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Turning waste into cement.

AcuComm has covered several projects in the Middle East recently which seek to make use of waste more directly than simply burning it to generate electricity. The three projects below all turn waste – be it municipal or industrial – into fuel which is then used as an alternative source of energy in nearby industrial plants; cement works, in all three cases here. Two of the projects convert waste into RDF (refuse derived fuel), while one converts it to various forms of biofuel.

On 18th April 2019, Geocycle Egypt Company, a member of Lafarge Holcim group, officially opened a new biofuel plant in Ain Sokhna, Suez governorate, Egypt. This will convert agricultural, industrial and municipal waste into various types of biofuel, including diesel, mazut and gas, for use in the company’s nearby cement works, replacing existing fuel sources. It has capacity to produce 400,000 tonnes annually of alternative fuel. According to the company, the facility is equipped with cutting-edge technologies and is the largest in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The total cost of the project amounted to E£200 million.

In Iraq, a facility is currently under construction in the northern city of Suleymaniyah. This uses mechanical/biological treatment to create RDF from municipal and construction waste. It is being constructed by the Faruk Group, which will then use the RDF to partially power its own cement works. The plant is designed for an annual throughput capacity of 380,000 tonnes. It will be in operation seven days a week with two operation shifts and one cleaning and maintenance shift per day. The plant will use equipment from Eggersmann Recycling Technology, and is expected to become operational by the end of 2019.

A similar project was announced in April 2018 in the United Arab Emirates. This will create RDF from municipal waste in Umm Al Quwain Emirate, to be used in various cement works in the country. In December 2018, Pioneer Cement Industries, a subsidiary of Oman’s largest cement manufacturer, Raysut Cement, reported that it has signed an agreement with Emirates RDF to be one of the first cement plants in the region to use RDF in its production plant. On 3rd May 2019, Griffin Refineries, the project’s sponsor, announced that it has reached financial close for the project. Construction will start in May 2019, with operations due to commence from September 2020.

All three projects neatly illustrate how waste can be more than a problem to be solved, and instead a resource which can be exploited. All things being equal it certainly can be a problem; rapid economic and demographic growth can lead to a waste management crisis in urban areas not previously equipped to deal with it, other than by the most rudimentary means. Modernisation and expansion of landfill is an option but is not particularly productive; all right if you see waste as a problem but not an opportunity. WtE incineration, the other potentially popular option, generates only an indirect benefit through boosting power to the grid and/or CHP heating. Neither is as compelling a plus in the hot, energy-rich Middle East as it is in, say, Scandinavia.

So, the creation of waste-powered fuel is a more immediate and direct financial benefit, and likely to appeal to those companies which need the fuel and public bodies alike. That a range of technologies and contractors are involved with these projects demonstrates both the demand and the various means by which fuels can be created. It also begins, in a small way, to wean Middle Eastern economies away from dependence on oil and gas, a long term aim of governments in the region.

Understanding the specific local needs of a country or region is key to deciding how best waste is likely to be profitable in that region. Another key need for growing Middle Eastern economies is fresh water, supplies of which are under increasing pressure. And here there is also waste-related investment. In 2013, Oman began looking at using MSW to generate electricity specifically to run a desalination plant. Feasibility studies conducted by Pöyry were begun in 2018. If they prove positive, Oman will then build its first WtE plant, spurred by a need not to generate electricity per se, but to provide fresh drinking water.

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