EWB Insight report: June 2022

This month: Scotland to block new EfW capacity, energy recovery looks like joining EU ETS from 2026, industry waits on Essex waste deal and a full facilities round up

Will an EfW ban in Scotland just move waste elsewhere?

The Scottish government confirmed in June that it “does not support the development of further municipal waste incineration capacity” in the country other than for “very limited exceptions”.

The move is obviously political and arguably aimed at securing votes, but realistically what does it mean for businesses?

Waste management firm Barr is the most obvious loser from the decision. The company needs consent for a 166,000 tonne per year energy-from-waste plant at its Killoch site, which was consented originally with now-unwanted gasification technology. 

While the local need for the facility was proved with the previous consent, the current situation indicates the plant would not get planning consent. 

The whole situation was summed up when England-based local authority Hertfordshire County Council signed its own EfW deal in June. Veolia was turned down by the government in 2019 for a 350,000t/yr facility.

Now waste from Hertfordshire is to be sent to EfWs in Rookery South in Bedfordshire, Ardley in Oxfordshire and eventually Cory’s expansion in London and Indaver’s Rivenhall facility in Essex – although the latter two are not yet operational. 

Rookery South is also an interesting case as the facility has a deal to take waste from Swansea in Wales. A country which last year said it needed no further EfW capacity and introduced a moratorium on new plants. 

The deal revealed in February sees Norway-based Geminor take 33,000t/yr from Wales to England and was confirmed 11 months after the Welsh government said no to further capacity. 

Returning to Scotland, in June last year Barr secured a waste deal from Argyll and Bute Council, having beaten competition from rival waste firm Enva.

Barr’s proposed tender involved a “conventional mechanical treatment and landfill system”, while Enva wanted to process waste into refuse-derived fuel for EfW plants in “the UK and Europe”.

The contract runs from June 2021 to December 2025, providing a service up to the time Scotland's landfill ban is due to be implemented. 

So if landfilling in Scotland is banned and Barr is not allowed to build the new EfW plant, which option is Argyll and Bute Council likely to pick for its next waste contract?

Policy story 

The European Parliament reached an agreement on proposals to reform the EU emissions trading system (EU ETS) that could see EfW join the system in three years’ time. Lawmakers proposed including municipal waste-fired energy recovery plants in the cap-and-trade scheme’s scope from 2026, a move the EfW sector had lobbied against. Trade body CEWEP said the decision “risks seriously disrupting the waste management chain”. 

CEWEP also issued research saying the EfW sector is already carbon neutral today and with “adequate political support” could become carbon negative in the future. CEWEP’s Climate Roadmap argues the EfW sector “completely offsets emissions” by substituting energy that would otherwise be produced from fossil fuels. It also recoveres ferrous and non-ferrous metals from incinerator bottom ash (IBA). The roadmap also shows more could be achieved as the sector has “full potential to go from carbon neutral to carbon negative” using carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) technology.  

The Copenhagen-based Amager Bakke EfW plant was allowed to expand its importation of waste. Nationally, Denmark’s policy has changed to oppose waste imports, but Amager Bakke has needed to source additional waste from abroad since soon after opening.

The University of Birmingham produced a report showing how the UK could source waste heat from the “untapped” resources of EfW and bioenergy plants. It urged the UK’s local governments to “take responsibility for clean heat” produced in the region and called for the UK government to back the move. 

New research by Imperial College London identified “potential pitfalls” in supply chains for the production of biogas and biomethane, concluding more should be done to reduce methane leakage. The research finds that biogas and biomethane production, while more climate friendly than fossil fuels, leaks up to twice as much methane as previously thought. 

The Environment Agency (EA) “has concerns” around the construction of the carbon capturing Net Zero Teesside project. The EA said it did “not fully agree with the preliminary onshore ground investigation” carried out for the project and goes on to raise specific concerns “regarding the materials to be reused on site and their implications on controlled waters”.  The project is the centrepiece of the wider East Coast Cluster, the members of which were confirmed by the government earlier this year and include several energy-from-plants:  

  • Suez Tees Valley

  • Tees Valley Energy Recovery Facility Project (TVERF)

  • Teesside Green Energy Park Limited

  • North Lincolnshire Green Energy Park

  • Altalto Immingham waste to jet fuel

  • Redcar Energy Centre

Chartered Institute of Wastes Management (CIWM) president Dr Adam Read was selected to join the UK’s new Green Jobs Delivery Group. Leaders from across business, industry, trade unions and academia have been handpicked to represent the group, which will help create and support up to 480,000 skilled and well-paid green jobs by 2030. 

Market update 

Local authority Essex County Council is expected to tender one of the most eagerly awaited waste deals for a number of years in July. Sources have told EWB that Essex’s deal will come to the market in July and follows a series of issues for the county involving its failed RDF-making plant and the rising costs of exporting its waste to the Netherlands. Depending on precisely how the contract will be tendered, EWB, after speaking to industry insiders, understands the two main contenders are shaping up to be EfW businesses London-based Cory and Belgium-based Indaver

Netherlands-based N+P says it is looking at several new outlets for its waste-based Subcoal feedstock with production expansions planned as a result. Speaking to EWB, N+P founder and chief executive Karel Jennissen and chief commercial officer Stijn Jennissen said there “were lots of positives” around potential sales of Subcoal currently. However, both conceded “it's not always an easy road to enter new markets”, for example the plan to supply feedstock to the Uskmouth power station as part of its coal-to-waste conversion was confirmed to have fallen through in April as the project announced a change of direction to battery storage.

Veolia confirmed it would sell the UK-based refuse-processing facilities of rival Suez to smooth through a merger between the two EfW giants. In May, the UK regulators said a combined Veolia and Suez business would “result in a substantial lessening of competition” in UK waste services. 

Annual statistics collated by the Wood Recyclers Association (WRA) for 2021 show the market has returned to pre-Covid levels with the total amount of waste wood collected in the UK rising to 4.5Mt after falling by 500,000 tonnes in 2020 due to the pandemic. The amount of waste wood processed also rose from 3.82Mt in 2020 to 4.17Mt last year, the WRA also reported. Biomass-to-energy remained the biggest user of waste wood in 2021, representing 61% of the total amount of waste wood processed, an increase of 5.5% on 2020.

Carbon capture business OCO Technology revealed plans are developing for its fourth air pollution control residue (APCr) processing facility as it also expands its current facilities. The company currently processes 180,000t/yr of APCr, but is planning to invest more than £25m (€28.9m) to increase this to 400,000t/yr within the “next few years” on the back of winning new contracts. 

Local authority West Dunbartonshire gave the planning go-ahead to what will be Peel NRE’s second plastic-to-hydrogen facility. A planning meeting of the local authority backed the development, which had already been given the thumbs up by planning officers at the authority. The plans include the facility itself along with a hydrogen vehicle refuelling station and “associated infrastructure”.

EfW technology and plant developer Standard Gas Technologies (SGT) revealed the signing of a MoU with France-based multinational Air Liquide. SGT said the deal would “explore a project to generate and supply renewable biofuel for the UK commercial transportation sector”. Syngas created using SGT’s technology could also be supplied to Air Liquide's UK network of gas fuelling stations. 

Facilities update: EfW 

The Indaver-led Becon Consortium launched legal action against the refusal of its plans to build an EfW plant near Belfast. The 300,000t/yr EfW plant was turned down by Northern Ireland’s then infrastructure minister Nichola Mallo, shortly before she lost her seat as an MLA. The EfW facility had secured planning consent previously, only for that to be overturned in the courts in July 2018 after legal action by NGO No-Arc21.

A consultation has been launched into a new environmental permit for what would be an expanded Protos EfW plant in terms of feedstock processing. The plan primarily sees the project expanded to process 500,000t/yr instead of the currently permitted 400,000t/yr. Protos, which is majority-owned by Covanta with Biffa holding the remaining 25%, is due to have a capacity of 49.9MWe. About 4.8MWe of this would be used by the plant itself. 

Denmark-based energy trader Danske Commodities signed a power purchase agreement (PPA) with UK-based EfW plant business Cory. Danske confirmed the deal saying it would “provide balancing, asset optimisation and route-to-market for energy” produced from the current EfW plant, known as Riverside 1. In 2019, Danske Commodities was bought by Norway-based utility giant Equinor, which is now heavily involved in Norway’s Northern Lights CCS project. 

Local authority Fenland District Council refused to enter into talks with EfW plant developer MVV over the site of its planned Wisbech facility. MVV has offered the council £723,000 plus up to £5,000 in legal costs (about €844,371 in total) for the land off Algores Way. MVV, which did not comment, is reported to have hoped to secure a deal with the council “rather than use the compulsory acquisition route” to buy the land. 

EfW plant developer Northacre Renewable Energy Limited (NREL) started work on the site of its Wiltshire-based facility in anticipation of a planning decision on its latest version of the facility in July. The developer, while still waiting on whether it can swap the plant’s technology from its current gasification-based equipment to the more traditional grate-based system, has started work to “facilitate access to the site”. 

Separately, in a boost to NREL’s project it was also granted an environmental permit in June. The permit says the facility can process a total of 270,500t/yr but NREL has previously said it is likely to process around 243,000t/yr. Overall, the facility has a capacity of 28.6MWe with 25.6MWe available for export to the national grid, according to the permit. 

EfW plant operator Viridor applied to vary the permit for its vast Runcorn-based facility. Three years after it opened, the facility was allowed to expand its waste processing capacity to 1.1Mt/yr, making it the largest such facility in the UK. Should it be granted the variation to its permit, the site would be able to process waste under the code EWC 20 03 01, which can include household waste and that from “other sources similar in nature and composition”. Viridor states in its application that the new feedstock “type is considered to be highly similar in nature and composition to that of a number of waste codes already accepted” at Runcorn. 

State-owned waste-management company WasteServ says it received 11 bids to build its new EfW plant. The bidders will be shortlisted down to five for further talks. A second tendering process was launched for the project earlier this year after the three bidders for the original deal pulled out in February, not long after the project secured planning consent. 

Germany-based Doosan Lentjes has signed a deal to supply flue gas cleaning equipment to the Enfinium Kelvin EfW plant in the UK. In a statement issued yesterday, Doosan Lentjes said it had been contracted by Spain-based Acciona, which is building the plant for owner Enfinium. 

Doosan Lentjes also said it would supply its Circoclean flue gas cleaning technology to Enfinium’s Kelvin EfW facility. When the plant is operational in 2025, it will have a nominal design capacity to treat 360,000t/yr waste, but would be designed to process up to a maximum capacity of 400,000t/yr.

Enva and Ellgia Recycling both revealed the deals to supply SRF to Geocycle’s cement-producing plant in Cauldon, UK. No tonnages were given by either firm, but EWB has previously reported up to 85,000t/yr of SRF and RDF fuel would be brought to the site annually together with 40,000t/yr of WDLF.  

A new facility designed to process waste left over when domestic sewage is cleaned has been revealed as being in development in the port of Ghent. Belgium-based Besix said it would build the facility, which would then be run by fellow Belgium firm waste business Indaver. The facility itself is due to open in 2026, with the operational contract lasting until 2046. 

Poland-based utility company PGE Energia Ciepła “discontinued” the tendering process to build an EfW plant in Bełchatów. PGE has been developing a two-line 180,000t/yr facility. 

EfW plant developer Broad Energy (Wales) in July, whether it has been successful in a planning application for its Buttington Quarry-based facility. The Welsh government confirmed earlier this year that a decision on the project would be made by 22 July. It has now also been confirmed that Wales’ new planning body Planning and Environment Decisions Wales (PEDW) sent its report to the Welsh government on 29 April. A planning inquiry was held in March.

Consultancy Worley has been awarded a front-end engineering design (FEED) contract for a Teesside-based facility to convert residual waste into sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). Worley confirmed the deal for the facility, officially known as Lighthouse Green Fuels. Back in 2019, Saudi Arabia-based Alfanar Group said it would put £1bn (€1.1bn) into developing six EfW plants at unspecified sites in the UK. EWB understands the development is being built on part of the site, which was once home to the two failed Air Products facilities. Development on both sites was scrapped in April 2016 when the company was forced to admit it could not make the technology viable. 

Norway-based technology company Quantafuel submitted a planning application for what would be its first UK-based facility. Quantafuel wants to build a plastics processing plant on a five-hectare site on the eastern edge of the Port of Sunderland. The facility, which the company states will be the first-of-its-kind in the UK, will chemically recycle plastic waste to produce a “substitute oil for fossil oil”, both of which can be used to produce new products.

Utility company Aalborg Forsyning says it and EfW plant operator Reno Nord struck a deal to use more heat produced at the facility. The deal would also make it easier to install carbon capture equipment in the future. Currently, about 20% of the district heating used in Aalborg already comes from the Reno Nord facility, which will increase when the new system is operational.

Facilities update: Biomass 

Utility company Ørsted unveiled plans to build carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology at its wood chip-fired Asnæs facility and on the straw-fired boiler of the Avedøre plant. Ørsted said the combined projects would capture and store 400,000t/yr of carbon by “as early” as 2025. The two plants are among the newest conversions in the company’s portfolio. 

Biomass-fired plant developer Green Valley Energie (GVE) confirmed its Golbey-based project is moving to construction. Denmark-based Aalborg Energie Technik (AET) will install the boiler and turbine, France-based Eiffage group will build the facility itself and France-based SERA Energie will deliver the wood handling system. Yemen-based engineering firm SEPOC will deal with the project management elements.

Engineering firm KPA Unicon revealed signing a deal with forestry company Versowood for a “major modernisation” of the Otava sawmill. KPA said it would replace an old 6MWth boiler with a 14MWth Unicon Biograte one, which will boost the capacity of the mill’s other 10MWth boiler. The new plant will fire on bark, which is a by-product of the sawmill, although no tonnages were given. The new plant is expected to be operational in autumn 2023.

Facilities update: Biogas 

Canada-based Anaergia and Ireland-based Eqtec struck a deal for “construction and operation” of the latter’s Southport-based project. Eqtec said the project includes an Anaergia-supplied waste processing facility able to take 80,000t/yr of pre-processed municipal solid waste to both recover organics and produce RDF. However, Eqtec is currently in the planning process looking to secure consent for the biogas plant, having applied for a revised application.

Germany-based investment fund Patrizia Infrastructure revealed buying an 80% majority stake in Italy-based Biomet. Biomet is building what will be Europe’s largest bioLNG production facility. The statement says Patrizia has invested about €75m in Biomet, which is its first deal in the sector. 

Ireland’s planning body An Bord Pleanála backed local authority Laois County Council’s decision to give planning consent to a biomethane-producing plant in Portlaoise. An Bord Pleanála dismissed an appeal by “Pat Fogarty of Clonkeen, Portlaoise, and others” over the planning consent granted in January last year.  Utility company Bord na Móna first announced in 2018 that it was developing the 80,000t/yr biogas plant, which it said would process a combination of food waste, garden waste, animal slurries and energy crops. Biomethane from the plant would be injected into the grid, although it is unclear how much the planned plant would produce.

The Technical University of Munich (TUM) revealed it will build a pilot plant for the production of hydrogen from biogas in Bavaria. TUM said it would coordinate the project, which would be funded by the EU. No financials were given in the statement.

Anaerobic digestion plant operator Duranta Teesside applied to alter its environmental permit to include a feedstock capacity increase of 37,000t/yr. The company wants to expand overall feedstock capacity to 157,000t/yr. The site is also equipped with a gas-to-grid upgrade and entry unit which is operated and maintained by Air Liquide.

Anaerobic digestion plant developer Deal Farm Biogas revealed plans for a smaller facility, reducing its planned capacity by almost half from the 46,750t/yr it applied for earlier this year. Reducing the plant’s capacity to 23,950t/yr would “reflect that approved” under a planning consent granted in 2015. The project ran into problems last November, when EWB revealed that local authority South Norfolk Council had halted work on the new-build biogas plant over potential planning infringements. 

Construction firm Veidekke revealed its subsidiary Seby will build a biogas-producing plant for water utility company Nedre Romerike Avløpsselskap (NRA) under a “design and build contract” worth almost NOK205m (€19.6m). The plant, which is planned for Lillestrøm, will move to construction in August and is due to be operational in two year’s time. 

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