The persistence of landfill

An unusual new project turned up in the AcuComm database last week. The Ibaraki Prefecture in Japan, just north of Tokyo, is looking at the possible creation of a new landfill site for industrial waste. This is unusual because Japan sends very little waste to landfill. Space is at a premium, and the local press reports that no new landfill has opened in Ibaraki since 2005. New capacity is needed as all local landfill capacity is close to being filled.

It’s worth remembering that landfill is still the way most of the world deals with its waste. It is still the principal means of final waste disposal in the US, for example. WtE has never really caught on there and doesn’t look likely to do so in the near future. The same goes for Australia and New Zealand; both developed countries with plenty of space to bury waste. In all three of these, all legal landfill is closely regulated and controlled. In the developing world, there is a technology curve, as national and municipal governments seek to progress from uncontrolled dumping in fields or rivers to managed landfill.

The European perspective is very different. For at least two decades, EU regulations have reduced the commercial feasibility of landfill to a point where its use is negligible in many countries and is falling fast in most others. So landfill might not seem an interesting area of investment, but outside Europe there is plenty going on.

AcuComm currently has 358 active landfill projects in its database. These are worth just under US$8.0 billion, or around US$22 million each on average. The USA is by far the leading country for investment in landfill, accounting for 136 projects worth US$3.8 billion, or 48% of the global value. The main area of activity is the provision or expansion of landfill gas generation equipment, followed by creation or expansion of municipal landfill capacity, and development of specialist capacity for industrial or hazardous waste.


Outside the US, the principal countries for new landfill investment are Australia, Canada, China, India, Russia, Tajikistan and the UK. All have ten or more active projects. The UK looks the odd one out in that list, but it’s worth remembering that landfill was the main means of disposal in the UK barely more than a decade ago. New investment in the UK is centred on not on new muncipal sites but on expansion of landfill gas, provision of hazardous landfill capacity, and renovation/restoration of old landfill to other uses. Tajikistan is not a country that figures often; there are ten sites earmarked for modernisation and expansion, with international funding assistance. None are beyond the planning stage yet, however. Opportunities in the landfill sector occur around the world; AcuComm currently has active projects in 63 countries. You can explore them all here.


Not all waste projects will succeed

This week I’d like to talk about failure. Or to put it another way, what ways do we have at AcuComm to analyse the likely success of any given waste sector investment, and what conclusions can be drawn from this analysis? It’s a worthwhile exercise for anyone interested in plotting the current and future shape of the global waste management sector.

Between 2014 and 2018, AcuComm reported on 5,161 waste investments around the world. Of these, 200 have since been confirmed as either cancelled, indefinitely postponed or no longer operating. This equals 3.9% of the total. But the true figure is likely to be a bit higher than that, as there is naturally a time lag between a project’s announcement and its cancellation. The confirmed failure rate for projects announced in 2014 is 7.2%, as of February 2019, while for projects recently-announced in 2018, it is only 0.7%.

graph1 Source: AcuComm database, February 2019

The AcuComm database shows a clear inverse correlation between the innovativeness of a project and its chances of success. By far the riskiest forms of investment in the 2014-18 period were projects involving gasification and related technologies. We reported on 151 of these, 22 of which have been confirmed cancelled; a failure rate of 14.6%, compared with the 3.9% average. Other above-average failure rates can be seen in the biofuels and AD/biogas sectors, at 6.9% and 4.3% respectively. In contrast, incineration projects had a failure rate of 3.1%.


Source: AcuComm database, February 2019

Over the 2014-18 period, three countries account for the highest level of failure rates. Among the major investment markets, Canada is the highest, with 18 failures out of 206, equal to 8.7%. Next is the USA with 69 out of 955, or 7.2%, and the UK with 34 from 516, or 6.6%. Failure rates in leading continental European markets appear to be far lower, as indeed they are also in Asian markets such as China or Japan.


Source: AcuComm database, February 2019

There are numerous factors in play here. On the face of it, it’s counterintuitive to expect Canada to be an inherently riskier market than France or China.

Richer, more developed markets have the money to invest in new technologies and are often home to those companies proposing more advanced technological solutions. Conversely, these markets often have the greatest pitfalls in the form of planning or environmental regulatory hurdles.

The greater the level of private sector involvement in the provision of waste management services, the ‘riskier’ projects will be put forward. Companies in these areas are, initially at least, more open to divulging and discussing their proposed activities, not least because they have a greater need to attract and retain backing from investors.

This is doubly true in markets where there is significant private involvement in the provision and management or waste services (as opposed to construction or equipment supply & maintenance). In this case, there is often far more openness about future planning. Where services are predominantly state-run, there is often less access to information about ongoing projects and, quite possibly, a greater degree of conservatism when deciding which solutions and technologies to opt for.

In summary, some markets are more likely to be profitable locations for more advanced technologies, and these can be expected to experience the highest failure rates. At the same time, some markets are more open to provision of data by suppliers and management corporations. Finally, the heartening news is that the great bulk of waste sector investments do eventually become operational. The AcuComm database is a great way to gauge the environment for a wide range of investments across the sector.

Written by Andy Crofts, Chief Data Analyst.

#Editors’Pick – WtE & Biomass Facilities

China: Construction of an RDF-fuelled WtE plant

Earlier this month, Valmet announced that it has signed a contract with Ürümqi Jinghuan Environmental & Energy for a two boiler RDF-fuelled WtE plant in China. The plant will have an annual throughput of 1 million tonnes of RDF (produced from 100% MSW). Heat and power production is expected to start by the end of 2019.

Find out more about this project.

Germany: Construction of a biomass cogeneration plant

Urbas Energietechnik is reported to have been commissioned by Holzindustrie Schweighofer to be the contractors of construction for a new €24 million biomass cogeneration in Germany. The plant will have a capacity of 21.3 MWth and 5.5 MWe – relying solely on natural bark and forest biomass for fuel at the plant. Commissioning of the plant is expected to take place in spring 2020.

Find out more about this project.

AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – UK WtE Facility

Development of a 49.5 MW WtE facility

North East Lincolnshire Council has approved North Beck Energy’s plans to build a 49.5 MW waste-to-energy (WtE) facility in Immingham. It will process up to 500,000 tonnes of household and commercial waste each year, producing steam, hot water and electricity.

Continue reading AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – UK WtE Facility

AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – Turkey MBT Facility

Development of a solid waste mechanical biological treatment facility

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has invited proposals for technical consultancy services for a new solid waste mechanical biological treatment facility (MBT) in Gaziantep.

Continue reading AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – Turkey MBT Facility

AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – Denmark Biogas Plant

Development of a biogas plant using chemical factory waste

    Ørsted has confirmed to AcuComm that commissioning is in the early stages at a new biogas plant in Kalundborg, Zealand. The process will be completed in multiple steps over the coming weeks, with the official inaugurated planned for June 2018.

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

AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – Martinique Biomass Plant

Development of a 40 MW biomass plant

Albioma Galion’s new biomass plant is due to start operations in the second quarter of 2018, as construction continues following delays due to Le Tribunal Administratif de Fort-de-France cancelling the company’s authorisation to operate the facility.

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

#Editors’Pick – Biomass plants in Mexico & Japan


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

Mexico: Inauguration of a 50 MW biomass plant

Grupo PIASA, a company led by bottlers that are part of the Mexican Coca-Cola industry, recently inaugurated a new 50 MW biomass plant in Oaxaca. The plant will process the sugarcane bagasse that is produced from the milling process, using it to generate steam and electricity to supply the mill with.

Continue reading #Editors’Pick – Biomass plants in Mexico & Japan

AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – Finland Biomass Plant

Construction of a 70 MWe biomass plant

At the start of January, Oulun Energia announced that it would be building a new combined heat and power (CHP) biomass power plant in Oulun. Since then, various contracts have been awarded, including:

  • Supply of multifuel boiler and flue gas treatment system – awarded to Valmet
  • Engineering, procurement and construction management services – awarded to Pöyry
  • Supply of 75 MWe steam turbine and generator along with associated peripherals and automation – awarded to Siemens Osakeyhtiö

When complete, which is scheduled for November 2020, the new plant will replace the Toppila 1 nuclear power plant.

To take a look at the latest updates from this project, click here.