Japan seeks to expand regional WtE influence

Japan has long made use of extensive use of waste-to-energy (WtE) plants in dealing with its municipal waste. As a result, the country has built extensive local expertise for the design, building, equipping and maintenance of waste plants. Now, the Japanese government is working in partnership with these companies to extend the use of WtE to other countries across South East Asia. According to a report in the Nikkei last month, the Japanese Environment Ministry is seeking to create public-private partnerships with ten cities across the region by 2023.

Countries being targeted are on the lower income level of the region, including Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam. China is not on the list, although the drivers for waste management are much the same as in China’s eastern cities. Other Asian cities such as Jakarta, Manila, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are experiencing rapid growth in population and income levels, while still relying on outdated and inadequate means of dealing with waste. This often involves dumping on land or in seas/rivers, which is at best poorly-regulated. Managed landfill, where it exists, is often not adequate in terms of capacity or environmental control, and there is often little political will or geographic scope to expand it.

A related imperative is the controversy over plastic waste. Following China’s import ban in 2018, other developing countries have been accepting plastic and other waste from developed countries, which they are even less capable of dealing with than China in a manner acceptable to the environmental standards of the West. We’ve all seen the pictures. It’s a fair point to say that it would be best all round if developed countries stopped exporting waste at all and sought to boost their domestic recycling capacity instead. That’s the direction things are moving, but right now, we are where we are.

Promotion of WtE across Asia therefore makes sense on a number of levels. It’s naturally good business for Japanese companies, and promises a relatively quick fix for cities seeking to dispose of waste – both domestic and imported – in a more responsible manner. It hardly need be said that there are many who will point out the drawbacks of WtE, but such a plan has form. It’s what is happening in most of China’s cities right now, the wealthy states of Hong Kong and Singapore are following suit, and it’s what Japan has been doing for decades.

What’s the current state of play across South East Asia? The AcuComm database lists around 23 WtE plant investments in the three countries mentioned above (Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam). Most are in various stages of planning, with only a handful being under construction. There are six active projects in Indonesia, of which five are located in and around Jakarta. The sixth is in Jambi City. Most are at an early stage and the only identified overseas company involved is Babcock & Wilcox Volund, which was selected as equipment supplier for a proposed plant in Jakarta in 2017.

There are eight projects in the Philippines, spread across the country. All are at the planning stage. The Japan International Cooperation Agency is involved with one project, a 12 MW facility in Davao. This is being developed in collaboration with the Tokyo-based EX Research Institute and Nippon Steel & Sumikin Engineering. Construction is due to begin by the end of 2019, with commissioning due in 2023. Japan already has competition in the Philippines; Covanta and China Everbright are also actively pursuing projects in the country.

There are around nine projects in Vietnam, although there appears not to be any major Japanese involvement as yet. One project is operational, a 7.5 MW plant in Can Tho, southern Vietnam, is already operational; it was constructed by China Everbright. The Finnish company, Watrec, is involved with a couple of proposed sites in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, but these are at an earlier stage of development.

As yet, therefore, Japanese companies are not to the fore in the region. There are many potential pitfalls in all three countries, regarding funding, bureaucracy and sustainability of WtE plants, and as highlighted above, there are at present few concrete development proposals. The Japanese government and industry have clearly decided the region is worth investing time and attention in, but they already face competition from non-Japanese suppliers.

Who are the operators?

A lot of attention gets paid to companies supplying waste plant equipment, or contractors working on plant construction. Rightly so. But what about the operators, the companies which often sponsor projects and manage their operations once complete?

In the municipal waste field, AcuComm currently lists 126 companies operating WtE facilities. Looking at where they are based helps answer two key questions for anyone analysing the industry; one, where is WtE most prominent?, and two, which companies are seeking to operate these facilities on a long term basis?

The UK leads the field, with 29 operators. This is followed by Japan with 20, Germany with 14 and Sweden/China with seven each. This makes sense; all four countries are widespread adopters of WtE as a means of dealing with waste. The UK heads the field rather than, say Germany, since the UK has been the centre of attention for new investment in recent years. German WtE plants tend to be more established. China, in contrast, has a high level of investment in WtE currently, but only a relatively small number of operator companies are involved there. At the other end of the scale, the USA barely registers; again, this is to be expected as the US is not currently a major base for WtE investment.

Don’t forget, at AcuComm we’re not covering the total installed base of a country’s waste management capacity. Rather, we’re looking at something hopefully more interesting; where is investment going now and in the near future.

Who are the leading operators identified in the UK? SUEZ Recycling and Recovery is the leading individual player, followed by Viridor, FCC Environment and SITA UK. The most recent project for SUEZ is a planned £300 million facility in Darwen, Lancashire. A planning decision for the project is due this summer; see the AcuComm project listing here for details.

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ENGIE acquires biogas arm of Vol-V Group

In February 2019, ENGIE acquired the biogas arm of the Vol-V Group, confirming its position as the leading producer of biomethane in France.  With this acquisition, ENGIE now has a portfolio of close to 80 projects, thus reinforcing its ambition to produce a volume of 5 TWh per year of biomethane by 2030. To achieve this goal, ENGIE has committed to invest €800 million within five years and €2 billion by 2030 to develop its biogas portfolio.

Through industrialisation, ENGIE aims to reduce costs in the biogas sector by 30-40% by 2030 to achieve parity with natural gas. This ties in with the French Government’s introduction of the Energy Transition Law for Green Growth (La loi de Transition Énergétique pour la Croissance Verte – LTECV), which sets a target of 10% renewable gas being used in the national gas network by 2030.

Founded in 2009, the Vol-V Biomasse subsidiary now has seven biogas plants in operation, three units under construction and nine with authorisation to proceed. The Vol-V Group will now concentrate on its wind and solar activities.

Vol-V projects

Coverage of Vol-V in AcuComm’s WasteView Projects database.

#Editor’sPick – Solid Waste Management & WtE Facilities

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Contracts were signed for the WtE plant this month and development will take place across two phases. The project is expected to be completed in 2025.

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Taiwan – WtE Plant

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Ever Ecove, a special purpose company established between Evergreen Steel Corporation and CTCI Group, has been awarded a build-operate-transfer contract for a new WtE facility in Taoyuan. Nippon Steel & Sumikin Engineering and Steinmüller Babcock will also be working on the project.

Commissioning is due to take place in summer 2021.

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AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – UK Integrated Waste Management Facility

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Last month, Gent Fairhead signed an agreement with Indaver for the development of an integrated waste management facility in Witham, Essex.

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Ukraine – Recycling Plant

Construction of a waste recycling plant

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Tender documentation is publicly available, with bidding starting on 28th September.

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Japan – Biomass Plant

Construction of a 300 MW biomass plant

A feasibility study is to be carried out regarding the development of one of the world’s largest biomass plants, which is expected to be located in Eastern Japan.

eRex, the company developing the project, hopes the scale of the facility will provide healthy margins and allow it to skip the government’s feed-in tariffs.

Current timescales suggest the plant will be opened between 2024 and 2025.

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Weekly Projects Update – 42 new/updated projects, worth an estimated US$3,899m

In the week ending 22nd June 2018, AcuComm added 18 new projects and updated 24 in the database. These projects have a combined estimated value of US$3,899 million.

There are now 5,154 active projects in the AcuComm database with a total estimated value of US$347.8 million.


 New Project | Updated Project | Full Access Project

Continue reading Weekly Projects Update – 42 new/updated projects, worth an estimated US$3,899m

AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – Japan Biomass Plant

Construction of a 75 MWe biomass plant

Valmet has revealed that it will be supply a multi-fuel power boiler and flue gas cleaning system to the Onahama Power Plant in Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture.

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