End of the road for Hertfordshire’s big WtE plans?

Efforts by Hertfordshire County Council to develop a new WtE plant suffered a major setback in July 2019, following the government’s refusal of planning permission for a 350,000 tonne, 33.5 MW facility adjacent to the Rye House Power Station at Ratty’s Lane, Hoddesdon, 22 miles to the northeast of London.

hertfordshire Source: Bing Maps/Ordnance Survey. Find the site’s location at 51.753265, 0.013762

Plans for the Hoddesdon plant were drawn up in 2016 and approved by the council in 2017. However, the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) ‘called in’ the application in February 2018, meaning a public inquiry needed to be held. This took place in the summer of 2018. The process ended in July 2019 when the Secretary of State rejected the application. He cited two main reasons: firstly, there would be ‘significant adverse landscape and visual impacts’, and secondly, the road access to the site is considered insufficient for the proposed volume of heavy goods traffic the plant would generate. The complete published decision can be read here.

The decision also spells bad news for Veolia, as Hertfordshire council felt it had no option but to terminate its 2011 agreement with the company on 8th August 2019. The failure of the Hoddesdon plan follows an earlier rejection by the government of a similar WtE project to be built by Veolia at New Barnfield, just to the south of Hatfield and to the west of Hoddesdon. While the county council gave the site the go ahead in 2012, the government overturned this in July 2014. This decision was confirmed on appeal in July 2015 and the project was cancelled.

Hertfordshire’s fruitless search for additional waste capacity has therefore now been going on for nearly a decade. There is general agreement on the need to reduce waste sent to landfill and deal with waste more locally, and broad agreement that WtE is the best option. But there is no agreement on where such a site might be located.

The county has very little local waste disposal capacity, and therefore an historic reliance on landfill and sending waste to other parts of the country to be disposed of. While only around 26% of Hertfordshire’s residual waste is sent to landfill, the tonnage rose by 21% in 2017/18, to 64,112 tonnes. Most of the remainder is sent to WtE plants outside Hertfordshire.

hertfordshire-graph Source: Hertfordshire Waste Partnership,Annual Report 2017/18

The diagram below shows where Hertfordshire’s residual waste is sent. The only major disposal site in the county is the Westmill landfill, to the northwest of Ware. This is operated by Biffa. It opened in the 1980s and is, according to Biffa, one of the busiest landfills in the country, accepting around 500,000 tonnes of waste each year. The vast majority of this is, presumably, from outside Hertfordshire. Two other landfill sites are used: Bletchley in Buckinghamshire and Milton in Cambridgeshire. Both are operated by FCC Environment. Three WtE sites are used: Ardley in Oxfordshire, Edmonton in north London (itself the subject of ongoing and controversial redevelopment plans), and Greatmoor in Buckinghamshire.

hertfordshire-waste Source: Hertfordshire Waste Partnership Annual Report 2017/18, page 41

What happens next is unclear, although nothing is likely to develop in a hurry following the termination of the Veolia agreement. There appears to be no other site or partnership in the pipeline at present. Existing arrangements can be rolled forward, but before long the issue will need to be revisited. Hertfordshire County Council has noted that the collapse of the Hoddesdon plan ‘…leaves us with a substantial problem as we’re running out of options for dealing with the residual waste Hertfordshire currently produces, and with 100,000 new homes expected in the county in the next 15 years we urgently need more waste treatment capacity. In the short term we will have to continue transporting hundreds of thousands of tonnes of waste to other parts of the country for treatment which is expensive and bad for the environment.’

Interestingly, while the Veolia plan has been terminated, Ratty’s Lane is a well-established site for waste plants. Firstly, a smaller private WtE facility is being built there. This is a 10 MWe gasification plant, to be powered not by municipal waste but by RDF from the commercial and industrial sectors. This too has been subject to a number of delays, although not in this case planning-related. Work began in 2015 and, according to its developer, Bioenergy Infrastructure Group, the plant is currently expected to be operational some time in 2019. Secondly, Biogen UK has a 3 MW AD plant powered by food waste there. This has annual capacity of 65,000 tonnes and became operational in 2016. As I’ve mentioned before, small may or may not be beautiful, but it is far less likely to fall foul of planning laws.

Trial project to produce biogas from grass waste

Last month, contractor Jos Scholman, the Hoogheemraadschap De Stichtse Rijnlanden (HDSR) water board, government body Rijkswaterstaat (RWS) and waste management company Attero jointly announced plans to start a trial project in February for the generation of biogas from roadside and canal-side grass. The trial will last six months and should generate knowledge about the yield and quality of biogas and the quantity and composition of the residual product (digestate) when grass alone is used. The special feature of this trial is that there is no manure involved in the fermentation process, which is usually the case.

A previous study by Jos Scholman in Utrecht revealed that the maintenance of roadsides, public gardens and ditches yielded 60,000 tonnes of grass and 1,000 tonnes of water plants each year, all of which was composted. If successful, the new trial will not only lead to the production of biogas from this resource, while also eliminating the requirement to collect and transport large quantities of manure and slurry, but also prevent the redistribution of litter and the reintroduction of invasive species such as knotweed back into the soil via traditional composting methods.

AcuComm currently lists 35 active AD/biogas projects which principally involve grass and related feedstocks, but do not rely on animal manure. These have a combined total value of US$548 million, or US$16 million each on average. Total average power generation is 75 MW, or around 2 MW per project. The bulk of current investments are in the UK or USA, with Germany, Korea and Canada also being significant.

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Written by Ian Taylor, Senior Editor & Research Consultant.

#Editor’sPick – Biomass & Biogas Plants

Japan – Biomass Plant

Construction of a ¥20 billion biomass plant

Toshiba will be investing ¥20 billion in a new biomass power plant that will be built next to its existing facility in Omuta.

Providing planning goes as scheduled, construction should start in autumn 2019, with operations commencing in spring 2022.

Find out more about this project.

Belgium – Biogas Plant

Development of a biogas plant and associated facilities

Last month, it was announced that IOK Afvalbeheer’s new dry fermentation biogas plant in Beerse and Merksplas has been connected to the natural gas network.

The plant, which is the first of its kind in Belgium, produces 150 Nm3 of biogas per hour from the processing of garden, fruit and vegetable waste. Capacity will be expanded in a second phase to 400 Nm3 per hour.

See the full details of this project.

AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – Spain WtE Plant

Development of a waste management centre

Last week, it was revealed that Valmet had been selected to deliver a turnkey automation solution for an energy recovery facility (ERF) as part of the first phase of a waste management project in Zubieta.

Continue reading AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – Spain WtE Plant

AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – Serbia Biomass Plant

Development of a biomass heating plant

Planning is underway for the development of a biomass heating plant in Novi Pazar. The city will work on preliminary design plans and documentation for a construction permit, which is hoped to be in place by the end of the year.

Continue reading AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – Serbia Biomass Plant

#Editors’Pick – Waste management & biofuel facilities

Saudi Arabia: Development of waste management facilities

A sustainable central utilities facility is to be constructed in PlasChem Park, which is located adjacent to the Sadara Chemical Complex.

Industrial wastes will be incinerated, which will recover heat to produce a usable steam by-product. As well as this, the facility will produce cooled water and compressed air for PlasChem Park tenants to use.

Catch up with the latest from this project.

Spain: Development of a biofuel plant

Enerkem has revealed to AcuComm that reports that itself and SUEZ are planning to open a plant for the conversion of municipal solid waste (MSW) into biofuel are correct.

Located in El Morell, Tarragona, the facility will use the raw material generated in Catalonia’s Ecoparcs, where only 10% of waste is currently recycled. Around 265,000 tonnes of green methanol will be produced from the waste, mainly plastic, paper and textiles.

Find out more from this project.

Global Waste Investment Fact File: Latvia

Latvia is the next country focus of our Global Waste Investment Fact File series. As of February 2018, AcuComm was listing 17 projects in the country. These have a total value of US$702 million or US$41 million each.


Key points from this Fact File

  • Incineration (with energy recovery) is the leading project type, accounting for US$666 million or 95% of the total. This is followed by biofuel, accounting for US$27 million or 4% of the total.
  • The total estimated capacity of these projects is 3.3 million tonnes. This is equal to 195,674 tonnes per project on average and 415% of Latvia’s estimated annual waste generation.
  • Waste investments totalling US$359 million are expected to become operational over the next few years. This is currently expected to peak in 2020 at US$155 million.
Download this Fact File.

Explore the full list of projects in Latvia.

#Editors’Pick – Biomass & WtE plants

Spain: Development of a 50 MWe biomass plant

Ence is planning to develop a biomass power plant on the site of the failed Elcogás central gasification plant in Puertollano.

Sener Ingeniería y Sistemas will be constructing the facility, which will use agricultural, forestry and agroindustrial biomass as feedstock, producing up to 400,000 MWh of electricity and 149 MWth of heat each year.

Continue reading #Editors’Pick – Biomass & WtE plants

AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – Singapore Biogas Plant

Construction of a biogas plant at a poultry farm

Acropower (a joint venture between Acromec and Green Energy Resources) is to build, own and operate a new organic waste biogas plant on Chew’s Agriculture’s future poultry farm site in Lim Chu Kang.

Continue reading AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – Singapore Biogas Plant

#Editors’Pick – Ethanol & biogas plants


AcuComm’s Senior Editor and Research Consultant, Ros Smallman, gives us a rundown of some of the top projects covered in the past week.

Brazil: Construction of an ethanol plant

Cerradinho Bioenergia is planning to develop a new corn ethanol production plant in Chapadão do Céu. Once complete, the facility will allow the company to diversify its source of raw materials to produce biofuel and animal feed products, including oil and dried distillers grains with solubles.

Continue reading #Editors’Pick – Ethanol & biogas plants