The UK’s Renewable Energy Association has published the first instalment of its three-part Bioenergy Strategy, which will review the potential of bioenergy in the UK and the policies needed to deliver its potential by 2032.
The first part examines the state of play in the sector, noting that bioenergy now meets 7.4% of the UK’s energy requirements, including 11% of electricity demand, 4% of the energy required to produce heat and 2% of the transportation sector’s needs. Its benefit to the environment has been a 4% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, while the benefit to the economy is valued at £6.5 billion and the provision of 46,000 jobs.
According to the Department of Business, Energy Innovation and Science’s ‘Digest of UK Energy Statistics’ (DUKES) 2018, the contribution of bioenergy and wastes to UK energy supply has grown by a factor of more than 2.5 in the last ten years, from 250 to 623 Petajoules/year.
The importance of the sector is destined to grow even further. The UK’s Committee on Climate Change has concluded that bioenergy could provide up to 15% of UK energy demand in a low carbon economy by 2050, highlighting the important role bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) could play in decarbonising sectors such as aviation.
However, the REA points to the pipeline for future bioenergy projects being constrained by current government policy which has reduced Feed in Tariffs and adversely changed the requirements for biomass projects under the Contracts for Difference (CfD) scheme. The REA believes that no bioenergy projects are likely to be brought forward under the third round of the CfD which launches in May 2019.
The next stage of the REA’s Bioenergy Strategy will involve the development of a vision of the role that bioenergy could play in the future UK energy economy. This will look at the potential role of sustainable bioenergy in the long term (to 2050 and beyond). Importantly, the project will also focus on what contribution bioenergy can make to UK energy economy in the short term and specifically to the end of the fifth carbon accounting period in 2032. This approach recognises the inevitable uncertainties in the long term, the benefits of making early reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and the need to maintain momentum so that technology solutions, expertise, supply chains and infrastructure needed later on can be preserved and progressively developed. It will estimate the environmental and economic benefits that realising such a vision could provide, along with the costs. The third phase of the project will build on this vision and look at what government, industry and other players will need to do to enable it to be realised.
UK Bioenergy Projects. Source: AcuComm WasteView Projects database, April 2019.
Anyone reading AcuComm’s waste reports will know there is a lot going on in China. Since January 2018, AcuComm has collected information on 123 new waste projects in China. The majority of these (87, or 70%) are for WtE incineration of waste. They have a combined estimated value of US$13.2 billion, or US$106 million each, with a feedstock throughput of 46.3 million tonnes (roughly 1,200 tonnes per day on average) and power generation of 2,095 MW (17 MW each).
The map below shows the distribution of these investments; principally in the richer areas of the east, but increasingly in the major urban centres further inland. China is clearly experiencing something of a waste investment boom. Remember, these projects are just those announced over the past year.
Source: AcuComm database, March 2019
The principal driver of this investment is rapid urbanisation and economic growth, allied to a historic lack of modern waste facilities. I mentioned Shenzhen in an earlier article; this city near Hong Kong has grown from near zero to 12 million people in just a few decades. This has been the consequence of government policies, which have striven to create wealthy urban centres, largely in the east. This has been all-too successful from a waste management point of view, as modern facilities have either not been built or have been overwhelmed by demand. In recent years, the Chinese government has altered its focus to greater development of previously-poorer cities further west and inland, such as Chongqing. These places are far from empty. Chongqing municipality famously has over 30 million people, although it should be noted that the city itself accounts for only a fraction of this.
The traditional method of waste disposal in China has been, at best, landfill which is often unmanaged, or simple dumping of waste outside a city’s boundaries. This has become unpopular and increasingly difficult to ignore. No wonder therefore that China’s municipal authorities have tended to seize on waste incineration as a relatively quick and easy way to ameliorate the problem. China is building, or plans to build, some of the largest waste-to-energy facilities in the world over the next few years. There is perhaps an element of competition here, as city governments compete with each other to be seen to be addressing the issue with certainty.
So, China is a boom market for waste plants, which should gladden the international industry. But does it? The market is heavily concentrated in the hands of Chinese companies. The most important of these are China Everbright International, based in Hong Kong, and Chongqing Sanfeng Covanta Environmental Industry. A lot of waste plants have been built using Chinese companies alone, although there is a degree of technology transfer. There are a handful of European companies active in this respect, headed by Martin GmbH fur Umwelt und Energietechnik, which mainly provides equipment for Chongqing Sanfeng Covanta, as well as a few major Japanese players such as Hitachi Zosen and Mitsubishi. Equipment suppliers or contractors from the USA, Canada or the UK appear to be almost entirely absent from the market.
Why is this? It would seem that China remains a difficult market, in perception and maybe reality too. Anecdotal evidence suggests that worries about intellectual property persist, alongside a perception of bureaucracy, corruption and political interference. Nor should China be seen as an easy place to throw up any old plant. A lot of prestige attaches to adherence to international standards, and even in these cases, developments can be held up for years in the face of popular opposition. For example, the Beijing city government has long had plans to build more plants than it has ever been politically able to do. Click here for some clips from a 2010 documentary on the subject.
A small number of companies outside China have taken the plunge, headed by Martin GmbH, which is clearly concentrating on China as a principal export market. Should others look at following suit? Waste generation in China is only going to increase as the economy expands and the average wealth of the Chinese people rises accordingly. And while the current focus appears to be squarely on WtE incineration, other areas, such as environmentally-aware recycling, sorting and advanced resource recovery, are severely under-developed but will surely be needed in future. The market may be difficult, but the opportunities are clearly there for anyone with a long term perspective.
Written by Andy Crofts, Chief Data Analyst.
Fortum welcomed in 2019 with the announcement that it is launching a ‘significant development project’ that aims to manufacture high-value products from agro-residues and woody biomass to replace the use of fossil and other environmentally taxing raw materials.
The company has received support from Business Finland for a €14.4 million, two-year project in which Fortum and collaborating technology and refining partners will conduct research into creating an industrial ecosystem in which biomass is refined in ‘bio-villages’. Demand for bio-based raw materials is growing rapidly in, for example, the textile industry. In addition to utilising woody biomass, the downstream processing opportunities for agro-biomass unsuitable for human consumption, like straw, are also being explored. The project will be part of Business Finland’s ‘Bio and Circular Finland Program’ which aims to place Finland at the forefront of the circular economy.
Fortum already has extensive experience in utilising biomass for combined heat and power production but is now planning to leverage technologies to use biomass more efficiently: separating the main components of biomass (cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin), with any remaining material combusted for energy. After fractionation, cellulose can be used to produce textiles, hemicellulose can be used as a raw material in foods and cosmetics, and lignin can be used in the production of adhesives.
The new project ties in with Fortum’s Bio2X programme which champions the development of new technologies for utilising biomass. Existing Bio2X projects include:
A biorefinery in Assam, India, being developed in collaboration with a joint venture between Numaligarh Refinery Limited (NRL) and Chempolis. Using formico-technology developed by Chempolis, the biorefinery will use bamboo as the key raw material in the production of bioethanol for blending into petrol. The biorefinery will also produce biochemicals and a biocoal which will be used to produce heat and power on-site.
Fortum Otso, a bio-oil made from forest residues, wood chips or sawdust. It is a replacement for heavy oil and reduces CO2 emissions by close to 90% compared to fossil fuels. Fortum opened its bio-oil production plant in Joenssu in late 2013.
AcuComm’s WasteView Projects database has details of 26 projects involving Fortum – the majority of these are located in Europe.
Written by Ian Taylor, Senior Editor & Research Consultant
Construction of a mechanical biological treatment facility
China Jinjiang Environment is to develop a pilot, first-of-its-kind mechanical biological treatment (MBT) facility in Tuas.
The project was initiated by the National Environment Agency to maximise recycling and resource recovery, ultimately prolonging the lifespan of the country’s only landfill.
Preparatory site work started in late 2018, with the plant expected to be operational around mid-2020.
Construction of a 75 MW biomass plant
Doosan Lentjes has revealed that it will be supplying its circulating fluidised boiler (CFB) technology for a wood-fuelled biomass power plant in Sodegaura, Chiba Prefecture.
Brazil – Ethanol Plant
Construction of a R$1 billion ethanol plant
Earlier this month, FS Bioenergia held an event to mark the start of construction of a biofuel production plant in Sorriso, Mato Grosso.
The facility will process up to 1.3 million tonnes of cereal per year, enabling it to produce corn ethanol, corn bran and corn oil. On top of this, the plant will also generate up to 130,000 MWh per year.
Japan – WtE Facility
Construction of a 463 tpd WtE facility
Back in October, Kobelco Eco-Solutions held a groundbreaking ceremony on the site of a new waste-to-energy (WtE) facility in Takasago, Hyōgo Prefecture.
IHI Environmental is supplying rotating stoker incineration technology to the facility, which is expected to be completed by March 2022.
Expansion of a biogas facility
The CEO of Doranova has advised AcuComm that expansion works on its project with Jepuan Biokaasu could start as early as October 2018, providing an investment grant is awarded by the Finnish Government.
Development of a biomass-fuelled cogeneration plant and pellet facility
A memorandum of understanding has revealed that BSW Timber is planning to construct a combined heat and power (CHP) plant and wood pellet manufacturing facility in Šoštanj and a sawmill in Gomilsko.
Development of a plant to convert waste citrus peelings into useful by-products
It was announced earlier this week that BOM Brabant Venture, DOEN Foundation and ABN-AMRO will together invest more than €1 million in the development of a new plant in the Netherlands; which will convert waste citrus peelings into useful by-products.