EWB Insight report: September 2022

This month: Essex waste deal and Viridor’s Tilbury EfW plant, Fortum targets UK-based EfW developments and Northacre developers look again at gasification technology

All eyes on Essex as EfW development take off and contract issued 

Local authority Essex County Council has started the process to deal with up to 350,000 tonnes a year of waste produced in the region for a six-year period. 

The council launched a tender, which was originally open until 31 October but has been extended until 25 November. The tender is split into three lots covering all the waste. The contract is due to start in April 2024 and run April 2030.  

While the deal favours price overall and puts the weighting for carbon “relatively low at 4%”, there are penalties for not hitting the CO2 measurements given to Essex during the bidding process.

As a result, successful companies will need to show how the CO2 from bids will be measured and managed and factor potential penalties into their costs, according to a source involved in the bidding process.

Initially, it appeared that aspect favoured Belgium-based Indaver’s Rivenhall project in Essex, and Cory, located just over the river Thames in south-east London, to the south of Essex. 

However, September also saw Viridor take forward a 350,000t/yr EfW plant in Tilbury, Essex. But the company declined to comment on whether the plant’s acquisition was a move for the Essex contract. 

Known as the Thameside Energy Recovery Facility, Viridor took on the plant for an undisclosed fee from Ireland-based utility company  Electricity Supply Board (ESB). 

For its part, ESB has one other EfW development in the UK in St Helens, known as the Greengate Energy Recovery Facility. The company has since said it is still considering the project’s future. 

Both Rivenhall and Tilbury are expected to be fully operational by 2026, as would Cory’s Riverside II expansion.  

However, both Viridor and Cory have exciting facilities nearby which could take the Essex waste when the contract starts in 2024. Indaver would need to make a deal to move the waste until 2026. 

There is also potential for another EfW plant in Essex, with a facility being developed in Pitsea. However, it is stuck in the planning process

Policy update 

Energy recovery should move up a place in an overhauled waste hierarchy and be on a par with recycling, according to an updated report by the UK-based Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE). The report follows up on and updates the institution’s 2009 Waste as a Resource report. The new report indicates little has changed in more than a decade, with the UK’s waste hierarchy, introduced in the 1990s, still viewing refuse as a “problem”.

The bioenergy sector welcomed the European Parliament's continued support for biomass-to-energy but raised concerns over a cap on its total use. In a plenary vote on the latest Renewable Energy Directive (REDIII), the parliament backed limiting the share of primary woody biomass as to be relative to the total used between 2017 and 2022, but also confirmed it as a renewable-energy source. Bioenergy Europe also said it was “concerning” that primary woody biomass would be “the only renewable source not eligible for [financial] support, creating an uneven playing field with other solutions, and this is not acceptable”.

German MEP Markus Pieper, of the EPP group, said emergency REPowerEU reforms to renewable energy deployment should be technology-neutral, and that planning permission should be automatic if authorities miss their deadlines. The move is largely seen as positive for the biomass and biomethane sectors as the EU looks to end dependence on Russia for fuel. 

UK-based carbon-capture technology developers Net Zero Teesside Power and Net Zero North Sea Storage applied for an environmental permit for their Net Zero Teesside project. England’s Environment Agency in September launched a consultation on the permit, which closed on 30 September. According to the documents, the project “will be the UK’s first commercial scale, full chain carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) project”. 

The Scottish government revealed a huge increase of more than half a million tonnes of waste going to landfill in the first figures published since the country said it had enough EfW capacity. The figures showed the total quantity of waste landfilled in Scotland in 2021 was 3.2Mt, an increase of 587,000t (22.4%) from 2020. The news of additional landfilling is especially interesting as the Scottish government in June this year “accepted” a recommendation that it did not need more energy recovery capacity, although it has recently been accused of backtracking on that. 

Two Germany-based trade bodies and the Cologne-based EfW plant operator AVG voiced “serious doubts” over the German government’s plans to add energy recovery to its fuel emissions trading act (BEHG) from the start of next year. AVG was joined by local government companies association VKU and by housing and real estate body GdW. While all three are “convinced” emissions trading is an important instrument for climate protection, none believe it is the right tool for energy recovery. 

NGO Zero Waste Europe (ZWE) raised concerns about the amount of incinerator bottom ash (IBA) and air pollution control residues (APCr) that is landfilled after waste is processed for energy recovery. Of the report a spokesperson for EfW supporting trade body CEWEP told EWB: “Unfortunately we see that ZWE only sees a glass half empty on this issue. The same numbers they cite show that more than half of the residues from incineration are recovered, which demonstrates the efforts of the sector to improve its material efficiency.” 

Norway-based waste aggregator Geminor says there is “gathering political resistance” to taxes on the EfW sector in Scandinavia. Chief executive Kjetil Vikingstad further questioned the ongoing need for taxes in Sweden, Norway and Denmark. 

UK local authority Telford and Wrekin Council rejected an application to extend the life of a landfill site by five years as it would be taking waste from outside its area. The Potters Group wanted to add five years to the lifespan of the Granville Landfill, allowing it to accept waste up to 2030. It would accept up to 1,350t a day. However, it was revealed in planning documents prepared for the meeting that refuse was sourced through a waste transfer station which is based in Welshpool, Wales. 

Market update 

Finnish utility giant Fortum is planning to expand its reach in the UK with up to three new EfW plant developments after reaching financial close on a Glasgow-based facility over the summer. Speaking to EWB, the company’s vice president of recycling and waste, Kalle Saarimaa, said it was looking at “investing in a wider portfolio in the UK” and that it also planned to bring its technological developments in carbon capture as well as incinerator bottom ash (IBA) and air pollution control residues (APCr) recycling as part of those projects. 

Waste management company Suez confirmed a deal to buy its UK-based waste-management business from Veolia. The “enterprise value” of the deal was given as £2bn (€2.2bn). The acquisition, which has been unanimously approved by Suez’s board of directors and trade unions, is still subject to the “required regulatory approvals”, according to Suez.

EfW plant developer Biffa’s board has “reached agreement” on a takeover by US-based investor Energy Capital Partners (ECP). The deal is worth £1.3bn (€1.4bn) and valued Biffa’s share at 410p.When news of ECP’s offer first broke back in June, Biffa’s shares were valued at the slightly higher price of 445p each. While the reason for the reduction is not explained, a previous stumbling block for the deal has been the potential liability Biffa faces from HMRC, regarding certain aspects of its landfill tax compliance. 

Germany-based Martin revealed a deal between it and France-based Paprec to continue the cooperation it previously shared with construction giant Constructions industrielles de la Méditerranée (CNIM). Martin said the pair had signed an “updated cooperation agreement” following the financial collapse of France-based CNIM’s EfW plant’s building arm earlier this year. Last year, Paprec completed a deal to takeover EfW plant operator Tiru. The deal followed on from Paprec taking on the operations and maintenance (O&M) EfW business of CNIM.

France-based Qair Group completed a deal to take control of UK-based Britaniacrest Recycling for an undisclosed fee. Qair intends to “diversify” Britaniacrest’s traditional recycling business and “complete the development” of the company’s EfW plant. For a number of years Britaniacrest has been developing its EfW facility in West Sussex at a site in Horsham. Its facility is currently consented to take 230,000t/yr and has a planned capacity of 21MWe.

Majority biomass-fired power station Drax revealed what it has called the “world’s biggest carbon removal deal”, after signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with carbon finance business Respira. Drax said the MoU would let Respira secure up to two million tonnes of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) certificates from Drax, which is currently developing bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) at its UK-based power station. According to the statement, Respira will be able to purchase up to 2Mt of CDRs from Drax over a five-year period, but the creation of the CDRs would be linked to the future deployment of BECCS by Drax in North America.

Staying with Drax, the power station revealed research showing that last year it contributed £1.8bn (€2bn) to the UK’s economy as well as supporting 17,800 jobs. Drax said it also plans to invest a further £3bn (€3.3bn) into the UK by 2030, which will also create “tens of thousands of jobs from as soon as 2024”. This includes funding Drax’s bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), construction of which could start as soon as 2024. 

Administrator Interpath Advisory has been brought in to Swindon-based Recycling Technologies after the business failed to gain funding to develop its technology. Founded in 2011, Recycling Technologies is a UK-based engineering company that developed a patented technology to divert plastic waste away from landfill sites, and into feedstock for new plastic production. But the company was unable to raise funding for further development of its projects. 

Scotland-based Innovative Ash Solutions (IAS) launched a new environmentally-friendly pulverised fly ash (PFA) product. IAS, a 50/50 joint venture between waste firms Levenseat and Organic Innovative Solutions, said PFA is an “increasingly scarce ingredient” used in cement production and is mainly produced by coal-fired stations during power generation. However, the closure of these stations led IAS to develop a new process, which transforms air pollution control residues from municipal waste- and biomass-fired EfW plants, to create its new PFA replacement, the first to be given ‘end of waste’ accreditation by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).

SAF-producer Velocys revealed a loss before income tax of £5.7m (€6.5m) for the first half this year. The losses were an increase on the £2.2m (€2.5) loss recorded for the same period the previous year. However, the results also reveal the company's SAF-production faces “an increasingly favourable legislative backdrop”. The company is developing a UK-based site in Immingham and two US-based facilities. 

Danish EfW plant operator Affald Ressourcer Genbrug Overskud (ARGO) revealed it will return DKK36m (€4.8m) to its customers after receiving bumper prices for its electricity output. The company attributed the move to “high market prices for electricity” and increased profits from its Roskilde-based EfW plant in the first half of this year. The money is returned to municipalities, companies and the district heating company Vestegnens Kraftvarmeselskab (VEKS), ARGO explained. 

Waste management company FCC Environment revealed the recruitment of eight new HGV drivers after an internal campaign in Central Bedfordshire. FCC said it had “retrained and upskilled”  the workers from inside its own workforce after launching a recruitment drive in August last year. However, “due to a backlog” FCC’s candidates had to wait “over six months before they could get a slot to pass their practical tests”, according to the company. A recent survey by the Road Haulage Association (RHA) put the estimated shortfall in HGV drivers at more than 100,000 and warned it would take 18 months to train enough drivers to address the problem.

Facilities update: EfW

EfW plant developer Northacre Renewable Energy Limited (NREL) is back in the market for gasification technology for its Westbury-based development, EWB can reveal. More than two years after EWB reported the company had ended talks with gasification suppliers, NREL is now reconsidering the technology as its project remains stuck in the planning process. In June this year, NREL started work at the EfW plant’s site under a previously secured planning consent from 2019, which was for the gasification technology. NREL said at the time that the move was to “facilitate access to the site”. Under the 2019, consent the facility would process 160,000t/yr instead of the 243,000t/yr under the grate-based project. 

EfW plant operator Brockwell Energy struck a deal with investor Equitix to sell its Westfield Energy Centre project. The Fife-based plant moved to construction in February this year and will be able to process up to 240,000t/yr when operational in 2025. No financial terms were disclosed for the sale, which covers Westfield Energy Recovery Limited (WERL), which is the company developing the EfW facility.  Switzerland-based Hitachi Zosen Inova is onboard to build the plant and is due to operate it under a 25-year deal, when it enters operations. 

Staying with Equitix, it and fellow investor Iona Capital confirmed to EWB their Bridgwater EfW plant was almost fully operational. In September the plant was due to be completed “within the next few weeks.” The facility is due to process up to 130,000t/yr of RDF and have an overall capacity of 9.58MWe with 7.75MWe exported to the grid.

EfW developer and operator Veolia appears to have ended plans to build its fourth Hampshire-based facility. The Alton-based project was snubbed by Hampshire County Council on 23 February, with the company launching no appeal six months on from that date. Veolia’s had planned a 330,000t/yr facility for processing residual and commercial waste and it first applied for planning consent in 2020. 

The much-delayed EfW plant being developed by Isle of Wight Council and waste management company Amey has missed its latest deadline for being operational, EWB revealed. In May this year it was reported that the troubled build was nearing completion and would be handed over in the summer. However, the council has now confirmed to EWB that the deadline was missed. When construction began at the site in May 2017 the facility was expected to be operational by summer 2019. As things stand, it is set to be operational “towards the end of the year, or early 2023”. 

Utility company Uniper has confirmed work on its planned Ratcliffe-on-Soar-based EMERGE EfW facility is continuing despite the company’s nationalisation by the German government. A deal had been reached with Uniper and Finland-based Fortum, which saw the German government take a 99% stake in Uniper. Fortum has said the deal was worth half a billion euros. Construction works are still expected to start in 2023, with the facility aiming to become operational by 2026, Uniper told EWB. 

The Environment Agency confirmed it had granted a permit allowing the expansion of Cory’s Riverside EfW plant in south-east London. The new permit – technically a variation of the site’s existing one – means the site can expand its electrical capacity to 80.5MWe and have a maximum waste-processing capacity of 850,000t/yr, an increase of 65,000t/yr.

Construction of one of the UK’s largest EfW plants has started, the local authority-owned North London Waste Authority (NLWA) confirmed in September. NLWA said parts of the site were handed over to Spain-based building contractor Acciona “a month earlier than scheduled due to the excellent progress made in site preparation”. The EfW, which replaces an ageing facility on the same scale, will use moving-grate technology with two lines giving a combined maximum throughput capacity of 43.75t/hr, which is equivalent to 700,000t/yr overall.

Utility company Midlothian Energy confirmed construction of its Edinburgh-based district heating system will start this year and its first phase is expected to be completed by 2024. Back in 2020, Vattenfall signed a deal with local authority Midlothian Council worth £100m (€112.4m) to build a heat network centred on FCC Environment’s fully operational Millerhill EfW plant.The council and Vattenfall established Midlothian Energy as a 50/50 joint venture when the heat plans were first announced. 

Wastefront Sunderland applied for a bespoke permit for a proposed used tyre recycling facility within the Port of Sunderland. The facility would be capable of processing up to 77,000t/yr of end-of-life tyres. The tyres would be treated using thermal pyrolysis, cracking and refining to produce around 24,000t/yr of carbon black and 30,000t/yr of liquid products each year for use in tyre manufacture and synthetic fuels. Steel would also be  recovered as a by-product.

Macclesfield-based Tidy Planet confirmed an order for its first full-size Small Waste Incineration Plant (SWIP). Tidy Plant said it sold the facility to developer Brooke Energy for its site in Exeter. The SWIP facility, which will process up to 24,000t/yr of RDF is “replacing a redundant biomass facility that Brooke Energy recently acquired”. 

Local authority West Berkshire Council confirmed planning consent had been given to a Reading quarry-based EfW plant after the UK government declined to call it in.  A spokesperson for the council confirmed the move to EWB during September. The confirmation follows the facility gaining planning consent in August. J Mould (Reading) is developing the 150,000t/yr facility. 

Hot commissioning of the 150,000t/yr NESS EfW facility is due this coming winter with the plant expected to be “fully operational in summer 2023”. The update was reported by Aberdeen City Council's capital programme committee, which was due to meet on 15 September. The meeting was postponed but the update was revealed in the meeting’s published agenda. The plant is being built by Spain-based Acciona, with Belgium-based Indaver set to operate it once completed. 

UK-based waste aggregator Andusia revealed signing a renewed contract with the Amager Bakke EfW plant in Copenhagen. Andusia confirmed the new three-year deal would see it supply 70,000t/yr of RDF to the 57MWe EfW plant “up to the end of 2025”. Over three years the waste shipped would total about 210,000t. 

Local authority-owned Krakowski Holding Komunalny (KHK) revealed work to boost its Kraków-based EfW facility’s electricity production is progressing. Work at the plant is currently focusing on its annual “scheduled technical inspection”. However, the statement also reveals the work is “more challenging” this year due to the “ongoing investment in heat recovery from exhaust gases” at the two-line facility. The facility was due to return to operations in September, while the heat recovery equipment is due to start working in “mid-2023”. 

Local authority Lancashire County Council pushed back a decision on plans for a medical waste-processing pyrolysis plant. The plans were due to be signed off in mid-september by the authority as they had been recommended by council officers. EWB has previously reported on the project and understands Culzean W2E Ltd, which trades as Community Power, is behind the project. The plant is due to be decided on towards the end of October. 

Welsh environmental watchdog Natural Resources Wales has launched a second consultation over plans to alter the permit of a waste-feedstock producing site. Last November, Drumcastle applied to NRW to alter its existing permit to remove the combustion of natural gas for drying waste. The permit covers a waste facility at Nine Mile Point Industrial Estate in Caerphilly, which is not yet operational. 

PX Group has been awarded a 10-year operations and maintenance (O&M) contract by ReNew ELP for the Wilton International commercial scale plastic recycling plant in Teesside. At the site, both parties will initially process more than 20,000t/yr of waste plastic during the first phase of operations. The site has scope and planning permission for additional processing lines, which would take  processing capability to over 80,000t/yr. 

Facilities update: Biomass 

The Orthios Eco Park has a new owner following the insolvency of its previous developer. The site’s original developer Orthios Eco Parks (Anglesey (Ltd) went into the insolvency process in March and the site appears to have been successfully sold over the summer, according to Hilco Real Estate Advisory. The Wales-based site was sold “following substantive interest”. EWB asked Hilco about the sale and while the company confirmed it had been sold, a spokesperson said the buyer’s identity was “confidential”. While the site has been linked to the development of a so-called UK freeport, the advert for its sale highlighted the site’s “extant section 36 consent for a 299MWe biomass power station” and “for a waste processing/recycling centre” in a 115,000 square foot building. 

Behind-the-scenes work continues at the failed Port Clarence biomass-fired project despite another year passing without the facility appearing to move forward. The 40MWe plant, which is owned by investment fund Glennmont Partners, was originally expected to have opened in September 2018 and process up to 250,000t/yr of waste wood. However, four years on, the facility remains unfinished and while there have been rumours of a conversion to processing waste, another 12 months have passed without a confirmation of the move. 

US-based investment fund Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) completed a “friendly” takeover of biomass plant and solar power business Albioma. France-based Albioma confirmed the success of the offer by KRR, which now holds 92.19% of Albioma’s capital and has applied to France’s financial regulator Autorité des marchés financiers for what in the sector is known as a “squeeze-out”, where a compulsory sale of the shares of minority shareholders of a joint-stock company for which they receive a fair cash compensation.

Ghent-based Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant agreed a deal to develop its test facility. The facility will be built by Germany-based Ruland Engineering & Consulting under a €543,490 deal. The project is designed to improve product recovery and purification (also called downstream processing or DSP). Reducing DSP, which can total up to 80% of a facility’s overall cost, is a “key” factor for successfully improving the overall economics of biobased processes, according to Bio Base.

Ireland-based Eqtec signed a deal to takeover a failed gasification-equipped plant it says it can turnaround and generate up to €10m in annual revenues from. Eqtec received final approval from France's Ministère de l'économie, des finances et de l'industrie (MINEFI) to acquire the 6.5MWe plant in Villers-sous-Montrond. Should the plant become fully operational Eqtec expected to treat about 45,000t/yr of wood waste and RDF “sourced and prepared” by Bonnefoy.

Facilities update: Biogas 

Waste management firm Suez revealed further biogas-producing plants could be developed to create a “network of key facilities across the country” as it progresses a third facility. The move was hinted at in a statement in September, where Suez confirmed it was applying for planning consent to local authority Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council for a third such project. The Darwen-based facility would be the largest of Suez’s biogas plants with a planned capacity of 100,000t/yr if it gains planning consent. 

Severn Trent Green Power and Warwickshire County Council signed a new deal to process food waste into biogas. The council said it had signed a “12-to-18-month contract” covering the treatment of food waste from homes in the area. The food waste will be treated at Severn Trent Green Power’s Coleshill facility in Warwickshire. Agrivert built the facility, which can process up to 50,000t/yr of food waste and has a production capacity of 2.4MWe.

The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency's Klimatklivet initiative granted SEK112m (€10.4m) to a new biogas development. The plant’s developer Ductor Biogas Sweden. In August, Ductor said it and CA Cedergren, which is Sweden’s largest egg producer, had agreed to build a biogas plant to process chicken manure in Mönsterås, Sweden.

Public transport company Empresa Municipal de Transportes de Madrid (EMT Madrid) revealed plans to use biogas produced in the city in some of its buses. EMT Madrid explained biogas produced at the municipality of Madrd’s Valdemingómez Technology Park will be used in the buses, starting from January 2023. The municipality initially tendered the biogas plant in 2015 and last year revealed plans to expand the facility with aims to replace the equivalent natural gas use of 20,000 Spanish homes. 

Poland’s state-owned oil and gas company Polskie Górnictwo Naftowe i Gazownictwo (PGNiG) issued a tender for developing a bio-liquified natural gas (bioLNG) facility. PGNiG plans a facility for the “purification and liquefaction of agricultural biogas into bioLNG”. 

Stirling Council approved plans for a biogas plant submitted by a dairy business. Graham’s the Family Dairy (Property) plans to build the facility, which will process up to 21,500t/yr of manure and grass silage. The council signed off the plans, saying there had been more than 100 comments submitted about the project, one supporting it, five appearing neutral, and the rest opposing the development. 

An on-farm anaerobic digestion (AD) plant using purpose-grown agricultural feedstock as well as farm-based waste was approved by local authority Lincolnshire County Council during September. Glentham Agricultural Contractors had consent for the 42,250 facility, but using only agricultural feedstocks such as maize, rye and straw. Due to rule changes the company proposed to change the feedstock so that 50% was waste or residue in order to qualify for energy subsidies.

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