How will the US improve WtE?

As we know, municipal solid waste is both a potentially valuable resource and a significant disposal problem. In the United States, more than 260 million tons (236 million tonnes) was produced in 2015, equivalent to 4.4 lbs (2kg) per person.

To address the issue, the US Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), has conducted an assessment of potential research and development (R&D) activities that could improve the economic viability of various municipal solid waste-to-energy (WtE) options.

The report identifies several R&D opportunities for cost-competitive WtE facilities:

  • Applying gasification technologies to sorted MSW to produce a syngas intermediate;
  • Lowering capital costs of next generation anaerobic digestion systems that make high-value products;
  • Converting sorted-MSW to biocrude and derivative fuels;
  • Enhancing techno-economic viability of processes for currently unrecycled plastics.

There is certainly much potential in the US for WtE projects, which are yet to gain much traction. AcuComm’s WasteView database which gives a more up-to-date perspective of the current waste environment, includes details of 231 projects in the US related to the disposal or utilisation of MSW, including 38 WtE facilities.

Interserve rescued from administration

Interserve plc’s slide into administration last week has been blamed largely on the company’s involvement in the waste-to-energy (WtE) sector. On the face of it, this development will do little to inspire confidence in the future for the UK’s waste sector infrastructure projects but coming so soon after the liquidation of Interserve’s rival outsourcer Carillion, it begs the question whether the collapse stems from exposure to the WtE industry or is more a consequence of internal corporate failings.

According to Interserve’s Chairman, Glyn Barker, things started to go wrong in mid-2016 when ‘huge problems’ began to appear in its WtE contracts. He is on record as saying, “not only did they produce huge losses and drain the company’s cash flow, but because of the unusual nature of these projects, over the following two years, as things continued to deteriorate, there remained great uncertainties about what it would cost, finally, to deal with these problems.”

Interserve’s Chief Executive of 13 years, Adrian Ringrose, left the company in November 2016 and on the following day, news emerged that its role on the Glasgow Recycling and Renewable Energy Centre (GRREC) had been terminated after Viridor claimed it had “continually and repeatedly failed to meet delivery milestones.”

Earlier, in May 2016, Ringrose had said the cost of exiting the WtE sector would be £70 million. More recent estimates put this figure at £227 million.

This morning’s breaking news is that over the weekend, a ‘pre-pack’ insolvency arrangement was put in place, administrators EY were installed and Interserve plc’s assets were immediately moved to Montana 1 Limited, a group controlled by Interserve plc’s lenders. This move means that the company will continue to operate, out of insolvency, with Montana 1 trading as Interserve Group Limited.

Where this leaves the development of the much-delayed £145 million Derby and Derbyshire Waste Treatment Centre, which was being developed by a joint venture between Interserve and Renewi, is uncertain. Operations were expected to start by the end of 2018 and while that did not materialise, Renewi and its clients, Derby City Council and Derbyshire County Council, have not given any indication that project completion will not be achieved at some stage soon.

Is forest biomass a renewable energy source?

A landmark lawsuit was filed against the European Union in early March, with plaintiffs from six countries charging that the EU’s 2018 Renewable Energy Directive (RED II) will devastate forests and increase greenhouse gas emissions by promoting burning forest wood as renewable and carbon neutral.

The case argues that RED II will accelerate widespread forest devastation and significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions by not counting CO2  emissions from burning wood fuels. Wood-fired power plants emit more CO2  per unit of energy generated than coal plants, but RED II counts these emissions as zero.  The treatment of forest biomass as low or zero-carbon renewable energy in both RED I and RED II has and will continue to increase harvesting pressure on forests in Europe and North America to meet the growing demand for woody biomass fuel in the EU.

The map below shows all wood-fired biomass incineration projects in the EU in the AcuComm database, as of March 2019. There are 358 in total, of which 215 are known to be operational. The total estimated value of the 358 is US$21.7 billion.

woodfired biomass in Europe

RED II binds EU Member States to achieve an EU-wide target of 32% energy consumption from renewable sources by 2030, and is a critical element in the EU’s overall goal to reduce carbon emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.

The use of biomass for energy, primarily solid biomass burned for heat and power (wood, agricultural residues, and black liquor, a by-product of the pulp and paper industry), increased significantly in the EU from 1990 to 2016, particularly in the years leading up to and following the 2009 RED. By 2016, bioenergy constituted almost 65% of renewable energy inputs in the EU, nearly twice as much as all the other renewable energy sources combined. Solid biomass inputs increased 140% over the same period and constituted 45% of renewable energy inputs in 2016.

Although the lawsuit is likely to prove a largely symbolic gesture, it does potentially challenge the future of the burgeoning biomass power industry in the EU, with the potential to threaten the future of newbuild biomass CHP plants, as well as the growing trend towards converting existing coal-fired plants to using biomass – examples in AcuComm’s WasteView Project database include Selby (Drax), Tilbury, Ironbridge, Aarhus, Fredericia, Kalundborg, Hanasaari, Eemshaven and Linköping.

Written by Ian Taylor, Senior Editor & Research Consultant.

AcuComm’s Daily Full Accesss Project – UK Recycling Facility

Construction of a household waste recycling centre

Bristol County Council is planning to develop a household waste and recycling centre and has allocated £4 million for the project.

Providing all goes according to plan, construction is expected to start in the second half of 2019. The facility will be operated by Bristol Waste Company, who is currently working with the council to develop a project plan.

See the full details from this project.

AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – Finland WtE Plant

Installation of a flue gas cleaning and heat recovery plant

Valmet will be supplying a flue gas cleaning and heat recovery plant to the waste-to-energy (WtE) which is run by Kotkan Energia in Korkeakoski.

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

AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – UK Gasification Facility

Construction of a 50 MW gasification facility

At the start of the month, CoGen announced that funding had been secured for the new Hooton Bio Power gasification facility in Eastham, Wirral.

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

AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – Tajikistan Solid Waste Project & Landfill

Development of landfill and other facilities as part of a solid waste project

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has been approached for assistance in improving solid waste management operations in Vahdat.

Continue reading AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – Tajikistan Solid Waste Project & Landfill

AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – Australia Waste Transfer Station

Construction of a waste transfer station

Ballarat City Council is considering the development of an All Waste Interchange site on Ballarat West Employment Zone (BWEZ) land, which would act as a central reception point for the local kerbside collection service.

Continue reading AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – Australia Waste Transfer Station

Weekly Projects Update – 48 new/updated projects, worth an estimated US$3,849m

In the week ending 27th July 2018, AcuComm added 15 new projects and updated 33 in our database. These have a combined estimated value of US$3,849 million.

Our database now holds over 5,234 active projects with an estimated value of US$348.5 million.

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 New Project | Updated Project | Full Access Project

Continue reading Weekly Projects Update – 48 new/updated projects, worth an estimated US$3,849m

AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – Ireland Waste-to-Co-Product Refinery

Development of a dairy by-product biorefinery

Glanbia Ireland is leading a consortium that is exploring the development of a new biorefinery at Lisheen, Co. Tipperary. If the project goes ahead, it will involve a world-first process for converting dairy by-products into lactic acid that can be used in various bio-based products.

Continue reading AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – Ireland Waste-to-Co-Product Refinery