• Another new EfW plant enters operation in the UK (but not combined heat and power…)

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    • Post Author

      Philip Sharman

      IFRF Director

‘FM2’ starts operation

In the closing weeks of 2019, commissioning on the UK’s latest energy-from-waste (EfW) plant was completed by the Swiss-based EfW EPC company Hitachi Zosen Inova AG (HZI) and the plant handed over to its owner, Multifuel Energy Limited (MEL), a 50:50 joint venture between Ferrybridge Power Station’s owners SSE and Wheelabrator Technologies Inc.  Commercial operations began on 19th December.

The plant – Ferrybridge Multifuel 2 (FM2) in West Yorkshire – has a generation capacity of around 70MW, enough electricity to power around 180,000 homes, and consumes up to 675,000 tonnes of refuse-derived fuels annually from various sources (including municipal solid waste, commercial and industrial waste and waste wood), waste streams that would otherwise have had to be disposed of to landfill sites.  These statistics are very similar to its ‘sister’ plant, FM1, that has been in operation on an adjacent site since 2015.

HZI’s thermal treatment technology deployed at FM2 includes a boiler with a capacity of 117MWth, enabling FM2 to achieve a very high thermal (and net cycle) efficiency.  This performance was a key requirement for the construction of FM2.

Matthew Knight, MEL’s Project Manager, said: “We’re proud to have reached commercial operation at FM2, which is the culmination of three years of hard work by the project team.  FM2 is now one of the most efficient energy-from-waste plants in the UK, powering homes and businesses, and diverting thousands of tonnes of waste from landfill every year. Following the successful completion of FM1 back in 2015, we were delighted to have HZI on board again as our EPC contractor, and the team did a fantastic job to get the project finished ahead of schedule, and most importantly, safely.”

Following the successful completion of FM1 and FM2, MEL is now progressing plans for further best-in-class EfW facilities in the UK.

The wider UK EfW picture

So, what about the wider picture of EfW in the UK?  Well, on the face of it the statistics look encouraging: UK EfW generation increased to 3.6TWh in 2018 (the latest year for which stats have been published), up 5.5% on 2017 levels.  This level of generation came from some 58 EfW plants with a total capacity of around 1.2GW.  Since 2010, a number of prominent EfW plants have become operational, including Barkip (2011), Riverside (2011), Runcorn (2014), Ardley (2014), Cardiff (2014), Exeter (2014), FM1 (2015), Wilton 11 (2016), Peterborough (2016), Beddington (2018), Dunbar (2019), Glasgow (2019), Gloucestershire (2019) – and now FM2.  With the exception of Barkip, which uses anaerobic digestion, all of these facilities use incineration technology (generally mass burn incinerators), and most only generate electricity.  Only Runcorn, Dunbar and Glasgow EfW plants generate heat as well as power i.e. combined heat and power (CHP).

The drive for CHP

As discussed in an IFRF blogpost last April, this relatively low deployment of CHP in EfW plants is of increasing concern to the UK government.  In its December 2018 strategy on waste – ‘Our Waste, Our Resource: A Strategy For England’, which addresses everything from sustainable production to dealing with food waste – it was noted that “England has around 40 EfW plants.  Eight operate in CHP mode, delivering greater efficiency than solely generating electricity.”  The report went on to say: “We want to help the companies that run EfW plants to use the heat produced to improve their efficiency, and to help industry make the right decisions over infrastructure investment.” 

The UK government clearly acknowledges the need for more EfW facilities that increase overall plant efficiency, minimise environmental impacts and progress waste treatment technologies that produce outputs beyond just electricity generation (where these are environmentally sound and economically viable).

For a wider introduction to EfW (also referred to a ‘waste-to-energy’, WtE or W2E), why not have a read of a series of IFRF Blogs back in February, March and April 2018:  After an introductory piece looking at the global market for EfW, we went on to look at thermal treatment (e.g. incineration), advanced thermal treatment (e.g. gasification, pyrolysis, etc.) and biological treatment (e.g. aerobic and anaerobic digestion, methanation, etc.).  These blogposts went into considerable detail on the relevant component technologies and processes, the emissions and how they are controlled, integration, etc., but also highlighted the key future R&D topics needed to improve the efficiency and economic performance of these various waste treatment processes.  The blogposts emphasised clearly the need to optimise both the recovery of electrical power and heat from the various waste streams, notably through CHP systems.