EWB Insight report: July 2022

This month: The UK is reviewing English EfW capacity, a court confirms the Environment Agency was entitled to withdraw permission for the export of hazardous waste to an island in Norway, financial close and the start of construction for a Glasgow-based 350,000t/yr EfW plant and a full facilities round up

Wrong location was bigger issue for Welsh EfW plant than moratorium

During July the Welsh government made a point of turning down developer Broad Energy (Wales) plans for a 150,000 tonne a year facility, citing both its moratorium on new energy capacity and the proximity principle. 

Whereas the enforcement of the moratorium, which Broad had earlier branded “unlawful”, made the headlines, there were more problems with the facility’s location than it simply being in Wales.  

Speaking to waste industry insiders, EWB understands the roads around the plant were considered poor quality, making waste delivery to the site “problematic to say the least”.

When the government turned down the plant it pointed to it being in Powys, which is closer to the north Wales region than the mid- and south-west Wales region from where it hoped to secure feedstock. 

The planning inspector also found evidence that annual waste arisings in Powys and Ceredigion were “relatively low”, meaning waste would come from specifically the Swansea, Neath and Port Talbot, Carmarthen and Pembrokeshire areas. However, this was considered to be some distance from the plant’s proposed site at a former quarry, according to the Welsh government. 

More problems for the development became clear in February this year, when local authority Swansea Council signed a deal with Norway-based Geminor to take its waste to Covanta’s Rookery South EfW plant. 

A much-delayed 220,000t/yr EfW plant is also under-construction in Newport, which would add more capacity in the south of Wales, and could also have counted against Broad’s development. 

Broad is yet to comment officially on the refusal. 

Policy update 

The UK government revealed a review is under way into “planned” EfW capacity, which would presumably focus on England, following similar moves in Scotland and Wales that resulted in moratoriums on new capacity. The review was revealed by Victoria Prentis, a junior minister at UK government department DEFRA, in a written answer to a question about future EfW capacity.

The European Parliament took a step towards endorsing plans to boost the share of renewable energy in the EU to 45% by 2030, following a vote by the industry (ITRE) committee. The committee also adopted provisions proposed by the environment committee (ENVI) to end subsidies for burning ‘primary woody biomass’, but with exceptions for wood felled for “sustainable wildfire prevention measures” or “affected by active pests or diseases”. Industry group Bioenergy Europe said ENVI’s amendments had not been sufficiently discussed given their “significant impacts”.

Airlines should be running on at least 85% SAF by mid-century, the European Parliament’s transport committee said in a draft negotiating position calling for far higher blending mandates than those proposed by the European Commission. It proposes the minimum share of SAF supplied at each EU airport should be 63% in 2050, with a number of interim targets: 2% in 2025, 5% in 2030, 20% in 2035, 32% in 2040, and 38% in 2045.

The European Waste Management Association (FEAD) said an end to the EU's dependence on Russian fossil fuels and action on the global climate crisis could be delivered "through energy savings, diversification of energy supplies, and accelerated roll-out of renewable energy to replace fossil fuels in homes, industry and power generation". Among the list of actions that the body is calling for is a "recognition of energy recovery from selectively collected, residual, non-hazardous waste in the EU Taxonomy as an activity substantially contributing to (a transition to) a circular economy".

The Ince Bio Power facility, backed by investor the Bioenergy Infrastructure Group (BIG), is among 14 projects making it through to the second phase of a UK government-backed carbon capture scheme. BIG’s project, which is in partnership with Peel NRE, aims to develop and design a 10 tonne per day CO2 capture demonstration plant “at the heart of the North West industrial cluster”. It will be located at the Protos Energy Park near Ellesmere Port.

The results of the fourth round of the UK’s contracts for difference (CfD) auction were released in July, but only backed one EfW plant, the 450,000t/yr Redcar Energy Centre. Despite being eligible, no biogas-producing, biomass-fired or gasification plants have so far been backed by the scheme. 

Italy’s government coalition collapsed in July, in part due to the PM Mario Draghi’s support for a proposed EfW facility for Rome. The former coalition member of the government, the 5-Star Movement, supported Draghi but its MPs opted to sit out a vote on a package of policies, which included allowing the Rome-based plant. 

The UK is looking to reform its landfill tax. It said the system had been "highly effective" in encouraging more sustainable waste management, but it was not intended to prevent the redevelopment, remediation or protection of land in the economic, environmental and social interest of local communities.

The UK government must publish “clear implementation plans” to outline how it will achieve its waste reduction targets, says the Local Government Association (LGA) in response to DEFRA’s consultation on environmental targets. The consultation, which was launched earlier this year and closed at the end of June, proposed targets including the halving of residual waste going to landfill or incineration by 2042, excluding major mineral wastes, compared with 2019 levels. The UK produces 560 kilograms of residual waste per capita.

Market update

England’s Environment Agency (EA) was entitled to withdraw permission for the export of hazardous waste to an island in Norway, according to a court judgment in a case examining whether waste was being sent for disposal or recovery. The claimant, New Earth Solutions (West) Ltd, brought a claim for judicial review of a decision by the EA to withdraw consent for the export of hazardous air pollution control residues (APCr) to Norway, but lost according to a decision issued in July. 

The Oslo-based Klemetsrud EfW plant will be the “world’s first” such facility to have full-scale carbon capture technology installed. France-based Technip Energies said it has been awarded the EPC contract for the project by Hafslund Oslo Celsio for the project at the EfW plant. 

UK trade body the Wood Recyclers’ Association (WRA) says biomass suppliers, including local authorities and waste management companies, need to prepare for cost increases. Recent “sky-high prices” for diesel and electricity are placing additional costs on businesses. Wood recycling is “particularly impacted due to its reliance on heavy machinery, such as shredders… it is also dependent on haulage for which prices have shot up”, according to the WRA.

Australian infrastructure investor Palisade Real Assets acquired UK-based renewable energy asset manager and developer Eco2 Management Services as part of plans to create a bioenergy platform focused on biogas-producing assets. It will own and operate a range of anaerobic digestion assets, and look to aggregate bioenergy infrastructure assets in what Palisade says is currently a fragmented sector, to build a “bioenergy enterprise”.

Waste-to-pellet manufacturer Waste Knot Energy (WKE) was in phase one of commissioning, before moving into the full performance testing commissioning phase at its Middlesbrough-based facility. A “full-speed” performance test was slated for August. 

Norway-based Geminor says Europe “must utilise a lot more” waste produced in Italy. It claimed the true scale of landfilling in the country was not obvious as a large part of it is composted or treated biologically before being landfilled. Geminor claims Italy sent about 20% of its household waste to landfill, which was “a substantial share” in European context, however that landfill rate “is in practice even higher”. 

Italy-based anaerobic digestion businesses A2A and BTS Biogas signed a letter of intent revealing they will work together to develop more facilities. The companies jointly said they will work on “constructing new plants and reconverting existing infrastructures that will be powered by animal and vegetable waste”. 

Facilities update: EfW

Financial close and the start of construction was confirmed for a Glasgow-based 350,000t/yr EfW plant after Macquarie Asset Management’s Green Investment Group (GIG) joined the project. GIG is partnered with Finland-based Fortum, which had been on the project since 2019. The move also sees GIG return to the UK EfW sector, having sold its shares in four EfW plants to Covanta for an unspecified fee in March this year.  

EfW plant developer Northacre Renewable Energy Limited (NREL) appealed to the Planning Inspectorate citing “non-determination” over the ongoing delay to its Wiltshire-based project. NREL said it does “not believe [Wiltshire Council] will determine the planning application either way during July. The council, later in the month, withdrew its support for the project. 

The Planning Inspectorate confirmed it has sent its recommendation regarding the Boston Alternative Energy Facility (BAEF) to the government. However, the UK’s leadership is currently in a state of flux with the prime minister stepping down following a series of ministerial resignations. 

MVV submitted an application for its Medworth-based plant to the government. The Planning Inspectorate confirmed it received the application on 7 July and accepted it just under a month later. The project has a listed “maximum gross capacity” of 58MWe, putting it above the 50MWe threshold that local authorities can decide on. MVV has previously indicated about 53MWe would go to the national grid and the facility could “potentially” produce steam for heat supply.

Local authority Cheshire West and Chester Council approved plans by developer Peel NRE to add a number of facilities to its Protos site in north-west England. A MRF, two plastics recycling facilities, a polymer laminate recycling facility and a hydrogen refuelling station were all approved. 

Seven months on from missing a self-imposed deadline to decide on a 150,000t/yr EfW facility in Pitsea, local authority Essex County Council appears no closer to a decision. EWB contacted both the council and the plant’s developer Clearaway for an update on the project, but in their responses neither offered a statement on why the plant had been stuck in the planning process for so long. 

The EA granted Cory a draft environmental permit covering the expansion of its current EfW plant in south-east London. Should it get the go-ahead to make the draft into a full permit, Cory’s EfW plant would be expanded to have an electrical capacity of 80.5MWe and a maximum waste-processing capacity of 850,000t/yr. 

The Highland Council revealed a £58m (€68.5m) deal with Viridor for waste to be taken to the latter’s Dunbar-based EfW plant. The deal is for an initial five-year period is due to start in January next year. It includes a “three-year possible extension”, according to the council, which estimates  up to 72,000t/yr of residual waste will be treated through the contract. 

Local authority-owned South London Waste Partnership (SLWP) said contractual penalties will be applied to Viridor over a series of emission breaches at its Beddington-based EfW plant. SLWP said that during May and June there were a “total of six exceedances of the emissions limits at Beddington”, five of which breached the facility’s environmental permit. Earlier this year Viridor revealed it was planning to expand the amount of waste the plant could process each year from its current 300,000t/yr to 382,000t/yr.

Ireland-based Eqtec revealed engineering consultancy Petrofac will be its FEED contractor for its new RDF-processing plant in Teesside. The 200,000t/yr plant will create up to 25MWe of electricity for export to the national grid, with further “potential for creating” up to 34MWth. 

An environmental permit was granted allowing the Cauldon cement plant to process up to 85,000t/yr of waste-based feedstocks. Operator Geocycle UK can store and transfer up to 500 tonnes a day of RDFl and/or SRF. Geocycle is the industrial and municipal waste management subsidiary of cement giant LafargeHolcim and, along with Cauldon in Staffordshire, it also supplies another cement plant in Cookstown, Northern Ireland.

Facilities update: Biomass

Aviva submitted a long-awaited environmental statement as part of its appeal over a decision made by Vale of Glamorgan Council, which ruled that the beleaguered facility in Barry, on the coast of south Wales, was not built in accordance with its planning consent, and should be torn down. Aviva had asked for an extension in July, but Planning and Environment Decisions Wales (PEDW) said a “lengthy extension would not be in the interests of an effective enforcement system”.

Majority biomass-fired power station Drax revealed a series of new measures aimed at allowing it to supply more power through the coming winter, including an extension to potential coal firing. Drax is “reprofiling biomass generation and supply”, moving it from the summer to the winter. The power station says this will “enable” it to maintain power supply throughout the winter “when demand is likely to be higher”. Drax also confirms the UK government has “requested” that it sign an agreement under which its two remaining coal-fired units “will remain available to provide a winter contingency service to the UK power system from October 2022 until the end of March 2023”. 

In a related development, Drax’s negative emissions gasification (NEG) technology project was dropped. The project was not among those taken forward to phase two of the UK’s ‘direct air capture and greenhouse gas removal programme’, which was announced in July. Drax confirmed the project was not taken forward due to “commercial reasons”, but did not elaborate further. 

Sweden-based Vattenfall tendered for the construction of a biomass-fired project in Berlin, saying the project presents “a significant challenge”. The new facility will replace the coal-fired Heizkraftwerk Moabit plant with a heat-producing 90MWth biomass-fired facility. However, the “integration and erection” of the new facility “in the restricted space” of a former coal yard next to operating plants are likely to pose difficulties, according to Vattenfall. 

Facilities update: Biogas

Multinational utility company Engie and logistics business CMA CGM revealed plans to build their first biomethane-producing plant together. The Salamander project is pending a final investment decision “in late 2022”, but could be built in the French port of Le Havre. 

Utility company Hoogheemraadschap Hollands Noorderkwartier started a market consultation on its plans to restart a biogas producing facility. The company is looking to use “redundant process installation” already on its site from an old facility. The company states “the idea is to use a 100% redundant setup”, where it can produce up to 2.2 million cubic metres of biogas a year at a location in Beverwijk. 

The under-construction Evercreech Renewable Energy biogas plant secured an environmental permit. It allows the facility to process up to 90,000t/yr of “packaged or unpackaged solid wastes, or pumpable liquid wastes”. The facility applied for the permit in February and has also previously stated it will be operational “early” this year. 

Sefton Council granted planning changes to Ireland-based Eqtec’s Southport facility, allowing “phase one” of the development to move forward. Phase-one plant is now consented to process up to 80,000t/yr and would be able to produce six million cubic metres of biomethane for injection into the national grid. The facility would also have an electricity-generating capacity of 9MWe, with this also exported to the grid.

Biogas plant owner Corbiere Renewables was sold to investor Bio Capital for an undisclosed fee. Former owners Downing LLP and Raynham Estate confirmed they had sold the company, which built, owns and operates a facility near Fakenham in Norfolk. The plant, which opened in 2015, is the latest facility to be snapped up by Bio Capital, which was established in 2018 as a joint venture between investors Helios and Equitix. 

Anaerobic digestion plant developer Charlton Park Biogas applied for an environmental permit for its Wiltshire-based facility. The facility itself is designed to treat 50,000t/yr, which will be a mix of broiler manure liquid food waste. All of the biogas collected in the digesters will be fed into the biogas upgrading system, including the addition of propane, to create biomethane. 

Newtone Agriscapes confirmed that planting of a multi-purpose perennial crop – marketed as Sunergy – is under way at farms in Kent, Sussex, Lincolnshire, Wales and Northern Ireland. Sunergy can be used in anaerobic digestion and has a “dry matter yield” that is about 80% of the yield of maize silage. 

Powerhouse Energy (PHE) confirmed it is the partner of fellow UK-based Hydrogen Utopia International (HUI) in the development of a plant based in Tipperary, Ireland. PHE has signed a heads of terms agreement with HUI for the “proposed joint development of a site at Lanespark”. The facility would be PHE's first operational full-scale waste plastic-to-hydrogen facility outside of the UK. It would be equipped with PHE’s waste-gasification technology, if built

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