Alessandro Bertacchini: Prioritising small-scale EfW plants

Alessandro Bertacchini is Turboden’s Sales and BD manager and will be speaking at this year’s Energy from Waste Conference. He gave us insight into the Italian market, Turboden’s ORC technology and the benefits of small waste incineration plants.
Alessandro Bertacchini: Prioritising small-scale EfW plants
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Turboden, a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries group company, is an Italian firm and global leader in the design, manufacture, and maintenance of Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) systems. Alessandro Bertacchini is Turboden’s Sales and BD manager and will be speaking at this year’s Energy from Waste Conference. He gave us insight into the Italian market, Turboden’s ORC technology and the benefits of small waste incineration plants.

Since joining Turboden in 2015, Mr Bertacchini’s role has been dedicated to the companies ORC technology: “I am responsible for building new opportunities, as well as strengthening customer and partner relationships to drive business growth in the EfW sector.”

Turboden’s Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) technology generates electric and thermal power or enhances pre-existing EfW plants efficiency. “ORC systems can generate electric and thermal power exploiting multiple sources,” said Mr Bertacchini, “such as renewables (biomass, geothermal energy, solar energy), traditional fuels and waste heat from industrial processes, waste incinerators, engines or gas turbines.”

“In a traditional large scale EFW plant, the heat from waste combustion is recovered by steam boilers driving steam turbines for power generation. For smaller EfW plants treating up to 100ktpy of waste, a thermal oil boiler is employed to drive an ORC turbogenerator.

The ORC turbogenerator is closed loop, in which organic fluid circulates instead of water. The working fluid is heated by the oil from the boiler, evaporates and expands in a turbine for power generation.”

There are currently 23 EfW plants using this ORC technology worldwide, with 7 additional plants currently under construction. The technology seems to be growing in popularity, and Mr Bertacchini explains that a global shift towards decentralised EfW plants is the reason for this:

The EfW market globally is mainly made up of larger scale traditional EFW plants, however there is now a significant shift to a modern infrastructure of smaller and more efficient plants placed in strategic locations.”

But why are companies now prioritising smaller EfW plants that use ORC technology? Mr Bertachinni believes there are many benefits, both environmentally and financially.

"The immediate advantage is the reduction of costs and environmental impact of waste logistics, including emissions from exporting waste. Essentially, more energy is produced from the waste with fewer emissions.

"With small EFWs, a better valorisation of heat and power locally could create self-sufficient communities in their heat and power requirements, create new jobs opportunities and increase perceptions of the direct benefits brought by energy from waste. 

"From an investor perspective, lower CAPEX for small projects helps to reduce capital exposure and financial risk. Being able to valorise both heat and power together with high availability and low operational costs means faster returns to shareholders.”

Currently, there are 16 ORC turbogenerators installed in the UK. Among those are four small scale EfW plants. Mr Bertacchini described some of the projects Turboden is involved with:

“One project recently been commissioned in York is processing around 15,000 tonnes of RDF each year to generate heat and power. This waste management site will be using some of the power for their own waste and recycling equipment and the heat will be used on site.”

“Another project in Exeter is set to process 25,000 tonnes of locally produced RDF that will be used to generate heat and power for the local community. This is the first of several plants that will be connected to local district heating networks that will provide hot water for homes and businesses a few miles away. The electricity will be used to run the waste management facility and the surplus will be sent into the local grid.”

As Turboden is an Italian based company, we wanted to know how the Italian and UK markets differ. Mr Bertacchini praised England and Wales’s unique scheme approving Small Waste Incineration Plants, as they can really benefit communities local to the plants.

There is a 'unique' scheme in England and Wales for the approval of sub 3 tonne per hour energy from waste systems that are permitted by local authorities as Small Waste Incineration Plants. "In Italy we do not have such a scheme and in absence of enough domestic EfW plants, the country is now an important waste exporter to the European market. In the past year, Italy has been a significant contributor of refuse-derived fuels to Scandinavian countries, where plants were scrambling for material.”

At the EfW Conference this year, Mr Bertacchini will be speaking about Turboden’s ORC technology in the session 'ORC technology for heat and power generation in decentralized Waste to Energy plants, solutions to improve reliability and efficiency'. We asked him what topic he thinks will be discussed the most at the event, taking place in London on 6-7th March.

I believe the main topic for discussion at this year’s conference will be the inclusion of EfW facilities in the UK ETS and whether this will provide a real incentive considering the potential impact on operating and capital expenditures. This could be a game changer in the market and potentially an incentive for the development of smaller EfWs.

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