The UK is seeing a surge in the number of Energy from Waste (EfW) plants in the planning and construction phase. Government policy to phase out landfill and to promote the treatment of waste up the waste hierarchy from disposal to recovery is driving local authorities to move from waste incineration to EfW.
However, the burning of waste generates greenhouse gases, in particular carbon dioxide, and the government Net Zero Strategy will encourage EfW operators, through carbon pricing, to employ solutions to minimize their carbon emissions.
Carbon capture is an established technology that can effectively minimize the carbon emissions from EfW plants and instead condition the carbon dioxide for usage or storage.
The UK government has realised that EfW provides multiple benefits beyond diverting waste from landfill and government policy, largely driven by the EU Waste Framework Directive since 2011, has resulted in a rapid growth in the EfW sector.
Source: Volume of EfW plants in England from 2000-2019, Statista 2022
Industrial Decarbonization Strategy
The UK government published its Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy in March 2021. The government’s approach includes:
- using carbon pricing as a tool to send a clear market signal, providing certainty over their net zero ambition for industrial sectors
- putting in place funding mechanisms to support deployment and use of Carbon Capture Usage and Storage (CCUS) and low carbon hydrogen infrastructure
- establishing the right policy framework to ensure uptake of fuel switching
- taking initial steps to create a market for negative emissions technologies
Whereas some industries can transition to cleaner energy such as green hydrogen or renewable power, the EfW industry is dependant on refuse derived fuels (RDF). Although RDF can be mixed with biogenic waste to reduce the carbon emission intensity, it is inevitable that EfW operators will need to install CCUS technologies to meet the government’s emissions targets. The question is when is the optimum time to install CCUS?
UK Emissions Trading Scheme
The UK Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) was established in 2021 to replace the UK’s participation in the European ETS. The purpose of the ETS is to establish a market for the government’s carbon pricing policy. Installations for the incineration of hazardous and municipal waste are currently exempt from the ETS however many analysts anticipate that this position will only continue within the first phase of the ETS up to 2025.
At the time of writing, the government is receiving applications from industrial installations for funding under the Cluster Sequencing for Carbon Capture Usage and Storage Deployment Phase 2. EfW operators with foresight may be able to take advantage of such funding schemes to subsidise the cost of CCUS installation. Furthermore, under the ETS scheme, EfW operators with CCUS installed may in future be able to sell carbon credits for the fraction of the waste that is biogenic and therefore effectively generates negative emissions.
Carbon Capture as a Service (CCaaS)
Acknowledging the barrier to entry for smaller emitters to justify the cost of CCUS in the current market conditions, Aker Carbon Capture (ACC) launched its CCaaS business model in 2021. Under this model ACC covers the capital and installation costs for the CCUS plant and negotiates a long-term contract with the transport and storage operators. ACC operates and maintains the CCUS plant, while retaining ownership, and charges the emitter a contractually agreed amount per tonne of carbon captured and stored over the lifetime of the contract. The CCaaS business model reduces the risk and allows the emitter to spread the cost of the CCUS plant over the design life of the plant, typically 25 years. CCaaS is targeted at storage rather than usage.
Aker Carbon Capture’s Experience in EfW
CCUS is not a new technology. ACC’s experience goes back to 1996 when the company, at that time as Aker Solutions, built the first offshore CCUS installation at the Sleipner Field in the North Sea. ACC has been developing its post combustion carbon capture technology since 2008 which is specifically targeted at removing the carbon dioxide from industrial flue gases. This has involved researching, and then commercialising, its proprietary solvent which unlike most amine-based solvents is robust in oxygen-rich post combustion applications resulting in minimal degradation. The solvent is best in class for HSE, is certified by DNV, is non-toxic, biodegradable, and generates minimal atmospheric emissions or liquid waste.
To test its solvent ACC constructed a mobile test unit (MTU) which is approximately 5 – 10% scale replica of a typical EfW CCUS unit. The MTU has over 50,000 operating hours which includes a nearly 12-month trial at the Klemetsrud EfW plant owned by Oslo Fortum Varme, which demonstrated the effectiveness of ACC’a technology for the EfW sector.
ACC is currently designing a full-scale plant to capture 100,000 tonnes per annum (TPA) of CO2 from the Twence EfW in the Netherlands. The captured CO2 will be used by local greenhouses. At the same time, they are delivering their largest engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) project to date, a 400,000 TPA plant for the Brevik CCS project for NORCEM, a Heidelberg Cement company.
Aker Carbon Capture are proud Silver Sponsors of Energy from Waste 2022 with David Phillips, Head of UK and Investor Relations leading a session on 'Carbon Capture in the UK Energy from Waste Sector'.
Click here to explore the full conference programme and learn more about Aker CC's sponsorship of EfW 2022.