Waste Management & Biomass News March 2021 Compiled by 1st Choice Waste
Waste management and Biomass energy may not seem the most exciting of topics, however, like 1st Choice Waste, there are many businesses and people that are passionate about the subjects and it is very newsworthy. Here is a round-up of news relating to Biomass and waste management in March 2021, including trends in “waste-to-energy”, the UK Government’s £4B investment in biomass projects and the latest dynamics for the industry.
Trends and drivers in waste to energy
Following a seminar on the topic, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has published a report exploring the latest trends in advanced thermal treatment of municipal solid waste, report Waste-Management-World.com
According to the IEA, the advanced thermal conversion of waste is attracting growing interest. The main reason is the increased awareness of greenhouse gas emissions and environmental pollution resulting from untreated waste. As an alternative to waste incineration, conversion options such as waste pyrolysis, waste gasification, and co-processing of biomass and waste are aimed at the production of energy carriers such as liquid fuels and higher value chemicals. These waste options thus contribute to climate and environmental goals.
In a recent online presentation, Dieter Stapf of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), a member of the IEA’s Task 36 team, explained some of the progress made so far in the application of waste to energy technologies, the challenges that are being faced and the status of these technologies.
He explains that one of the key drivers for increasing the implementation of waste to energy is landfill tax. “Where there are high landfill taxes, such as in the UK, there is a strong implementation of thermal treatment. We also see thermal treatment being used in some countries where waste cannot be recycled and there is no real option of landfill, for example in Germany and Sweden.” He also notes that across the EU, landfill is to be significantly reduced under the latest legislation.
Gasification for energy
According to the report, the application of gasification to generate second-generation synthetic biofuels is currently at the demonstration stage. Here, highly developed gasification technology is applied to heterogeneous, pre-treated feedstock closer to waste. Furthermore, attempts to generate more bioenergy-based electricity have resulted in the installation of some hundred small-scale and easy-to-run decentralised gasifiers, mainly in Europe, over the past decade, but with lower overall process efficiency. Hydrothermal treatment of biomass has not been of significant relevance to date.
The authors go on to reference the UK, where there have been recent gasification-based WtE projects. In these mostly air-blown waste gasification applications applied as “two-stage combustion”, gasification process chains are more complex and less mature than best available incineration techniques, thus resulting in higher waste treatment costs.
Also highlighted is a 100 MW bubbling fluidised-bed gasifier at the CEMEX cement plant in Rüdersdorf, Germany. The air-blown gasification of RDF provides the fuel gas for the calciner, based on 100% waste feedstock which is not specifically pre-treated for this purpose.
Gasification for chemical recycling
The first applications of gasification technologies for waste feedstock recycling were driven by attempts to recycle plastics in the late 20th century. “There are some large-scale applications of thermochemical recycling plastic waste such as the Enerkem plant in Canada which produces methanol from residual household waste,” notes Stapf.
The report explains that in Edmonton, Canada, Enerkem has been operating an RDF-to-methanol process since 2017. It is based on its own proprietary technology that has been developed over a relatively long period of time and in several projects and plants of different sizes. Further projects have been announced in various countries. Again, this process uses bubbling fluidised-bed gasification technology and staged addition of oxidants.
The fluidised bed is operated at temperatures below 700°C due to the low RDF ash melting point, followed by a freeboard at higher temperatures to minimise tar formation. After flue gas treatment and re-circulating of the tars to the fluidised-bed reactor, a proprietary methanol-to-ethanol process is applied on a smaller scale. Reactor overpressure and capacity are smaller than for the processes mentioned above.
Promoting alternative thermal waste treatment technologies such as pyrolysis and gasification goes hand-in-hand with waste management system optimisation with the overall aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and minimising the environmental impact. Along with an increasing demand for recycled feedstock and a limited ability to carry out more physical separation, declining social acceptance of incineration in combination with subsidies are drivers for investment into alternative thermal treatment.
RiverRidge invests in a plant to convert black bin waste into vehicle fuel
WASTE management company RiverRidge is to begin the next stage of an innovative vehicle fuel synthesising project in Belfast which will convert elements of household black bin waste into compressed biogas that can then be used to operate compressed natural gas vehicle engines, report Gary McDonald for the irishnews.com
It represents an investment of £25 million, with construction expected to commence in the subject to being ratified by RiverRidge’s board and investors this summer.
And once constructed, the complete treatment process will have the capacity to convert 90,000 metric tonnes of waste a year into over six million kilograms of compressed biogas – enough to fuel 270 articulated vehicles for a year.
The company has already invested £3 million by building and commissioning the first stage of this latest project to extract and clean elements of biomass from household black bin waste.
It uses advanced biological treatment technologies to extract methane from elements of household black bin waste that currently are either sent to landfill or exported as a feedstock in inefficient waste to energy facilities outside of the UK.
Trials conducted by RiverRidge using the proposed technology have been ongoing for the last 12 months and have now proved its capacity to generate both a renewable transport fuel, as well as a high-quality soil enricher.
RiverRidge also invested £100 million in the Full Circle Generation (FCG) large-scale waste to energy facility in Belfast’s Harbour Estate, which processed over 100,000 tonnes of waste in its first year of operation.
It generates electricity from household waste by extracting gasses from treated waste for combustion, before passing the steam through a traditional thermal process.
RiverRidge chief executive Brett Ross said: “The group, along with Full Circle Generation, currently has the infrastructure in place to manage over 80 per cent of Northern Ireland’s black bin waste tonnages each year.
“This project significantly improves the quality of outcomes from our infrastructure by diverting further tonnages away from landfill into products which have far less of an adverse impact on our environment.”
RiverRidge employs nearly 300 people and currently manages black bin waste volumes for a number of local authorities.
UK Government invests £4 million in biomass projects
UK biomass projects will receive £4 million in government funding as part of a £92 million investment to support three new ‘innovation challenges’ in the green energy sector reports bioenergy-news.com
The government funding will drive forward the next generation of technologies that will help the UK transition to clean, green energy to tackle climate change, including biomass production, energy storage technology, and floating offshore wind.
The new challenges will help develop innovative technologies that will reduce the costs of deploying them across the energy sector, support thousands of highly-skilled jobs across the UK, grow the economy, and deliver Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s 10-point plan.
Biomass projects will benefit from £4 million government investment aimed at increasing the production of sustainably sourced biomass in the UK – supporting local economies and regional growth, as well as creating jobs in rural areas.
In a statement, the government said biomass is a ‘key component’ for the UK to achieve its decarbonisation commitments, with the Climate Change Committee stating that sustainable biomass can play a significant role in meeting long-term climate targets. Innovations will help scale-up sustainably sourced biomass feedstocks and the production of energy crops – including forestry – as well as helping to achieve improvements in yields, cost reductions, and profitability.
“The UK’s energy innovators have been vital to us becoming a world-leader in clean green technology, helping us to go further and faster as we tackle climate change,” said Energy Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan.
“The funding will allow us to develop new ways of unlocking the potential for green energy as we continue making big strides towards our goal of eradicating our contribution to climate change by 2050.”
Of the £92 million investment, £68 million will be allocated to the development of energy storage technologies to support a future renewable energy system. These innovations will accelerate the commercialisation of a ‘first-of-a-kind’ storage that can hold energy from wind turbines and solar panels, as well as heat, over long periods of time, including months and years, until it is needed by consumers.
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Planning For The Future; Looking Past The Govermanets 10-Point Plan
As we see a pathway out of the pandemic, TEAM Energy’s Head of Consultancy, Tim Holman examines what the Government’s net-zero ambition really means to UK businesses and, in a countdown to the climate change summit, COP26 considers how they can be part of the journey to decarbonisation.
Two years ago, when the UK became the first major economy in the world to pass binding legislation committing to net zero Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions by 2050, the growing climate crisis was the overwhelming challenge facing our world.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year may have changed the focus of global governments, but the collective response has shown that it is possible for nations to come together to collaborate in the interests of all society. Scientific communities from all over the world have been working in partnership to develop vaccines in a moment where science and research have led the way.
Later this year, at the COP26 summit in Glasgow, the UK Government is hoping to deliver a similarly unifying moment in the fight to decarbonise the world. The aim of this pivotal conference, which will call on countries to back more ambitious carbon reduction targets, will be to find ways to help economies adapt to climate change and harness innovation in a bid to drive down carbon emissions to net-zero.
The UK has some success in this area. Since 1990 the total UK GHG emissions have reduced by 44% with the energy supply sector accounting for around half the overall reduction up to the end of 2019. Ambitions to continue this trend were set out in November in the Government’s ‘Ten-point plan for a green industrial revolution’ which in addition to energy supply and other infrastructure initiatives puts an onus on businesses, public sector organisations and individuals to make buildings “greener, warmer and more energy-efficient”.
But is this enough?
The latest budget report from the Climate Change Committee reveals that if we are to meet net-zero by 2050, at its current rate, action is not happening fast enough. Their recommended pathway sets out a 78% reduction in UK territorial emissions by 2035, bringing forward the UK’s previous 80% target by nearly 15 years. To do this, the report sets out a route map for the UK that suggests reducing demand for carbon-intensive activities, improving efficiency, taking up low-carbon solutions, offsetting emissions, and societal change.
Since its launch the Government has been light on detail on its 10-point plan, they had already announced some funding including the Public Sector Decarbonisation Fund in October that was only open for applications for 3 months. For energy-intensive sectors including pharmaceuticals, steel, paper and food and drink the second wave of the Industrial Energy Transformation Fund, which supports the development and deployment of new technologies, was confirmed in February.
Whether the central Government funding, spread across both heavily polluting industries, the public sector, and small businesses alike, will be enough to encourage significant carbon emission reductions remains to be seen. But time again, we are reminded that if we are to deliver these ambitious plans and tackle climate change, everyone needs to play their part with or without funding. So, what does that look like?
Limitations to businesses and organisations
There are a number of factors holding businesses back from change.
As highlighted recently in the BSI’s Net Zero Barometer, 8 out of 10 organisations feel they need more guidance and 44% of the businesses surveyed indicated cost as the most significant barrier to decarbonisation. So, any additional Government funding would certainly be welcome from business, considering the stresses on balance sheets will be even more acute due to the pandemic.
The need for carbon reduction is not new but dealing with COVID-19 has become a bigger priority for many organisations. As we see more hope for an end to the pandemic, businesses will emerge differently from when the Government’s net-zero target and legislation were first passed, they may find themselves with less resource due to organisational restructure and tighter cash flows because of lack of revenue. However, whilst decarbonisation activities have lost momentum the targets have not gone away.
Don’t get left behind
Whilst there is no legal obligation to contribute to the net-zero target, embracing a green recovery is critical to the survival of any business. Numerous pressures to act will intensify as the effects of the pandemic recede. Environmental issues are significantly changing how consumers buy, how businesses build a green reputation, and how individuals see their current or future employers. There is pressure on the supply chain too. Businesses that are making serious plans to reach net-zero will be forced to move away from businesses that are failing to adapt and tackle their impact on climate change.
Simply put, to reach net-zero any organisation must look at their whole supply chain carbon emissions. If your business is not supplying net-zero products or services to customers, then you will need to look to offset your emissions or run the risk of losing business to a competitor who is already net zero. This means, if a business is to survive and thrive in the future, change needs to happen now or be left out.
Building the foundations
Time is still on the side of businesses to think about long term goals and how small changes now will impact and influence a suitable carbon reduction pathway. Along with monetary barriers, businesses feel that the lack of resource and knowledge are holding them back, even so, there are ways organisations can establish their own green recovery and net-zero pathway. To start, there are three key areas: energy efficiency, embedding an energy conscious ethos and setting yourself up for the future.
The basic principles remain, driving down usage, eliminating waste, and being more energy-efficient. The need for these principles to be embedded at board level has never been clearer. Working from the top-down of an organisation, a successful energy efficiency strategy will deliver financial savings, a greener reputation, and a more comfortable environment for a workforce.
However, its success relies on everyone in the business. After all, if everyone does a little, no one has to do a lot. Shifting the entire organisation’s mindset to think about the energy they use, how they use it and its impact to them personally through behaviour change is a very low-cost investment. Becoming an Energy Conscious Organisation that can deliver great payback and pave the way for a long term, meaningful net-zero strategy. An organisation’s actions can inspire and educate the behaviour of their workforce beyond the business and into their personal lives.
Since the Government’s ten-point plan focuses on technology, well-implemented digital monitoring and targeting solution can help. It should complement operations, support compliance, and utilise smart technology, and will help to protect your business from any tighter regulations in the future.
With foundations like these in place, businesses of all sizes can embrace existing technologies. Switching heating from fossil fuels to a renewable heat source like green hydrogen or biomass, for example, would support an organisation’s contribution to net-zero targets. Adopting renewables sooner will hasten sustainable transformation and provide operational benefits over the longer-term.
What is yet to come?
Looking ahead to the rest of 2021. There’s renewed optimism for the COP26 conference in November. The United States re-joining the 2015 Paris Agreement will provide a boost to the confidence of the organisers in delivering something substantial to halt climate change. Whilst the UK Government has ambitious targets, it has an equally challenging timeframe. Many of the objectives are required by 2030 and the next ten years will be critical for businesses to act if they want to be compliant with the law.
By the time the conference begins in Glasgow, we may have a clearer view of a way out of the pandemic and the attention of the UK’s business and leaders will slowly return to what should have been previously keeping them up at night – the threat to our climate and how to tackle it.
1st Choice Waste
1st Choice Waste Management provides efficient management of waste, including hazardous waste, difficult wastes, and unique wastes, for the industrial and commercial sectors. Every business is unique and waste production can be complex; that’s why we work closely with you to understand each of your needs. From collection to recovery, regardless of the type or volume, we can provide you or your business with the same high standard service that is unmatchable in the North East.
We are not just a commercial waste recycling and disposal company. That’s why we are proud to have our very own biomass boiler. Our biomass boiler converts our waste into energy, returning clean electricity to the grid. The way in which we approach waste and disposal methods is changing. Businesses and individuals are continually looking for more sustainable ways to dispose of and manage their waste. Biomass boilers are highly beneficial because they reduce the waste that is generated and produce electricity.
Ben works for the marketing team at 1st Choice Waste Management, he has a passion for marketing and helping businesses to grow.