT Infrastructure completed in December. The US$5.4bn (€4.4bn) sale was officially confirmed, following the announcement of the planned takeover in July. Azeez Mohammed has been appointed as the new president and chief executive.
Facilities update: EfW
Infrastructure investor Bioenergy Infrastructure Group (BIG) is to shutdown its Hoddesdon-based EfW plant in another blow for the UK’s waste-gasification sector, EWB reported. While the plant and its sister facility, 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 10MWe capacity and process up to 90,000t/yr.
US-based Covanta confirmed its Rookery South EfW plant is now fully operational after being completed on schedule. Switzerland-based Hitachi Zosen Inova (HZI), the site’s lead construction contractor, handed the facility over to its operations team in January. It can process up to 545,000t/yr.
Local authority-owned North London Waste Authority (NLWA) officially signed a deal with Spain-based Acciona and HZI to build the vast Edmonton-based 700,000t/yr EfW plant. No financial terms were revealed, but a tender for the deal issued in 2021 said it would be worth potentially £683m (€757.2m) and cover the full “design, procure, construct, commission and testing” of the EfW facility itself. CNIM had been in the running for the role, but dropped out due to its financial problems.
The newly created Planning and Environment Decisions Wales (PEDW) has restarted the planning process for an EfW plant based in Buttington Quarry. The Welsh government confirmed to EWB in January that it had restarted the planning process for the facility, which is being developed by Broad Energy (Wales). A decision is due by 22 July. Broad originally submitted plans to the UK-wide Planning Inspectorate in March last year for the 150,000t/yr, which also has a capacity of 13MWe. However, it will also test the Welsh government's moratorium on new capacity that was announced last month.
Denmark-based district heating supplier Fjernvarme Fyn and Finnish state-owned utility company Fortum revealed plans to develop CCS technology. The work could capture 480,000t of CO2 by 2030, with a longer term plan of almost doubling that.
England’s Environment Agency raised concerns about plans for a lightweight aggregate plant proposed by EfW plant developer Alternative Use Boston Projects (AUBP). AUBP is in the process of trying to secure a DCO for its Boston-based facility. It would process more than 1Mt/yr and have a capacity of 102MWe. Part of the development involves the construction of the lightweight aggregate plant, where APCr – a hazardous waste stream – will be mixed with IBA – a non-hazardous waste stream. However, in its response to the DCO documentation, the EA questions the process, stating: “The mixing of a hazardous waste with a non-hazardous waste is generally not permitted by the regulations.”
A decision on whether to try again with a failed waste-gasification plant initially developed by Resource Recovery Solutions (RRS) in Derby has slipped. Last November the two local authorities involved each held secret votes citing confidential financial information, after which they publicly stated that two options would be considered over the “next few months”. While no firm timescale was released, EWB understands that in November it was agreed that a decision on the options would be made before local elections in May, following the preparation of a business case. However, that timescale has since slipped and EWB now understands that no decision is likely until after the local elections on 5 May.
Local authority Sutton Council will oppose Viridor's plans to increase waste activity in Beddington. The council gave the plant planning consent in 2013, before defeating a judicial review against the decision a year later. However, now the council says it will “strongly oppose” any plans to increase capacity at the 300,000t/yr facility, which its statement says will be dealt with by the Environment Agency through the environmental permitting process. The statement explains that Viridor has submitted an application to expand the site, but does not give tonnages. EWB understands the increase would be to 382,000t/yr.
The leader of local authority Norfolk County Council has denied plans are in place to send waste to MVV’s under-development 625,600t/yr EfW plant. Andrew Proctor was questioned by councillor Alexandra Kemp who accused the council of putting the plant developer’s profits before people’s health. Proctor responded: “While I recognise the concerns you’ve raised, some of the things you’ve said are totally and utterly out of order and they’re certainly not things that are being considered at the moment.”
Plans for a partially sunken EfW plant at a landfill site in Magħtab have gained consent from the Maltese authorities. The plant was approved today during a meeting of Malta’s nationwide planning authority, having been recommended for approval previously. The meeting also heard the contract for the build had not yet been awarded. State-owned waste company WasteServ Malta would operate the plant once it was up and running.
Norway-based waste management company Geminor confirmed construction was under way on its new Hull-based “hub”, which is due to open at the end of this year. UK-based construction company Keltbray was leading the construction of the materials recovery facility (MRF), which is expected to take 46 weeks and cost an estimated €8.1m (£6.7m) to build, according to the statement. When operational the site will process up to 150,000t/yr. However, an environmental permit for the facility gave a maximum waste throughput capacity of 199,800t/yr when it was awarded in June 2020.
France-based Technip Energies was appointed by Norway-based Wastefront to build its £100m (€120m) tyre recycling plant in Sunderland. Wastefront said Technip Energies had secured the full EPC deal to build the facility, which it previously said will be the first of many such plants. When fully commissioned at the end of 2024 the plant will have capacity to process 80,000t of end-of-life tyres a year.
Veolia secured a draft permit, boosting its plans to build a fourth EfW plant in Hampshire. Technically the draft permit is a variation of the site’s current permit for the operational Alton materials recovery facility (MRF) to allow the addition of the new EfW plant. Veolia has stated the facility will process up to 330,000 tonnes a year of waste with the plant having a capacity of 30MWe.
Utility company Uniper was also granted a draft environmental permit for its East Midlands Energy Re-Generation (EMERGE) EfW plant, with a consultation on the permit running until early February. The draft permit process is usually a sign that a full permit is imminent. The plant is “anticipated” to take around 472,100t/yr, given a calorific value of 10MJ/kg calorific value. However, it would be able to process a “maximum” of 524,550t/yr at 9MJ/kg, based on a forecast plant availability of 90%. It would also have a gross capacity of 49.9MWe.
Norwegian waste firm Senja Avfall IKS awarded a tender for the construction of an EfW plant to Denmark-based Verdo Energy Systems. The information was released in a contract award notice, published between Christmas and the New Year period. The notice does not give financial information, but EWB reported in April last year that the deal was tendered with a value of up to NOK200M (€19.9m).
UK local authority Durham County Council turned down plans for a 10,500t/yr hazardous and clinical wastes-processing plan, despite a proven need. Fornax Environmental Solutions had planned the plant for the Newton Aycliffe Industrial Estate.
A Runcorn-based solicitor said he hopes a case against Viridor over its Runcorn EfW plant would move “towards settlement negotiations” after its most recent court hearing at the end of last year. The case could have implications for other EfW plant operators in situations where people live near the facility. When the legal action was launched, the solictor confirmed to EWB that it covers issues including noise, dust and smells from the EfW facility.
Facilities update: Biomass
The long-delayed MGT Teesside project is understood to be in talks with the UK government-owned Low Carbon Contracts Company (LCCC) over extending its operational deadline as NGOs renew their calls for the project’s funding to be scrapped. The project's latest deadline was last December, but it has missed several since it was originally expected to open in July 2018, more than three years ago.
Denmark saw the use of wood pellets fall last year despite the country pioneering a move from coal-fired heat and power. The Danish energy agency Energistyrelsen said the decline was seen across the board from large combined heat and power plants to smaller facilities. In total, just over 2.7 million tonnes of wood pellets were used last year, which was a 14% drop compared with 2018 when Energistyrelsen last looked at consumption.
A protester who blocked roads in an effort to force the UK government to insulate more homes ironically ended up blocking a train carrying ash that would have been used to do just that. Retired GP Diana Warner “chose to defy” a summons by not appearing at London’s High Court and instead “halted the delivery of destroyed forests to Drax power station”. However, it has since emerged the train was not actually carrying wood pellets to power Drax, but was taking away ash from the station to be used in part as insulation.
Consultancy Worley was named by power station Drax as the company to kick off work on its bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) project. Drax said it had signed a £40m (€47m) deal for the front-end engineering and design phase (FEED) stage of the project.
Drax also revealed plans to increase the amount of wood pellets it produces from 4Mt/yr currently to 8Mt/yr a by 2030. Drax explained the pellets would be for its own plant, as well as supply “growing” markets in Europe and Asia.
And finally on Drax, the power station further revealed a deal to take over Canada-based Pacific BioEnergy Corporation, for an unspecified amount, would add 2.8Mt of wood pellet-capacity to its network. According to the statement, the company has deals for “sustainable biomass supply to high-quality counterparties in Japan and Europe”. The statement explains the 2.8Mt will be delivered between “2022 and the mid-2030s” with about 300,000t due next year.
UK-based investment fund Greencoat Capital has a new majority owner after fellow investor Schroders said it would take a 75% stake. The proposed deal is expected to complete in the first half of this year, but is “subject to regulatory approval”. Greencoat describes itself as “one of Europe’s largest renewable infrastructure managers” with £6.7bn (€7.8bn) of assets under management as of 30 November. In the UK the fund is best known as the owners 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.
Finland-based engineering firm Valmet struck a further deal with utility company Turun Seudun Energiantuotanto (TSE) to supply automation technology at the 40MWth Oriketo bioheat plant by October this year. It did not give financial information.
Denmark-based utility company Ørsted took a 45% share in an potentially innovative project aimed at creating the world’s first large-scale sustainable e-methanol project. Ørsted said it had bought the stake from Liquid Wind for an undisclosed fee in its FlagshipOne project. FlagshipOne, which would be the first of these facilities, is planned to have an electrolyser capacity of around 70MW and is expected to produce 50,000 tonnes of e-methanol a year based on processing renewable hydrogen sourced from wind power and “biogenic CO2”. The so-called “biogenic CO2” will be captured from the biomass-fired cogeneration plant Hörneborgsverket in Örnsköldsvik in Sweden, where FlagshipONE will also be located, according to the statement.
The PEDW issued letters informing Barry-based Biomass UK No2 that it must complete an environmental statement for the biomass-gasification plant.
Bioenergy supplied for industrial power and heat continued to rise across the EU-27 between 2019 and 2020, despite overall growth in primary energy from biomass slowing to just 0.3%. The slowdown in growth was reported in EurObserv’s latest Solid Biofuels barometer 2021, published in January.
Facilities update: Biogas
Trade bodies the European Biogas Association (EBA) and Gas Infrastructure Europe (GIE) revealed Europe now has 1,023 biomethane-production plants, after a “record-breaking year” for biomethane production. The EBA explained it believes 87% of Europe’s active biomethane plants are connected to the gas grid. Last year, the report said there were 725 biomethane-producing plants in Europe, but that only covered the period to the end of 2019. So the new figures show an increase of 298 plants overall since then.
Biomethane fuel-supplier CNG Fuels opened Scotland’s first ever biomethane-refuelling station that is primarily aimed at supplying HGVs. The station serves the country’s busiest transport route between Edinburgh and Glasgow and will support a number of brands already using biomethane to replace fossil fuels.
One of the UK’s largest biogas plant operators announced plans to build a biomethane-producing facility with pharmaceutical and biotechnology company AstraZeneca, famous for its Covid vaccine. Future confirmed the development in a statement, saying the facility would be built “in East Anglia”. Back in June, Future revealed plans to become one of the UK’s “largest biogas producers” by building 25 new biogas plants by 2028. Currently, the firm operates 10 facilities.
Landfill gas company Waga Energy and investment fund Meridiam confirmed securing a loan of €10.4m to expand the reach of the former’s technology. Waga said the loans were from banking groups BNP Paribas and Banque Populaire Grand Ouest. Waga and Meridiam together own three biomethane units, one of which is still under construction. Separately, Waga owns another facility.
Finland-based business Gasum and Metsä Fibre confirmed they will work together on production of biogas from the latter’s vast Äänekoski bioproduct mill. Gasum said it would be responsible for the “daily remote operation and maintenance of biogas processing”. Gasum further said it would buy the biogas produced at Metsä Fibre’s plant for “use as a road transport fuel in its filling station network”.
Germany-based biogas plant operators EnviTec and Balance revealed they will form a joint venture to supply the growing bio-liquified natural gas (bioLNG) market and build a facility together. The pair said their new company would be known as Balance EnviTec Bio-LNG. They also confirmed they would build a bioLNG-producing facility in Brandenburg, near Berlin.
Utility company Scandinavian Biogas announced plans to expand its bioLNG production facility in Gladö Kvarn. The company said it would spend SEK300m (€28.6m) to make the plant northern Europe’s largest producer of bioLNG. In total, the plant will produce the equivalent of 220GWh of bioLNG a year, when the work is completed in the second half of 2023.
Netherlands-based biogas plant builder Host and beer-maker Grolsch are to work together on producing biomethane. Host said it would offtake biogas from Grolsch’s wastewater treatment plant and install upgrading equipment that will produce more than a million m3 of biomethane a year.
Host also revealed in January that it has nearly finished building a 40,000t/yr facility that it was commissioned to build for Stanton Energy. Annually the facility is due to have a biomethane-production capacity of 3.5 million m3, enough to provide more than 2,300 families with this renewable alternative of fossil natural gas. According to the statement, Stanton Energy is now “keen to realise further projects” with it.
An appeal by a biogas plant owner centring on a legal wrangle over feedstock supplied to its facility has been turned down. The ruling by the Amsterdam Court of Appeal was published in January following a hearing the month before. En Zonen, which is a fish wholesaler that also processes non-hazardous waste from third parties for the production of biogas, was also ordered to pay the legal costs of former waste supplier Bukom, totalling €10,368. En Zonen had originally sued for €467,732 in compensation and €6,775 in legal costs.
Anaerobic digestion plant developer Deal Farm Biogas confirmed a “part retrospective” planning application has been submitted for its Norwich-based project, which ran into trouble at the end of last year. The project is owned by Storengy UK but in November EWB revealed that local authority South Norfolk Council had halted work on the new-build biogas plant.
Three full-scale industrial trials were announced at UK-based biogas plants at the end of last year with the aim of demonstrating how facilities can improve digestion. Carbogenics said the 12-week trials aimed to show the “enormous potential” for the UK’s 650 biogas plants. During the trials, Edinburgh-based Carbogenics will add to the plants a biochar product that the company makes from waste paper and cardboard, branded as CreChar.
Planning permission has been submitted for a biogas-producing facility at a site where gasification technology company Eqtec plans to develop a plant. Ireland-based Eqtec has resubmitted plans for what it says is the first phase of its Southport Hybrid Energy Park project, which has an 80,000t/yr biogas plant at its centre.
Beer and spirits maker Brewdog has secured a permit for its biomethane-producing facility in Ellon, Scotland. The permit, which was granted in January by SEPA, means the facility is on a previously announced target to produce biomethane next month.