EWB Insight report : Nov 2022

This month: Nature Energy sold for €1.9bn, row over banning UK waste exports, a big waste deal for Biffa, developments in CCS and a full facilities round up

Nature Energy’s €1.9bn sale shows strength of biogas post Ukraine invasion 

The biogas market came of age in November with fossil fuel giant Shell shelling out nearly €2bn for one of the industry’s biggest players Nature Energy. 

The Denmark-based business was thrust into the spotlight following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and subsequent sanctions restricting the supply of natural gas. 

Nature Energy currently operates 14 biogas plants, with vast volumes of biomethane production available, mainly in its native Denmark. 

However, it has plans to develop around 30 further plants on an “industrial scale” in Europe and North America. 

And now with the backing of Shell’s vast financial resources and its drive to move away from fossil fuels, biogas capacity looks set to grow massively going forward.   

Policy update 

The Environment Agency (EA) has confirmed only eight shipments of waste registered as transfrontier shipments (TFS) have been sent back to England over the past seven years. Revealed in an FOI, the value of financial guarantee called on to cover the repatriation costs was £0, meaning it was covered by the waste exporter or producer. The results indicate waste dumped by the road side in Turkey or left rotting on quays is sent through the greenlist system. 

In a related development, UK MPs called for a blanket ban on exports after hearing evidence that plastic waste was not being recycled as expected after it was shipped abroad. The MPs want to ban all plastic waste from the UK by 2027 in an effort, they said, to “reduce the country’s contribution to global plastic waste pollution”.

The UK government confirmed it will tax the profits of energy facility owners under a new “electricity generator levy”. The levy means generators coming under its scope will be subject to a 45% tax charge on a measure of “exceptional generation receipts”. Larger EfW and biomass-fired facilities are covered. 

EfW plant projects moving to financial close slowed dramatically this year with only one deal signed off so far in 2022, totalling 350,000 tonnes of new capacity through Fortum’s Glasgow-based EfW has made financial close, EWB revealed. The number of UK-based EfW plants gaining planning consent dropped this year. Figures compiled by EWB show that up to today 1.3Mt of capacity has been passed by planning bodies this year. However, in the three years to this year an average of 2.8Mt of capacity had gone through the planning process.

The EA released details of permit breaches across EfW and biomass-fired facilities revealing a total of 262 breaches.The most breaches at one facility occurred at the 20MWe Mersey Bioenergy facility in Widnes, which processes 140,000t/yr of waste wood a year and is operated by BWSC on behalf of its owners, the Bioenergy Infrastructure Group (BIG).

Wales sent more waste to landfill as tonnages going to both energy recovery and recycling dropped, new figures confirmed. The latest figures from the Welsh government, showed its recycling rate remains above the statutory target of 64% at 65.2% for the period covering April 2021 to March 2022. However, this is a fall from 65.4% in the same period between 2020 and 2021. Overall, 77,686t went to landfill in 2021/22, which was an increase from 72,200t in the previous period between 2020/21. The increase in landfilling is particularly disappointing in Wales, as it had been almost halved from 114,101t in 2019/20 to the 2020/21 figure as several energy-from-waste plants went online in the country. The figures also showed waste sent to energy recovery fell slightly from 422,802t in 2020/21 to 422,776t in 2021/22. 

The UK government has made an amendment to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill to allow ministers to shorten the timescales of development consent order (DCO) applications, arguing that the move will help infrastructure schemes gain consent "up to 50% faster".

The EA has taken away the environmental permit for Lancaster-based A1 Supa Skips Ltd. The EA said it had acted “to protect the environment from harm”, but did not go into further detail. An image issued with the release shows waste poorly stored in a site at the Lune industrial Estate, where the business operates.

Market update 

Local authority Leicestershire County Council struck a deal with Biffa for the “treatment of post 2020 residual waste”. The deal has a minimum duration of eight years, but could be extended by periods of one or more years to a maximum of 25 years. As a result, the potential total contract varies from between £150m (€174m) to £650m (€755m) over the potential 25-year period and subject to the total tonnage treated. Biffa and Covanta are jointly developing the Leicestershire-based 350,000t/yr Newhurst EfW plant, which last month moved to the hot commissioning stage, having also last week secured an environmental permit. 

Several EfW plants in south-east England and the Thames Estuary revealed plans to work as partners as part of the Bacton Thames Net Zero (BTNZ) Cooperation Agreement. The BTNZ initiative is being supported by the North London Waste Authority’s (NLWA), Cory, Enfinium, MVV Environment and SSE Thermal. The BTNZ initiative, which has been convened by Eni UK, will explore the feasibility of capturing, transporting and storing at least 10t/yr of CO2 emitted from the region in the Hewett depleted gas field, off the North Norfolk coast in the North Sea – a site with capacity to store 330 million tonnes of CO2. 

Biogas plant builder and operator Biogest sold a €20m stake to the Eiffel Investment Group. Austria-based Biogest confirmed the move in a statement saying its management will remain in overall control of the business, but that the money would be used as a “quasi-equity facility” to boost its biomethane investment platform. 

Hydrogen-producer TES is hoping its technology to combine hydrogen with recycled CO2 will help decarbonise EfW plants across Germany and Switzerland. TES is working with the Swiss Association of waste-to-energy plants operators (VBSA) to create a “closed loop” to capture and transport CO2. TES’s Hub in Wilhelmshaven, Germany, is in the process of being connected to several industrial sites, the company said. 

UK-based CCUS-technology supplier Carbon8 and Netherlands-based investor Return Carbon have struck a deal to push the former’s technology in the Belgian and Dutch markets. The two new partners are targeting “key industrial sectors”, which include EfW and biomass-fired facilities.

EfW plant operator EEW Energy from Waste received its first environment, social and governance (ESG) rating. EEW achieved a “medium risk” rating with a score of 23.4 points, which the company said would give it the “edge” in the reputational market and as a result allow it access to a broader base of investors for capital market finance such as bonds and borrower’s note loans.

Netherlands-based N+P confirmed it has all the consents and permits for its new Subcoal-production facility in Isbergues, France. N+P said the facility would be able to process nearly 140,000t/yr of waste, which will be diverted from landfill. It is expected to start operations in 2024. 

Cleantech specialist Clean Planet Energy announced a joint venture (JV) with private equity firm Crossroads Real Estate to deliver 10 advanced waste plastic processing facilities across the UK. The JV will initially fund Clean Planet Energy’s ecoPlant, which is currently under construction in Teesside. This will be the first of 10 new facilities that both parties are seeking to build and operate, according to the company. Each plant is designed to accept 20,000t/yr of plastics. 

Facilities update: EfW 

EfW plant developer R&P Clean Power confirmed it is developing a “multi-fueled conventional combustion” facility in Swadlincote. Plans have been submitted to Derbyshire County Council, the facility would have a generating capacity of 19.5MWe and process up to a maximum of 230,000t/yr. The planning application refers to the waste as “including” RDF sourced from non-hazardous residual waste. The application also states the facility will be “capable of supplying heat to local consumers by means of a future heat network”.

An “additional application” is expected by the end of November for a delayed EfW project in Essex. Essex County Council confirmed to EWB, the new application was expected for the £50m (€55.6m) project, officially known as the Archers Fields Energy Recovery Facility by the end of November. Clearaway revealed plans for the project in May 2020 for a facility on the Burnt Mills Industrial Estate in the borough of Basildon, but it has been stuck in the planning process. 

EPC contractor Novalux Energy revealed it is close to completing the first of what it hopes will be many small scale RDF processing facilities. The company is installing a 5.5MWth RDF fuelled Sugimat thermal oil boiler and 1.3MWe Turboden Organic Rankine Cycle for composting business Allium Energy. It will process 16,000t/yr.  Novalux has previously installed a waste wood and straw-fired 3.5MWth 700KWe CHP system using the same technology, at the Goodwood Estate in West Sussex. 

Suez Recycling & Recovery UK launched a three-week pre-application consultation on its plans to build a carbon capture plant on disused land next to its EfW facility on the Haverton Hill Industrial Estate in Billingham. The proposed facility would be built on a one-hectare area and form part of the East Coast Cluster carbon capture and storage project. Funding for the main East Coast Cluster pipeline for Teesside is already in place and, if approved, the main pipeline will run through the Suez site.

EfW plant developer Rolton Kilbride’s long-held plans to develop a facility in Swindon look less likely to proceed further after new plans for a warehouse were revealed. The Swindon-based facility gained planning consent on appeal for a site at the Keypoint Business Park in 2019, having previously been turned down by Swindon Borough Council in September 2017. However, development of another facility known as Hams Hall in Birmingham, with the same capacities as the Swindon-based project, is continuing towards financial close EWB understands.

The Planning Inspectorate this month began hearing an appeal citing “non-determination” over Northacre Renewable Energy Limited (NREL’s) EfW project. The appeal is being held after local authority Wiltshire Council in April deferred until July a planning decision on the 243,000t/yr facility, prompting NREL to appeal. EWB has since reported the facility could still be developed with gasification technology, more than two years after first reporting the company had ended talks with gasification suppliers. 

Construction work was halted towards the end of November at the Edmonton-based replacement EfW plant after a worker died at the site. Main construction contractor Acciona and the NLWA confirmed the incident, which is being investigated by the police and the Health and Safety Executive. Work has since restarted.  

Also at the Edmonton site, Switzerland-based multinational ABB revealed it has overhauled LondonEnergy’s Edmonton-based EfW plant. ABB said it had “delivered a life extension and expansion project” at the EfW plant. The upgrade centred on adding a new steam turbine, which has boosted energy production by a 1,000MWh at the facility. 

Local authority Dorset Council is considering, but not committed to, a date of late December for a decision on an EfW plant project submitted to it more than two years ago. Developer Powerfuel Portland applied to build the 200,000t/yr facility in Dorset in September of 2020. 

Local authority Shropshire Council revealed plans to develop a district heating network centred on the Battlefield EfW plant. The council is “exploring” the opportunity, which would see a system served by the 90,000t/yr facility that opened in 2017, although it was operational for about two years before that. 

The EA has finally granted an environmental permit to Britaniacrest Recycling’s Horsham-based Recycling, Recovery and Renewable (3Rs) facility. The permit, which is technically a variation of one already secured for the site and Britaniacrest adds mechanical sorting of waste and the EfW facility to Britaniacrest Recycling’s site off Langhurstwood Road in West Sussex. According to the permit the site can take up to 230,000t/yr with about 180,000t/yr going to the energy-from-waste plant. 

The EA also launched a consultation into plans by Viridor to increase the capacity of its Beddington-based EfW plant by almost 35,000t/yr.The consultation, which was opened yesterday, runs until 23 December and would be the second capacity increase at the facility since it went into operation three years ago. Should this increase be granted, the facility for a further variation to the agency, which would further increase the site’s capacity to 382,000t/yr. 

The Scottish government has appointed a planning reporter to oversee the consenting of a waste-to-hydrogen facility at Rothesay Dock on the north bank of the River Clyde. In June last year, Peel revealed plans for the second facility and it secured planning consent over the summer. However, that decision was then called in. The government says waste-to-hydrogen facilities were not considered in its report, which eventually led to a moratorium on new capacity in Scotland. 

Local authority Surrey County Council signed off plans for a small-scale clinical waste thermal treatment facility able to process up to 16,000t/yr. The facility is being developed by Waste Energy Power Partners (WEPP) and NSS at a site called Trumps Farm in Chertsey. It is planned to treat hazardous waste material, consisting primarily of clinical waste. A main building would house the thermal-treatment process, which would recover heat and electricity for use on-site and for export to businesses nearby.

Waste management firm Intercommunale voor Slib en Vuilverwijdering Antwerpse Gemeenten (ISVAG) has only been given a two-year environmental permit after a row with one of its owner municipalities. ISVAG confirmed the trial permit was issued after a dispute led to its original one being scrapped in 2020 when the municipality of Aartselaar lodged an appeal against it being issued. Aartselaar, one of the 30 municipalities sending waste to ISVAG’s facility, said the permit was scrapped due to a “procedural error” caused by the regional environmental licensing committee (GOVC).

Carbon capture technology developer OCO Technology revealed it will invest £8m (€9.1m) in what it hopes could be the first of many projects in Australia. OCO said it will install its accelerated carbonation technology (ACT) processes at the Maryvale EfW in the state of Victoria.

Trade body the Italian general confederation of labour (CGIL) criticised plans to close a 70,00t/yr Livorno EfW plant. CGIL said the decision to close the plant at the end of next year was a “purely ideological choice”. The closures of the facility, which produces about 6.7MWe and 31.2MWth, will see more waste sent to landfill and increase costs for residents, according to CGIL. 

Facilities update: Biomass 

The 1.1Mt/yr MGT Teesside facility appears to be working towards full operational status, according to data tracking power generation. Current Remit data for the facility shows it had an available capacity of 250MWe on 10 November. Although the data also shows several planned and “forced outages” at the facility. 

Construction business Acciona Energía revealed it will build a large-scale biomass-fired plant in its native Spain. Acciona said the 49.9MWe facility was due to process up to 261,000t/yr of agricultural and forestry biomass “mainly from the surrounding area”. It is due to be operational in the second half of 2024, as long as it moves to construction in the H2 next year as expected. 

Engineering firm Andritz completed a deal to buy biomass and EfW plant supplier Đuro Đaković Termoenergetska postrojenja (DD-TEP). Andritz confirmed a deal had been struck, but did not give a financial value for the takeover of the Croatia-based business. 

Airline British Airways (BA) partnered with technologies companies LanzaJet and Nova Pangaea Technologies on an offtake agreement that takes forward the UK-first sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) plant. Project Speedbird aimed to process agricultural and wood waste into 102Ml/yr of SAF, which BA said it “intends to offtake all” of. 

Engineering business DP revealed it has won a contract to add straw-fired heat capacity in Grudziądz. DP said the project was a PLN100m (€21.2m) build for utility company Opec Grudziądz. The new system will be installed at the Łąkowa cogeneration facility, which currently uses a mix of 80% coal and 20% pelletised straw. However, the new unit will be able to process loose straw and will produce a maximum steam output of 15MWth. 

Ireland-based Eqtec raised €1.45m (£1.25m) in funding to support additional investments to improve the long-term sustainability of its Italia MDC gasification project located in Tuscany, Italy. The €1.45m was raised through a combination of shareholder loans and equity from Quainstone Ltd and Eqtec, each subscribing for about half of the amount. The facility, which will process around 7,000t/yr of locally sourced waste biomass each year from straw and forestry wood waste, is currently being recommissioned and is scheduled to go into commercial operation in December. 

Facilities update: Biogas 

Danish renewables fund manager Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP) secured two sites for two large industrial-scale biogas plants in Catalonia, Spain. One of the projects, in La Sentiu, has been appointed a project of strategic importance by the Catalan government. As such, the permit application for the plant is likely to be given priority by the relevant authorities. CIP says it will develop the plants – the other one will be located in Linyola – in conjunction with Spanish developer Connect Bioenergy towards an expected Final Investment Decision in 2024. 

Netherlands-based Bright Renewables confirmed it will build a biomethane-producing plant in Barcelona. Bright did not name the client but said the project was currently in the engineering phase with construction due to begin in early 2023.  Should the project go to plan, the first gas-to-grid injection is planned for the “end of summer” next year, according to the statement. 

Bright also revealed in November, it has secured a further five Scotland-based biogas builds. Four of the projects would feature upgrading systems, while the fifth would feature a CO2 liquefaction system as well as upgrading. Unusually, Bright has confirmed the owner of the projects does not want to be identified. No financial terms were released either. 

Waste management company Attero is to partner with Nordsol and Titan to produce bio-liquified natural gas (bioLNG). The company says the bioLNG will be used for the maritime transport sector.The production facility will be located at Attero's site in Wilp, the Netherlands, and is now ready to move to construction after the partners agreed to fund the project. First bioLNG is currently due in early 2024.

Utility companies Nature Energy and Makeen Energy revealed plans to boost supplies of biogas to the transportation and shipping sectors. The two said the first shovels had gone in the ground to start work on building a new facility in Frederikshavn.

Austria-based biogas plant builder Biogest and technology supplier New Zealand-based Vertus Energy announced plans to prove the potential of technology aimed at increasing energy production from biogas plants. The pair said their deal would focus on Vertus’ Brio technology, which has the potential to allow facilities to process more waste “while also delivering biogas with 60% more energy potential than ever before”.

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