Is technology moving faster than the regulators?

Last week I touched on a major problem for developers of new waste plants in Europe: the sheer length of time it can take for a new facility to gain approval and come to fruition. There’s a stark contrast with, say, China, where new plants seem to be announced every week.

A good example is the Lostock SEP (Sustainable Energy Plant). This is being sponsored by Tata Chemicals Europe. E.on Energy From Waste was originally involved, but Tata has now replaced this with a new consortium (see below).

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Click the map to view the plant’s exact location. AcuComm’s entry for the facility can be found here.

It is based on the site of a derelict power station at Lostock, just outside Northwich, Cheshire, UK. The power station closed in 2000 but has yet to be demolished. Tata originally proposed the creation of a large waste-to-energy plant in 2010. This would burn RDF, not raw MSW or biomass, generating 60 MW of electricity. Annual capacity would be 600,000 tonnes, equal to around 1,800 tonnes per day. This is more than is generated locally, so RDF would have to be transported from other parts of the country by road or possibly rail.

Conditional planning permission was given in October 2012. Tata fulfilled these conditions in 2017, and filed a planning variation application in 2018 to increase the power output to 90 MW (gross). This led to a number of objections, focused on potential extra traffic as waste is shipped to the site, and potential changes to the nature of the waste burned. Tata’s response to the objections – principally that the plant will simply be more efficient than originally planned – satisfied the government, which gave no objection to the extension in June 2018.

In March 2019, a deal was announced which will allow full construction to go ahead. Tata has agreed a deal with a consortium of companies. Under this, Lostock Sustainable Energy Plant Ltd will own, construct and operate the facility. LSEP is a joint venture between FFC Environment (the local waste collection company) and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners. Construction will be undertaken by a consortium headed by CNIM. The current plan is to have the new facility operating by the end of 2023.

This will be a full 13 years from the original planning application in 2010. Planning delays can be blamed for some of this. The 2018 extension of the plant’s power output is an interesting element. Tata has noted that new technologies rendered the original planning consent obsolete in this respect by 2018, as far greater power output can be achieved with the same inputs. In other words, the technology available to the market has moved far quicker than the planning process is able to allow. This claim has been widely disbelieved by opponents, who say that such a large power increase must be possible only with greater inputs or different inputs. That, on the face of it, is not an unreasonable assumption. Tata’s ability to demonstrate otherwise to the government suggests that this is an industry where what is possible has changed rapidly, since even 2012.

The other point to note is that Tata has not brought this project to its current state of development alone. Tata is not a specialist waste company and has had to assemble an international coalition of partners in order to bring the necessary expertise together. Such undertakings are never quick and not guaranteed to succeed, as indeed was originally the case with E.on in this example.

Finally, the Lostock site is already home to another major waste project. This is unrelated to the LSEP, although FCC Environment is also involved in the supply of waste. The Renescience plant is an MBT facility which sifts out recyclables and turns the remainder into either bioliquids for fuel/electricity generation, or RDF. The site is smaller, generating 6 MW, and has taken far less time to bring to fruition. Planning was granted in 2015 and construction work began a year later. After a short delay, the plant became operational in 2018.

Written by Andy Crofts, Chief Data Analyst.

The rise of WtE in China

In December 2018, a new WtE waste plant opened in Changsha, Hunan province, China. This is notable for being one of the largest – if not the largest – waste plants anywhere in the world. It comprises six mechanical grate waste lines, each with daily capacity of 850 tonnes, making a total of 5,100 tonnes per day or upwards of 1.6 million tonnes per year (assuming a 320-day operational year). The main equipment supplier for the plant was Hitachi Zosen of Japan and its European subsidiary, Hitachi Zosen Inova. There is a brief video overview of the plant online here. The company has stated that this is the 20th such project it has completed in China. The operator is Hunan Junxin Environmental Protection Group.

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Click on the map above to view the exact location.

China is continuing to see considerable investment in WtE plants. Since 2013, AcuComm has reported on 580 plants dealing with the WtE incineration of municipal waste around the world. These havve a total estimated value of US$78.5 billion and estimated annual tonnage capacity of over 194 million tonnes. China alone represents around a third of these by value and approaching 50% by tonnage capacity.

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Source: AcuComm database, February 2019. Click here to explore our full listings for Chinese WtE plants since 2013.

A range of demographic and economic pressures have led to this widespread investment in WtE in China. The traditional method of waste disposal in Chiese cities is landfill. Such has been the growth of many Chinese cities’ populations and economies, however, that existing landfills are quickly running out of capacity. Waste generation levels have risen rapidly, and in some cities approach those found in the West. Space is often lacking for new landfill, especially in the increasingly crowded eastern seaboard, and WtE plants are promoted by city and provincial authorities as a relatively quick and cheap way of dealing with the problem of rising waste levels. Finally, large WtE plants can contribute to a city’s rising demands for electricity.

Such developments are not without political opposition, but appear to be widely seen as the best if not the only realistic option on a number of levels. Therefore many of the world’s largest new WtE plants are to be found in China. The Changsha site is just the latest and largest – for now – example.

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AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – UK WtE Facility

Construction of a 14.4 MW WtE facility

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Weekly Projects Update – 40 new/updated projects, worth an estimated US$1,931m

In the week ending 31st August 2018, AcuComm added 13 new projects and updated 27 in the AcuComm database.

The database now holds over 5,300 active projects, with an estimated value of US$350.3 million.

googlemapAug5

 New Project | Updated Project | Full Access Project

Continue reading Weekly Projects Update – 40 new/updated projects, worth an estimated US$1,931m

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Upgrading a waste-to-energy plant

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Development of a recycling & waste transfer facilities

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Installation of a R 50 million biomass boiler

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AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – China Biomass Plant

Development of a 300,000 tpa biomass plant

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AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – Lithuania Biomass Facility

Reconstruction of a biomass boiler house

Enerstena is to undertake a new project to mount a biomass-fuelled steam boiler and condensing economiser in the Lipkiai boiler house.

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