Bioenergy Leads Renewable Generation in UK in Q2 2019

At the end of September 2019, the UK government released the latest Energy Trends statistical report which reveals that energy production from bioenergy and waste rose by 10.4% during the second quarter of 2019 when compared to the same period of 2018.

The increase in output is attributed to increased capacity, with an 8.5% rise in plant biomass capacity primarily due to the biomass conversion of Lynemouth power station and the conversion of another unit at the Drax Power Station in Selby, North Yorkshire.

Electricity generation from bioenergy increased by 7.2% 9.2 TWh over the second quarter of 2018. The increase in generation from plant biomass was partially offset by reduced generation from landfill gas and anaerobic digestion.

Bioenergy accounted for the largest share of the UK’s renewable generation during the quarter, at 34%, ahead of onshore wind at 22%, offshore wind at 22%, solar photovoltaics at 18%, and hydro at 3.5%.

AcuComm’s WasteView database has details of 867 active biomass energy plants, 133 landfill gas plants and 1,102 anaerobic digestion plants, valued at a total of US$88,326 million.

Recycling lithium batteries

Lithium batteries have been around for nearly 30 years now. They are used increasingly in a wide range of product, from phones to electric vehicles to aeroplanes. They have the advantage of being easily rechargeable and generate more power than older battery technologies. They do, however present specific risks when being disposed of; they are more easily flammable, and a lithium-based fire is not easy to put out. As more products and vehicles containing these batteries come to the end of their life, waste operators are having to take more care in identifying and sorting them from general waste streams. It’s a new area, but in the past few years, efforts have begun to be made to better understand how lithium batteries can be safely dealt with and recycled.

A search of the AcuComm database reveals a handful of dedicated lithium battery recycling plants around the world. Australia opened its first such facility in 2017, when Envirostream began operations in Melbourne. Its processing line can process 40 tonnes of batteries per month. The process requires batteries to have all their energy discharged prior to any handling by the company’s staff. After this first step, all batteries are granulated in an environment of negative pressure to ensure that all airborne dust particles are captured. Cobalt, nickel and lithium, which are in dust form and mixed, go for further processing and can be separated and purified to be used again in battery manufacture.

In Japan, a facility dedicated to recycling lithium batteries from electric vehicles opened in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, in 2018. The plant is operated by 4R Energy Corporation, a joint venture between Nissan and Sumitomo. The availability of used lithium-ion batteries is expected to increase significantly in the near future as buyers of the first generation of electric cars look to replace their vehicles. The batteries recycled and refabricated at the factory will be used to offer the world’s first exchangeable refabricated battery for electric vehicles.

Another approach is the better sorting of lithium batteries from the general waste stream, or indeed to sort them from other battery types. For example, In 2017, Refind Technologies installed its OBS600 optical battery sorting technology at Raw Materials Company’s (RMC) recycling facility in Port Colborne, Ontario, Canada. The equipment is capable of sorting 600 kg of batteries per hour. The OBS600 machine uses a camera and machine learning software to recognise each battery by its label. It can handle small consumer batteries of cylindrical and rectangular shape and can sort them by chemistry, including alkaline, zinc-carbon, nickel-metal hydride, nickel-cadmium and lithium primary.

Finally, a couple of major R&D centres have recently been announced, to investigate ways to recycle lithium batteries and other hard to process e-waste items. In February 2019, the US Department of Energy’s Vehicle Technologies Office opened the first lithium-ion battery recycling research and development centre at Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, IL. Known as the ReCell Center, the project aims to reclaim and recycle critical materials from lithium-based battery technology. The recycling centre focuses on cost-effective recycling processes to recover as much economic value as possible from spent batteries.

Soon after, in March 2019, Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and the French Alternative Energies and the Atomic Energy Commission (CEA – Commissariat à l’énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives) unveiled the launch of a joint research centre to develop innovative, energy-efficient solutions for the recycling and recovery of resources from electrical and electronic waste. The new centre, named the NTU Singapore-CEA Alliance for Research in Circular Economy (NTU SCARCE), will focus on four research areas that address the recycling and recovery of materials from common e-waste such as: lithium-ion batteries, silicon-based solar panels; printed circuit boards from discarded e-waste; and detoxifying plastic parts in e-waste. The National Environment Agency of Singapore is supporting this centre under the agency’s Closing the Waste Loop Research and Development Initiative.

The map below shows the locations of all the lithium recycling and R&D sites mentioned in the AcuComm database. To explore the full dataset, click here.

mapSource: AcuComm database, October 2019

A Guide to WasteView Contract Finder

WasteView Contract Finder provides your business with unparalleled access to ‘real-time’ business opportunities in the Waste, Bioenergy & Recycling sectors. Projects in our industry-leading database are added and updated daily by our team of expert global researchers.

How does it work?

What’s included?

With WasteView Contract Finder, you get full access to the AcuComm database. This includes access to 7,300+ projects and the contact details of over 21,000 decision-makers that are associated with them.

Your subscription gives you unlimited downloads, the ability to search by company and an easy export functionality to populate your CRM.

Get started by identifying your new business opportunities in less than a minute.

If you’d like any more information about WasteView Contract Finder or any other of AcuComm’s products, get in touch with the team today on 01243 788686.

Dutch tax on imported waste will impact the UK

The Dutch government is to tax waste imported for incineration as from 1st January 2020 in a measure which expands on the afvalstoffenbelasting, an existing tax on domestic waste sent for incineration. This waste tax rate currently stands at €32.12 per tonne. The expansion of the tax was formally announced as part of  its 2020 budget plans published on 18th September.

The government predicts that the expansion of the tax will all but eliminate imports of refuse-derived fuel (RDF) in just three years as the tax would raise the total cost of waste incineration in the Netherlands above the average price in competing countries. RDF imports currently make up around a quarter of all of the wastes incinerated in Dutch WtE plants. The Netherlands imported approximately 1.9 million tonnes of waste for incineration in 2017.

The impact of the additional taxation will be felt keenly in the UK which exports more of its RDF to the Netherlands than any other country. In 2018, almost half of UK exports (about 1.3 million tonnes) was sent to the Netherlands.

So there promises to be tougher times ahead, not only for WtE plant operators in the Netherlands, but also for UK RDF exporters which will have to find new markets to sell to, or find alternative disposal methods closer to home, which could boost recycling, WtE and perhaps even landfill activity in the UK.

Southern England WtE update

The last few weeks have seen mixed fortunes for several major waste-to-energy projects in the South of England. Here’s a roundup.

On 27th September 2019, Grundon and Viridor announced outline plans for the development of a new waste-to-energy (WtE) facility at Ford in West Sussex. The facility will be built at Grundon’s Ford Circular Technology Park, near its existing waste transfer and depot operations, and adjacent to Viridor’s existing materials recovery facility (MRF).

Attempts to build a facility on the site go back several years. West Sussex County Council granted planning permission for a non-hazardous waste facility on the site in 2014, but this was never built. While Grundon has noted that the planning permission therefore already exists for the site, it is currently unclear how the 2019 proposal relates to the older plans. The latter entailed a 200,000 tonne per year gasification plant, dealing predominantly with industrial and commercial waste.

Click here to view the precise location in Bing maps.

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Also in the south of England, Wheelabrator has experienced a setback in its attempts to construct a WtE plant at the A303 Enviropark near Andover in Hampshire. A public consultation ended in March 2019. Wheelabrator expects the second stage of statutory public consultation to take place between early November to mid-December 2019, later than originally planned. Wheelabrator has been reviewing the design plans of the proposed development after receiving feedback on the current design during non-statutory consultation and has confirmed that there will be two combustion lines at the outset, and therefore there will be no phasing. The planning application is expected to be submitted towards the end of the first quarter of 2020.

Click here to view the precise location in Bing maps.

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Finally, there is progress to report on the long-anticipated replacement for the Edmonton WtE plant in north London. This dates to the 1970s and is coming to the end of its working life. The operator, North London Waste Authority (NLWA), first began plans for a new facility in 2014. Contracts began to be issued in 2018, and a third ‘Market Information Event’ was held on 9th October 2019 in central London for works associated with the delivery of the project. It has been subject to some ground preparation delays, but NLWA still anticipates that the site will become operational in 2025.

Click here to view the precise location in Bing maps.

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Lucky 97 for the Basel Amendment

Croatia recently made a small piece of waste management history. Earlier last month, it ratified the United Nations Basel Convention Amendment. This means that enough countries have now ratified it and it has come into force.

The Amendment in question seeks to completely ban shipments of hazardous waste from developed countries (principally OECD+EU) to developing ones. This is regardless of the method of disposal in the importing country; shipments for recycling or waste to energy are not permitted. It came into force in 1995, but national ratifications have been slow. Croatia’s ratification came on September 6th 2019, making it the 97th country to ratify. Hazardous waste is broadly defined as anything explosive, flammable, toxic or corrosive. The full definitions can be found in the annexes to the text here.

The Amendment forms part of the wider UN Basel Convention. This began in 1989 as a way of controlling the export of waste, and especially hazardous waste, to developing countries. It was ratified in 1992 with pretty much every country in the world signing up, with the large exception of the USA. Oddly, the US government signed the Convention in 1990, and the Senate gave consent in 1992. However, the accompanying legislation required has never been enacted and the Convention is therefore not ratified in the USA. Given the timescale involved I’d hazard the view that it’s not a priority for US lawmakers and we shouldn’t expect anything soon.

While the USA is the only major country yet to ratify the Convention as a whole, a number of OECD countries have yet to ratify the Amendment. These include Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico and New Zealand. Other major countries not to ratify are Brazil, India and Russia, although there is less effect in these cases as they are not OECD members.

The Basel process is still an ongoing one. In May 2019, the Convention has begun looking at the inclusion of plastic waste within its remit, with a special emphasis on reducing the amount of plastics entering the world’s oceans.

As the environmental and regulatory pressure grows, exporting of waste is going to get harder and less financially viable. This is a major headache currently, but is also a huge opportunity for the development of capacity in countries which currently export a lot of waste.

Who are these countries? The top ten leading waste exporters in 2018, by monetary value, are shown in the graph below. Note this refers to all identifiable waste, not just hazardous elements. The global total in 2018 amounted to US$113.4 billion, of which the top ten accounted for US$68.4 billion or 60.3%. The USA headed the field with just under US$21.0 billion, and seven of the remaining nine are members of the OECD. Only Russia and Hong Kong in 9th and 10th places respectively are not OECD members.

exportersSource: AcuComm analysis of UN trade statistics

VTT biofuel trial success leading to industrial scale-up

During September, the production of biofuel by gasification of biomass residues was successfully validated in the EU’s COMSYN project. The process performance was verified with crushed bark in an 80 hour-long test run at Finland’s Technical Research Centre – VTT. The syngas conversion to Fischer-Tropsch (FT) products was conducted by Berlin-based IneraTec.

The main focus of the test was to study and verify the performance of the gas cleaning train, and especially the entire synthesis process with real wood-derived gasification gas.

“The first validation test runs successfully demonstrated the efficiency of the compact gasification and synthesis process concept, as well as the production of FT-products, waxes and other hydrocarbons” said Principal Scientist Pekka Simell from VTT.

The crushed bark was gasified in a fluidised-bed gasifier with steam as the main gasification agent. The raw gasification gas was filtered with advanced metal filters supplied by GKN Sinter Metals Filters. Tars and light hydrocarbon gases were reformed using the staged reformer concept developed by VTT. Final cleaning of the reformed synthesis gas of sulphur and other remaining contaminants was realised through a robust sorbent-based cleaning process developed by VTT.

Based on the results, industrial-scale plants in the range of 25,000-50,000 tonnes per annum will be designed and techno-economic and environmental assessments, as well as business case studies, will be carried out by the DLR German Aerospace Center and two engineering companies: Wood from Italy and ÅF-Consult from Finland.

COMSYN is a four-year EU Horizon 2020 project that lasts from 2017 to 2021 with a budget of EUR 5.1 million from EU Horizon 2020. The project consortium consists of seven partners from four different countries combining research institutes, SME and top-level European industry. The project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

AcuComm’s WasteView projects database currently has 17 projects featuring the installation of Fischer-Tropsch technology, for further details search here.

Indorama Planning Massive Investment in Plastic Recycling

Thailand’s Indorama Ventures has announced plans to invest US$1.5 billion in recycling as the environmental impact of single-use plastic becomes increasingly important to consumers and as regulatory pressures mount.

Indorama’s main business is the production of PET resin, used in the manufacture of plastic bottles, fibres and tyres. In the 12 months to June 30th 2019, Indorama produced nearly 5,000 kilotons of PET.

US$1 billion will be invested over the next five years, including greenfield and brownfield mergers and acquisitions focusing on bottle-to-bottle recycling.

Indorama currently has 11 recycling sites around the world, including plants in Thailand, Mexico and France, and aims to step up its green credentials in response to new regulation being introduced by governments and changing expectations from customers.

After 2023, Indorama plans to invest an additional US$500 million by 2025 to help customers achieve then European Commission’s target of incorporating 25% of recycled plastic in PET bottles.

AcuComm’s WasteView projects database includes 187 plastics recycling facilities, of which 23 are in Asia. Click here to view them all.

Focus on clinical waste

Clinical waste is an important niche area of the waste management sector. While volumes are typically small, such waste is often hazardous or unpleasant in nature and needs to be disposed of in a sensitive manner. It’s a job that hospitals typically undertake themselves, but there is growing interest in the provision of such services from specialised third parties.

One such is Tradebe. In September 2019, the company received a draft environmental permit from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency to operate a new clinical waste treatment facility at the Bellshill Healthcare Waste Treatment and Transfer Site in Bellshill, North Lanarkshire. Planning permission was granted in July 2019. The draft permit allows for a capacity exceeding 10 tonnes per day of hazardous waste and 75 tpd of non-hazardous waste. Tradebe expects the plant to be operational in October 2019, to fulfil a 10-year contract with the Scottish Government, valued at £10 million annually.

The Bellshill site will manage clinical waste disposal in Scotland for a range of waste producers. This will primarily involve waste produced by NHS Scotland trusts, but could also include waste arising from private hospitals, pharmacies, care homes, beauticians and veterinary practices. The service will include collecting, transporting, treating and disposing of the clinical wastes. Waste will be collected from medical and research sites. It will comprise of both clinical waste and other wastes produced on these facilities. At the Bellshill site, depending on the waste type, the waste will be either bulked up and sent off-site for incineration or disposal at landfill or treated on-site via a shredder, steam auger and drier, before compaction. This waste treatment process will be supported by natural gas powered boilers to provide heat to generate steam, natural gas burners to provide warm air for the drier (indirect heating), enclosed automatic bin washers and a vehicle wash-down area.

Tradebe Healthcare is one of a small number of dedicated clinical waste management companies. It operates largely in the UK, although the parent company is in Spain. In addition to the Bellshill site, it currently has four other locations in the UK: Avonmouth, Redditch, Wrexham and Rochester. The latter site was expanded in August 2019. The company is also involved in the US market. In November 2018, it announced a new upgrading project at a site in New Jersey run by Norlite, a Tradebe subsidiary. This is expected to be complete early in 2020.

Including those referenced above, AcuComm currently lists 32 active projects dealing exclusively with clinical waste. These are principally located in the USA and UK, although individual examples can be found elsewhere.

clinical-graphSource: AcuComm database September 2019. Click here to view the full dataset.

Clinical waste projects tend to be small-scale in comparison with more general waste projects. The average value of a clinical project in the AcuComm database is around US$13 million, while the annual throughput is an average of 11,600 tonnes per year or around 30 tonnes per day. Many are far smaller than this; for example a facility opened in Oman in 2016 which has capacity of 2.2 tonnes per day.

Incineration is the most common form of disposal, although there are signs of interest in the use of more advanced forms of treatment. AcuComm lists two clinical waste gasification plants, for example, one in the UK and one in the USA. Both were announced in 2018 but neither is currently operational. As ever, the more advanced the technology, the longer and less certain the lead times become.

Focus on France

This week I thought we’d take a look at recent waste industry activity in France. The latest Eurostat data runs to 2016. In that year, just over 304.8 million tonnes of waste was treated in France. The leading category was recycling, which accounted for 199.3 million tonnes, or 65.4% of the total. The proportion sent to landfill is falling slowly, but still amounted to 84.0 million tonnes in 2016, equal to 27.6%. Relatively little use is made of incineration. WtE plants accounted for 16.5 million tonnes in 2016, equal to 5.4% of the total. There is also a small amount of non-WtE incineration, amounting to 5.0 million tonnes in 2016.

france-graph1
Source: Eurostat

Eurostat figures, a few years old as they are, can give an idea of where things were in the past, but shed far less light on the future direction and focus for investment currently in the market. The AcuComm database currently holds 61 waste-related projects in France for the 2013-2019 period. These are worth US$3,318 million, or around US$54 million each on average. Total annual capacity is just over 6.9 million tonnes, equal to 114,074 per project and around 350 tonnes per day per project. Power/heat generation amounts to an estimated 297 MW or 4.9 MW each on average.

The greatest number of projects are for recycling facilities. There are 17 of these, although they tend to be relatively small in size with an average value of US$26 million. There are 15 WtE incineration facilities currently listed, with an average value of US$71 million. These unsurprisingly account for the bulk of the additional power capacity, at 201 MW, equal to 68% of the total.

france-graph2Source: AcuComm database, September 2019. Click here to explore the full dataset online.

Out of the 61 projects, 29 are currently operational, with 17 under way and the remainder in various stages of planning. The map below shows the location of these projects, where known.

france-mapSource: AcuComm database, September 2019