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Parks in position – a look at energy-from-waste sites

20 January 2011 | By Andrea Lockerbie

Enviroparks Hirwaun (pictured)

What: An energy-from-waste park
Where: Heads of the Valleys, south Wales
Cost: £120m
Intake: 240,000 tonnes of non-hazardous waste per year, 90% from south Wales
Diversion: 90% waste from landfill
Size: 20-acre site
Construction starts: mid-2011
Expected completion: early 2013

Just before Christmas, Welsh company Enviroparks received planning permission for its EfW park at the Heads of the Valleys in Wales. The company’s vision for the site is to bring together a number of technologies that ensure the maximum value and energy is extracted, with the minimum waste and environmental impact. This includes a fuel preparation area, advanced anaerobic digestion (AD) and advanced thermal treatment

The site will take in non-hazardous municipal solid waste, commercial and industrial (C&I) waste and food waste. Enviroparks director David Williams says work on the project started back in 2006, and that while the technologies have all been used in other sectors, they have not all been used in the waste sector.

He expects the incoming waste to roughly consist of 60,000 tonnes of food waste and 180,000 tonnes of MSW and C&I waste, each going to their own reception area on-site. These two streams will be used to create two fuel types: the MSW and C&I waste will be turned into an organic solid recovered fuel, which can go into gasification or pyrolysis, while the food waste fraction will be used to create an organic biomass liquid for the advanced AD plant.

As Williams explains, the “keystone” to Enviroparks will be the fuel preparation area, which he describes as being like a sophisticated MRF but built to produce fuel rather than reduce volume. This area will separate the waste into its fractions, removing the ferrous and non-ferrous metals and other recyclables at the start of the process. Where Williams sees the facility as being different to others is in the “sophisticated level of recycling” that happens at the start of the process, allowing a high-quality fuel to be created downstream.

Where will the feedstock waste come from? “We have been in discussions with a number of major waste companies that see us in a strategic location in Wales. Most of those companies are in procurement with local authorities. Outside of that [MSW] there is still 700,000 tonnes of C&I waste which will be contracted on a merchant basis,” Williams says.

Those using the facility on a merchant basis will pay a gate fee, and Williams wants the site to have a healthy merchant offering, not be fully contracted. He says the site will be an attractive alternative to landfill when landfill tax and gate fees rise, as companies seek to align themselves and their waste with more environmentally sound alternatives to landfill.

Enviroparks is also lining up high-energy users to set up on the park, attracted by savings of as much as 20% on energy bills.

The plan is for all the waste to come from surrounding areas. “South-east Wales is the most populated region of the country, and we have agreed to procure 90% of our waste within a sensible proximity of the plant, so we are not looking to ship waste in from across the country,” Williams says.

Due to a boundary quirk, part of the site fell on national park land and had to gain planning permission from both Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council and the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority. Williams says there was concern about the facility from local residents. “The main concern was that we are an experimental facility, putting in technology that had not been used anywhere in the world, so [the local population] felt they were guinea pigs. But this isn’t the case because all the technology is proven, which it had to be to be fundable,” Williams explains.

But the company seems to have won over the people: “We’ve had more letters of interest and job applications than of opposition.”

To forge a positive relationship with its local community, Enviroparks has agreed to divert a proportion of its gate fee income to a 10-year fund that will help improve the energy efficiency of local homes, funding measures such as double glazing and insulation as well as enhancing the biodiversity in the natural environment.

More than three years of detailed work has gone into the technology for the park, and although no contracts have been agreed, Williams says the company “knows where we are going with it”. He says most of the technology companies are UK based and that more information will be released once a final review has been concluded.

Energy Park Peterborough

Peterborough Renewable Energy Limited (PREL) was established in 2002 and in 2010 the company was renamed Green Energy Parks in line with its vision to take the model forward nationally
Fuel: 650,000 tonnes a year
CO2 saving: 600,000 tonnes a year
Jobs: More than 300 jobs will be created during construction and around 100 skilled green collar jobs once operational

In 2009, PREL received planning approval for its ‘green energy park’ in Peterborough. Towards the end of 2010, plasma waste recovery treatment provider Tetronics announced that it had been selected by PREL to provide the plasma technology for the park, and an engineering, procurement and construction deal worth more than £450m was signed with Malaysian manufacturing giant KNM Group Berhad just before Christmas. KNM will procure services from UK companies including Clugston Construction, PJ Thory, Biomass Power, Fusion Waste Solutions, Siemens UK and Capula UK. These in turn are looking at local suppliers to support the civils, and fabrication of equipment in Peterborough.

Energy Park Peterborough project director Helen Rome says the vision for the park is very much centred on sending zero waste to landfill: “We don’t view waste as waste, but a valuable asset. We don’t think you should put anything in the ground.”

The site will take in pre-prepared fuel feedstock made from waste that has been prepared offsite by Fusion Waste Solutions, a third party contractor that PREL has a supply agreement with. As a result of this agreement, Rome says that PREL views the incoming material not as waste but as feedstock for its facility. The waste that Fusion will be processing is mainly C&I, agricultural and construction waste, rather than municipal, because its waste contracts are all commercial. That said, the facility would also take fuel created from municipal waste streams should Fusion’s waste streams change.

Fusion will take in the waste from its customers, all from within the county, and process it into a fuel feedstock on its own premises. It will then supply this to PREL, so that PREL receives what Rome describes as “reliable, ROC-able [renewable obligation certificate] biomass fuel”.

Rome says this set up ensures that PREL has a consistent incoming feedstock (a form of quality control), and also cuts down on transportation emissions, so that waste is collected and processed locally before being delivered to the energy facility. Its waste fuel supply agreement with Fusion has been described as “long term” and it will be the sole supplier of feedstock for the facility.

Once on the PREL site, material will be processed using different technologies, including energy conversion through biomass gasification and plasma melting. The plasma stage ensures that any residues are made into a hard, inert glass material that can be used as an aggregate in construction and filtration, thus ensuring that nothing is sent to landfill.

PREL sees the energy park as being a replicable model that can be transferred to other parts of the country. The team is already advising Lifetime Recycling Village in Scotland, and believes its solution has a real contribution to make to the UK’s renewable energy commitments. A second PREL project is in the pipeline.

The build process in Peterborough is estimated to take more than three years, with various components coming on-stream during that time. Once fully up and running, it will have a peak per hour power output of 62MW but this could increase to 66MW if the plasma facility is not running.

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